Triumph of the “Average”
Scholarships, I thought, were given to extremely talented and infallible individuals who take measured steps on their path to perfection. That’s why I was equally surprised and embarrassed when I was awarded the Schulich Leader Scholarship in 2015, for I was simply an average person tumbling through different avenues of experiences guided purely by blind passion.
Yet the term “average” is looked down upon by many, synonymous with failure and unremarkable. Our society tends to focus on extraordinary individuals, the 1%, like Warren Buffett and Lebron James. But we forget that the likelihood of their occurrence is minuscule. The rest of us are squished together in the middle of the bell curve. Statistically, being average is inevitable. What then makes individuals special?
Perhaps one of my biggest skills in life is to selfishly surround myself with individuals who I perceive to fit the ‘perfectionist’ tag I outlined earlier, in whom I identified a unique trait. Rather than being shackled by mediocrity, they instead define themselves through their retaliation: the pursuit of excellence. In this rejection emerges an obsession of transcending mediocrity and pursuing improvement. This presented some important lessons for me.
Being average is okay. Pursuing mediocrity is not.
It is the process of retaliation wherein emerges the pursuit of excellence. For many of the last 24 years, the Toronto Raptors were an average team. St. Louis Blues hadn’t won a championship in 52 years. Yet it was their relentless obsession of transcending mediocrity through sheer hard work that yielded them an NBA championship and the Stanley Cup respectively this year. They still might go down in history as average teams, but this last month was a friendly reminder that it is ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
This pursuit I talk about is often gruesome and testing, as I’ve found out during the years pursuing my undergraduate degree at the University of Saskatchewan. Things can seem absurd, repetitive and tiring. As a young individual still forming my identity, the Schulich Foundation gave me the confidence to remain on my path, pursue different avenues of knowledge and push my boundaries. Most importantly, it taught me that being average is not a weakness to be embarrassed about, but rather a weapon to engage on a life-long process of self-improvement.
But what makes being average so special?
Being average is humbling; it gives one perspective. It offers the room to grow, for if I’m perfect then I have less to learn. It takes away the ego that arises when one erringly labels themselves as being “superior” to others and creates opportunities to learn from them, for there is always something to learn from those around you. The inability to learn from the brilliance around you, I believe, is the biggest misfortune of all.
Being average lets you look up to people rather than look down on them. It lets you replace talent with hard work, for the former will inevitably fail to guide you after a point while the latter will help you tear down barriers you could have never foreseen. It allows you to be fallible, something that the façade of perfection might not allow. This freedom from the fear of failure allows us to explore new avenues of knowledge and inspiration, and invokes innovation.
Being average allows you to enjoy the simple things in life, like friendships and achievements. It takes away requirements and replaces them with goals; changes ones mindset from ‘I need to pass medical school’ to ‘I want to be a good physician’. It balances self-belief with a sense of inadequacy that propels the pursuit of excellence. It limits complacency, for what is there to be complacent about if you are just average?