I’m Not Interested in Normal

I’m Not Interested in Normal

Is it normal for a business to buy lunch for its employees every day? Or for that matter have free doctors on site, offer dry cleaning, provide weeks of free meals and months of maternity leave when you have a baby? None of those things are very typical, but then again neither are the companies (like Google and Facebook) that provide those kind of benefits.

Not Interested In Average
Average results have never been very interesting to me. All too often “normal” really isn’t that great. It’s normal for organizations to be dysfunctional and for most meetings to be non-productive. It’s normal for people to be in debt up to their eyeballs and it’s sadly become normal for more than half of all marriages to end in divorce. Frankly, most of that ‘normal’ sounds terrible to me.

Exceptional Returns Require Exceptional Measures
If we are serious about beating the average, then we can’t expect to put in average efforts. Google does things differently than most other companies – but they’ve also grown faster and done more to revolutionize the world.

Henry Ford was the same way. He ignored the status quo. He designed a system for building cars that was completely counter to the conventional wisdom of the day. He also paid his employees more than double the going rate, which allowed him to suck up almost all of the high-quality talent and left his competitors high and dry.

Keep the status quo at your own peril
Ford’s empire took a hit when everyone else adopted his innovative ideas but then began adding their own unique things to differentiate themselves. General Motors started offering cars with different color options and model types, something Ford wasn’t willing to do. Ford didn’t continue innovating beyond his original concepts and fell behind the curve for decades.

Investors and MBAs
Successful investors are almost always unconventional. Warren Buffett made billions from purchasing sleepy companies no one else wanted. John Paulson made billions betting against the housing market when everyone else was buying into it.

A lot of the Ivy League MBAs work for companies that were started by entrepreneurs who dropped out of school or quit their “normal” jobs to do something incredible.

You Must Be Brave
Being different isn’t easy. When you buck the system it can drive other people crazy. People just don’t understand it when you operate unconventionally. Sometimes other people’s criticism can be a major drag, but most of the time they just care about you and are afraid of what might happen if you get off the beaten path.

In the midwest of the United States (the great “Rustbelt”) where I live, this is especially true. Silicon Valley has plenty examples of kids who have dropped out of school or done something different and succeeded, but where I live, telling people you’re not going to college is kind of like admitting to irresponsible laziness, and that you are content to scrape by for the rest of your life. Most of the population used to work in factories or for really big companies. There just aren’t a whole lot of examples of people who have gotten off the beaten path and been successful. The lack of positive examples makes it that much harder for people to understand a different path.

The unknown is scary, and forging into darkness takes bravery.

Change before you are forced to
Often times people only change when they have no other choice. The trick is to stay ahead of the destruction. The laws of physics say that everything is in a state of decay without intervention. If you aren’t actively innovating, the status quo will sink lower and lower. So much pain could be avoided if we were all more proactive about making sure we are improving, learning, and growing.

Read These Books
Defeating the status quo requires serious courage. You have to be willing to try, fail, and get back up over and over again if you are going to escape the fate of “normal”.

If you are serious about standing up and rejecting average I highly recommend you check out these two books.

Poke the Box by Seth Godin

It’s Not About the Tights by Chris Brogan

Poke the Box | Seth Godin

It’s Not About the Tights | Chris Brogan

4 Comments

  • Tom O'Leary says:

    This is great. As a self-motivated entrepreneur/freelancer; I agree with all of it.

    But our penchant for perfection and extraordinary effort may be perilous; and I think we [collectively] bemoan the average and the ordinary too easily today.

    Let’s remember that it was the “average” guy and gal who built this city – average people putting in a decent days work for a decent day’s pay. And it took a lot of those average guys and gals to do it – eight hours at a time or until the whistle blew.

    Let’s also remember that not everyone is an entrepreneur. Not everyone wants their work to consume their life. The majority of us want to show up at 9, do our job, punch out at 5, bike over to happy hour and watch the early game.

