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.
If life gives you lemons make lemonade-you are doing-writing a blog, traveling,sharing an interesting lifestyle,supporting yourself, and more. Give yourself a pat on the back, congratulate yourself for every small success, go your merry way and don't listen to people who try to bring you down to their level.
The people you call "average" I call "robots." That's because they always need orders. Also they don't take responsibility for life's conditions. Typically, they cast blame on their parents, school, the government, their bodies, etc for their shitty lives. That blame characteristic is the main indicator I use to figure out whether someone's a robot.
I've never been able to much help them, and I'm sorry. It's like it takes a big disaster to shake them off the tracks they roll on. Before that, they see freedom as a threat. They are at least 20% of the population, maybe even as high as 50%. Sigh.
Insulting people by calling them robots seldom helps.
But there are so many of them not playing the game of life.
I suppose you could go all Clerks on them and call them Automotons, but that sysnonym isn't very far from the root.
I do notice that as people go onward, sometimes the fear of losing "the dream" is enough to shake them and wake them up (cf all the people trying to run side businesses from their cubicles)... but it feels so much better to start awake.
Well, I don't tell them that. It's just a private opinion that I keep to myself, but I do make sure not to associate with them in any kind of trust relationship. Aristotle called these people "natural slaves," and he's been catching flack for that since ~300BC, so I guess I'm in good company.
You can have a trusting relationship with your hairdresser without needing them to have big dreams about their lifes.
That relationship doesn't fullfil my need for intelletucal stimulation, but that's fine. It doesn't make him a bad person and I can still be nice to him.
There are lots of people with whom we interact where we profit from having a good relationship with them but who are average people.If you think of them as robots it makes it harder to interact with them.
Seeing how anyone really is informs one's interactions in a productive way. Observing that another needs orders to operate, lacks self-determinism, and denies personal responsibility for life's conditions is a useful insight.
For some reason, Christian, you have this fixed idea. I can't quite pinpoint it, but I suspect it's along the lines of, "Thinking bad thoughts about people is wrong. Thinking another is a "robot" is a bad thought. Therefore it is wrong to think of another as a robot."
OK. I got that.
It's not about right or wrong. I'm not in that judgmental frame.
You don't profit from seeing the glass as half-empty. If you resent other people for being "robots" you are wasting your cognitive energy.
The label "average" has less inherent resentment.
A binary way to categorise people doesn't allow you well to see how they really are. Most people take some responsibility for some areas of their life but don't take responsibility for others.
I have a friend who takes much responsibility for his life. He lives in Germany. At the moment he's stranded in Canada. Someone stole his briefcase with the flight tickets to return back to Germany. As a result he has to stay a few weeks in Canada without any money.
He said that the situation made it difficult to have fun. I reminded him that he can have a few fun weeks in Canada even through his situation is bad. He can use encouragement take responsiblity for the way he's feeling.
There are people who would take responsibility for the way they are feeling without needing encouragement. There are other people who wouldn't be receptive to the same message.
A binary category doesn't tell you how much you can push people on specific issues.
Well, at the lower end of the robot scale, you start to find increasing criminality. At the upper end you have people who make small creative efforts with their free time. Binary categories were not present in anything I said or believe.
That being said, I guess I got on your bad side. Sorry. I actually have a high regard for the human race and typically see far more potential in others than they themselves do. There is an inherent goodness at the core of every being, even the most criminal. That is what I also believe. These things are not contrary. Humans are complex, and robotism is real. You ignore it at your peril.
Criminals are different than a person who sits in a cubicle and does what his boss orders them to do. Criminals usually have some self-determiniation that allows them to reject socities rules.
Cool. This is the first time I've gotten trolled in a long time. Thanks!
You pipped me to the post. Those are the exact words I was going to use "What he calls average I call robots"If Christian is saying someone being called a robot is an insult, then surely calling someone average is also an insult. There is a large proportion of society who fit into the category of robot. I see them all the time - they have been brainwashed by the system into strict adherence to a particular way of life and, in fact, they are the ones who feel superiior and insult peop0le who don't conform. The system actually rewards these people although unfortunately the system can't reward all of them and alot of them end up mentally ill because they feel they have done everything required of them but still didn't get the prize. Look at all the mental illness today. Free spirited people who are average people don't care about conforming to the system and might not be materially well off but I bet are much happier.
Interesting. Three thoughts:
It's not so much that you call them average as it is how much you assume about how they feel about their lives, that I think bother people.
When I was 15 I decided to drop out of "high school". I had big dreams, and I couldn't see how school would help me realize them. I started my first business a year later and have been a business owner since (7 years now).
Up until 2 years ago it was a struggle. Many times I didn't knew if I'd be able to pay next months rent, and it was hard to be taken seriously. I remember at one time a business man didn't even want to rent me a storage. He told me flat out that he thought I should go back to school. He wasn't being mean, I could tell he felt honest worry (however I doubt he would feel the same urge to rescue me if I was an 18 year old boy and not a blue eyed blonde... Sometimes it's an advantage, sometimes not).
Today I can't even believe how lucky I am to have the life that I have, spending most of the time doing things I love. But at the same time I can't imagen going through the first 5 years of pain if I wasn't wired the way I am. I was always an outcast and a dreamer and preferred spending Friday nights running, reading a book or working on an idea over going to a party.
My point is that there where times during these years that I would wish I could just enjoy "normal things" but today I know I just process things differently. If doing "normal"; partying, socializing, college, work as an employee etc would not make me go crazy impatient, I would probably do them - but I can't. Yet I would never pass judgement on those who do, because I think a majority of people can enjoy or at least live that life without going crazy.
I do not bother trying to "help" 'average'' people. I focus om those 1) who reach out for it 2) who actually don't have a choice. That truly would never even get the chance to think about "my true potential"
I would agree with those who say you are judgemental, but I also think that's the other side of your coin. If you didn't have your independent way of thinking and being, you wouldn't come up with so many interesting blog posts and people wouldn't be coming back for more.
And that's why I like your blog so much too :-) Great post again! /D
You have to remember that we are outliers for a reason. Some people are content with their lives or even comfortably uncomfortable. I've been in that situation many times. I liked the idea's you have and follow some, but not all of you thought because some philosophies of your I don't agree with. But that's part of charting your path. Seeing peoples idea, taking in the ones you like, cutting the ones you don't. The "average" is less likely to custom mold their education and just accept the standard of what they are suppose to do. Those are the ones least likely to follow your blog and others like it.
Also, reading a bit of analytical psychology taught me that the majority of the people in our civilization have a "guardian" temperament, i.e. need to follow clearly defined rules and conform to their society.
It took me time to realize that these people DO live in their own way. The conception of "living one's life to the fullest" is idiosyncratic and completely different between people.
The problem I usually face is that people don't understand that their way of life is not the best for everyone and cannot be generalized. The fact that my temperament is rare makes me an outsider and an abnormal person in the eye of the random person; but I'm as sane as everybody else.
I get an annoying amount of email from people asking me how to gamble like I used to. The truth is that what I used to do isn't profitable anymore. It was a right time, right place sort of scenario. Although I'm not a professional gambler anymore, I have been spending time studying and improving at poker (I'm a break-even or slightly profitable player), and I have friends who are pros. There are surely several different paths you can take to make a living gambling; this is the one that I'm aware of and is feasible for someone of above average intelligence.
Despite offering a rough guide to making money gambling, I don't necessarily recommend that you do so. I gambled professionally for seven years. During that time I made a lot of money and enjoyed my life. One morning I woke up and all of my money was gone. The story behind that is complicated, but the gist is that "they caught on". The strongest emotion I felt was a sense of relief. Gambling is fun, but it's not "big". It doesn't contribute in a meaningful way or leave you with a body of work.
Most casino games have a house advantage ranging from 2-5%, assuming "perfect play". That means that if you play perfectly, you can expect to lose, on average, about 2-5% of the action you put through a machine. Perfect play for slot machines is simply to bet the maximum amount of coins (the jackpot is skewed heavily in favor of maximum coins). For blackjack you need to memorize what to do for every combination of player hands vs. dealer hands, specific to each set of rules (hit on soft 17, resplitting aces, etc).
I've been saying that college is obsolete for a very long time. I dropped out in 2000, because even back then I could see that it was a really poor value proposition. I didn't predict this because I'm some crazy genius, but because I'm willing to discard emotional attachment and stare plainly at the facts.
School is outrageously expensive, leaving graduates with a debt (or net expenditure) of tens of thousands of dollars-- sometimes even one or two hundred thousand. There are some things that are worth that amount of money, but for many people school isn't one of them. In fact, apart from very specific cases, I think that school is a bad thing, not worth doing even if it was free.
That's not to say that school has no benefits whatsoever. It does, and although I left with zero additional skills after my three semesters there, I had a good time and benefited from the social aspect. The problem is that you can't just compare college to doing nothing at all. You have to compare it to what you COULD have done.
Let's say that when you turn eighteen, it's a good idea to take four years to develop yourself. College is one way to do that. If we were to construct an alternative way to do that, what could it look like? One of the biggest weaknesses of school is how inflexible it is, so one of the greatest benefits of designing your own curriculum is that you could come up with one that uniquely suits you. That said, here's a plan that I think would benefit many people MORE than school would. Let's call it the Hustler's MBA.