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.
I have a friend named Carl. We get along well, but sometimes he grates on me. He does really weird things that he insists are definitely the best, and he won't stop talking about them until he switches to the next weird thing. For example, he went through a phase where he ate nothing but bananas. Tons of bananas. We went on a cruise and he actually ate so many bananas that the ship ran out on day five of fourteen. Think about how many bananas that must be. Now he eats butter. We went hiking, and for a meal he brought a pound of butter covered in cocoa powder, which he tried to eat with a spoon.
Anyway, one day we were joking around and I said something like, "You know... the only reason I hang out with you is because normal people are so boring. You're what I'm left with." It was a joke, but there's some truth to it, actually. I think that coming up with independent ideas and then actually trying them out is far too rare in our society. Even when someone's trying out loopy diets like Carl's, I still have to give them credit for actually thinking and doing (and of course he has ideas that I like, too).
So when people ask me (rhetorically) what would happen if everyone did the same thing as me, I think they're missing the point. A while back I wrote something called The Hustler's MBA, which was an alternative to a college education. It cost way less, was designed to make the student earn money, and taught practical skills. One such practical skill was learning poker. "Aha!" cried the haters, "But if EVERYONE tried to play poker, it wouldn't work anymore!"
I agree. When everyone does the same thing, it pretty much NEVER works. You know, like College. College was great until everyone did it and thus diluted it value.
When I was eighteen or so, back when I was a genius and knew it, I thought that I had the answers for everyone. Now I think if I have any principle that works for everyone, it's only that they should consider their own circumstances and make their own choices. So what would happen if everyone did my Hustler's MBA and played poker? Well, people would decide that they couldn't make money playing poker and would figure out something else. I think that would be a great outcome.
Right now people are all doing the same thing: going to college, having a tough time getting work, taking a crappy job, and being miserable. At least with my program they'd learn to be independent and would be likely to make their lives better.
When I talk about average people, I actually mean people who make average choices. I think that in terms of natural abilities, being average is totally fine. I'm probably about average, or maybe even worse when you consider everything. I mean, I have no athletic aptitude whatsoever. I'm a procrastinator by nature. I'm bad at being empathetic. I get distracted easily. I'm stubborn. I have a bunch of good traits, too, of course. Just like everyone else, I have a mix of good qualities and bad qualities. In that way I'm average.
One thing I DO give myself a lot of credit for is doing the best with what I've got. And that's something that anyone can do-- it's just a matter of making your own decisions so that you can leverage your strengths and work on you weakness to do the best you can.
When you take society's standards at face value and don't think for yourself, it's very difficult to be anything BUT average. Take me, for example. I was a very poor student, dropping out of school with a 2.0 GPA. I got fired from the one real job I had, and my boss was my friend. My natural instincts with girls were pathetic. I grew up as such a nerd and was such a picky eater that I'm not very physically strong. Maybe that's why I was pushed towards being independent and coming up with my own path-- it was my only choice.
The reason I get so riled about about average people isn't because I hate them-- it's because I love them. It's because I love seeing people go from average to excellent in their own unique way. People who really think independently and chart out their own courses inspire me.
Even within the most average of average, if you spend enough time with them, you'll see that spark of something more-- that desire to break out of the mold and be who they have the potential to be. I rant and rave about them because I don't know how else to spur people to action. I do it to give encouragement to those who have already decided to be something more than average, and to push the average to listen that voice within that wants them to start living proactively.