    Unfortunately, our present love affair with being extraordinary comes at a cost to others. It fucks up the bell curve. By continually raising the bar, we require that everyone does more for less — and gives more for less to be competitive (as employees and as businesses)

    For many, the demand extraordinary effort is unfortunately rewarded with below-average compensation (especially when calculated by the hour.) And that sucks if you’re the guy who just wants to put in the average days work for the decent day’s pay. Because the guy next to you is willing to do extraordinary things for minimum wage.

    So now, we have to be even more extraordinary than the other guy if we want to get that crappy, average job with the extraordinary job requirements and below-average salary that I found on Craigslist.

    And guess what? A few years ago, that job was two average jobs. But some extraordinary person showed us how one person could do both at the same time.

    Average occurs much more regularly than extraordinary. Average effort is much more sustainable. It’s longer lasting. More consistent. More reliable. More comfortable. Happier. Average is hot.

    Average families had one parent in the house when their children came home from school. Average jobs were pensionable and secure and had fair retirement plans that you could count on. Average people sat around the dinner table with their families every night. Enjoying average meals that nourished us just fine.

    Average people received extraordinary overtime when they were asked to work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Because doing extra work requires an more than ordinary effort and average people consider it a sacrifice to give up personal time to work.

    So, let’s not forget to celebrate the average effort that built the extraordinary bridges we are crossing today. Let’s not forget to celebrate the routine slog of the average guy and gal who struggle to just get up at 7 a.m. and get into work on time.

    And let’s be aware that if everyone becomes extraordinary, then average becomes redefined as, well, extraordinary — and extraordinary is just average. Until some future asshole shows the class how we can be even more extraordinary.

  • Tom O'Leary says:

    This is great. As a self-motivated entrepreneur/freelancer; I agree with all of it.

    But our penchant for perfection and extraordinary effort may be perilous; and I think we [collectively] bemoan the average and the ordinary too easily today.

    Let’s remember that it was the “average” guy and gal who built this city – average people putting in a decent days work for a decent day’s pay. And it took a lot of those average guys and gals to do it – eight hours at a time or until the whistle blew.

    Let’s also remember that not everyone is an entrepreneur. Not everyone wants their work to consume their life. The majority of us want to show up at 9, do our job, punch out at 5, bike over to happy hour and watch the early game.

    Unfortunately, our present love affair with being extraordinary comes at a cost to others. It fucks up the bell curve. By continually raising the bar, we require that everyone does more for less — and gives more for less to be competitive (as employees and as businesses)

    For many, the demand extraordinary effort is unfortunately rewarded with below-average compensation (especially when calculated by the hour.) And that sucks if you’re the guy who just wants to put in the average days work for the decent day’s pay. Because the guy next to you is willing to do extraordinary things for minimum wage.

    So now, we have to be even more extraordinary than the other guy if we want to get that crappy, average job with the extraordinary job requirements and below-average salary that I found on Craigslist.

    And guess what? A few years ago, that job was two average jobs. But some extraordinary person showed us how one person could do both at the same time.

    Average occurs much more regularly than extraordinary. Average effort is much more sustainable. It’s longer lasting. More consistent. More reliable. More comfortable. Happier. Average is hot.

    Average families had one parent in the house when their children came home from school. Average jobs were pensionable and secure and had fair retirement plans that you could count on. Average people sat around the dinner table with their families every night. Enjoying average meals that nourished us just fine.

    Average people received extraordinary overtime when they were asked to work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Because doing extra work requires an more than ordinary effort and average people consider it a sacrifice to give up personal time to work.

    So, let’s not forget to celebrate the average effort that built the extraordinary bridges we are crossing today. Let’s not forget to celebrate the routine slog of the average guy and gal who struggle to just get up at 7 a.m. and get into work on time.

    And let’s be aware that if everyone becomes extraordinary, then average becomes redefined as, well, extraordinary — and extraordinary is just average. Until some future asshole shows the class how we can be even more extraordinary.

  • emailutskick says:

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  • emailutskick says:

    Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks