The Curse of Averageness

Most people are average. Please don’t be one of those people.

You might be thinking: “Wait, what?! There are a lot worse things in life than being average.”

Not really.

In fact, being average is worse than worse. When our life is all said and done, the last thing we would want on our tombstone is, “Here Lies So-and-So. S/he was average.”

Being average is a curse.

It’s hereditary. And if you are not careful, it can be passed down through the generations.

When I was 13- years old I hung out at Joey’s house. Joey was average in every respect. He was a “C” student, a fair athlete, plain looking and shy with the girls. I cannot recall a single remarkable thing he ever said or did. I was sure the term “average Joe” was coined for him. Whenever he showed the slightest initiative or imagination, his mother would say, “Stop it, Joe, you don’t want to be like your father.” In hindsight, I am convinced Joey’s well-meaning mother unintentionally cursed him with averageness.

Joey’s father, on the other hand, was anything but average. He was way cool; our town’s version of Fonzie. He rode a motorcycle and raced stock cars for a hobby. He was a high school dropout and a mechanic by trade. But he wasn’t just any old mechanic, he was THE town’s mechanic. Everyone agreed Joey’s father could rebuild an engine like no other. He nurtured a bigger-than-life personality, always had a sly smile on his face and a funny story to tell. All of the average, upstanding dads in town quietly admired him, and all of their wives secretly desired him. He once said to me, “Kid, be famous or be notorious. Just don’t be average.”

The other night I watched the movie Talladega Nights for the third time. I find the movie hilarious and it reminds me of Joey and his dad. In the movie, Ricky Bobby (played by Will Ferrell) is inspired to devote his life to becoming the number 1 NASCAR driver in the world, all because his father told him when he was a boy, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!” Much later in life, after Ricky Bobby achieves his goal and credits his father for the inspiration, his father says, “Hell, Ricky, I was high when I said that! That makes no sense at all! “First or last”! I mean, you could be second, third, fourth–hell, you could even be fifth!” Very funny and very prophetic. Joey listened to his mother, not his father, and aspired to be what she wanted him to be – perfectly average.

I tried to track down my old friend Joey. I can find no trace of him…not on Google, on Linkedin, Facebook, or any other site. It’s as if he never existed. He is probably living a happy, quiet, perfectly average life somewhere. His mother is no doubt very proud of him. His father passed away a few years ago. I found a lot of references on him.

Truth be told, we are all like Joey — mostly average (or below average) in most things.

The point is to avoid the curse of averageness by distinguishing yourself in some way – by trade, by hobby, by personality.

Do something or be something other than average — something extraordinary that everyone knows you by.

Then own it.

Be outstanding, be exceptional, or fail spectacularly trying.

Just don’t be average.

Michael O'Donnell
About the author: 

Michael O’Donnell is a Principal at StartupBiz.com, a Miami-based firm helping startups become viable businesses. His prior credentials include executive roles with iCopyright and Ask-Me Multimedia, as well as service with several Boards and NFPs.  Mr. O’Donnell has authored a number of publications and holds U.S. patents in the licensing, copyright and authorship arenas.  Follow him on LinkedIn.