When I write about "average people" or "average Americans", I often get flack about it. Some people call me elitist. Occasionally I get called something worse. Then there are the comments about how if everyone did something that I suggest, it wouldn't work anymore, or that the average person isn't exactly the same as me, so he may not be able to do everything I can do. All this boils down to a pretty good topic for a post.
Who exactly am I talking about when I talk about average people? The best way to define my usage of the term would be to say that I'm talking about people who live lives of defaults. They go with the flow and conform to society's expectations of them. That doesn't mean that they're all exactly the same-- there's enough chaos in the world to make everyone completely unique. But although the expressions of their principles are unique, the actual principles are pretty much the same. They do what's easiest. They may have big dreams, but they have low goals. They work as hard as they have to. They don't make independent decisions.
That's not to say that they ALWAYS fit exactly into this mold, only that they usually do. And there's a bell curve, of course, with some people being dead average, some people being mostly average, and then way out on the fringes there are weirdos like myself, and probably even weirder people than me.
Why do I rant about average people so much? It's not because I hate them or think poorly of them-- it's actually because I believe that they're capable of much more and would have better lives if they made the effort. Mostly I think it's a shame that so many people are plodding down this worn trail when there's lots of undiscovered wilderness to explore. I have some contempt for their actions, but not for them as people.
If you perform at an average rate, you'll probably have an average life. Yes, there are exceptions, but counting on an exception is a weak plan. If you want an above-average life, you're going to have to perform above at an above average rate.
You don't need to be above average in every single respect. That would be nice, but strong gains are usually made through focus. Someone who is average in every way except for one key skill will probably have a better than average life.
The old way of accruing advantage was accumulating general knowledge. Universities were created because access to experts (teachers) and information (books) were scarce. Getting into a college and having access to those resources (and the ability to absorb some of them) was a valuable thing.
Now we have the internet, so general knowledge isn't very valuable. That's not to say it's worthless, just that the average amount of general knowledge people are working with is so high that's it's hard to really stand out there, and that if you're missing a piece of knowledge, you can quickly and cheaply fill that gap. I know nothing about botany, but I bet that in one day I could learn more than 85% of the general population. In the past that wasn't the case.