Jan 2, 2008

How Average People Like Us Can Excel

Staying up at night, just before going to sleep I have often wondered about this. Sometimes in frustration, sometimes in hope for a better tomorrow. How can a average guy like me excel in life? I like to think myself as a jack of a lot of things but a master of none. How do I become a standout, an achiever? I was a good student but never a topper, was good at sports but never good enough for the top grade, met my targets in my career but never surpassed them consistently. Many of us think about going to the next level. What should we do about it? The only good thing about all of our ordinariness is that is that there are so many of us. So I am not alone in my pedestrian journey. The other good thing is that all of have the power to change. We all can be supermen of our own lives. And we don’t have to be from Krypton. The power is within me and you.

Theodore Roosevelt said once: “The average man who is successful is not a genius. He is a man who has merely ordinary qualities, but who has developed those ordinary qualities to a more than ordinary degree.”

Fitting words. So, what are the qualities or attitudes we need to develop to push ourselves further.

Learn self discipline

Perhaps the most important virtue we should develop. It is the key which can unlock the doors of our potential. Life by its very nature is distracting. Self discipline is the big pot of glue which will make us stick to the all important task in front of us. It will cure our procrastination, another ally of our lack of success. Self discipline is about developing a laser focus, to do what is important right now. To postpone that nice movie playing on the TV, to say no to useless gossip on the phone, to sleep for one hour less, work or study for an hour more. Average people who want to excel have a ’stick-to-it’ attitude. They don’t expect quick fix results. They work on the particular task till the last period. They try to do the best they can. Many people on the other hand get frustrated with slow progress or lack of results. They give up and move on.
I know a few people who are just simple graduates but have worked hard to build their career step by step. That’s a very important lesson in sticking to it. We all can develop the ability to focus on what’s important.

Have a positive attitude

I have a poster in front of my desk that says - ‘Every time something bad happens, you can choose to be a Victim or a Victor’
The single line says it all about developing a good positive attitude. Success is slow, painful and full of more lows than highs. To have a positive attitude, we need to be self motivators. Work on positive affirmations. Say to ourselves that success is just around the corner. I realize that whether I think negatively or positively, both take the same amount of energy of thought. So why not think positively and visualize good outcomes for myself. Attitude after all is everything.

Manage expectations

Successful people especially average ones realize that the path forward is full of sweat and grind. Average people lack the special skills or the touch of genius to make an impossible task possible with a magic wand. Average people are the foot soldiers who have to take it step by step but have to stick to the path. Nothing is going to come easy to us. Everything we want in life has a price connected to it. There’s a price to pay if we want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything. We have to realize that. Tiger Woods probably has hit thousands of balls before he putted to win his first trophy. We see the achievement but not the years of hard practice that went into the making of a Tiger Woods. Success is rarely overnight.

Learn from relationships

We can succeed or learn from the talents of others. We cannot progress in isolation. Each relationship we nurture teaches us something is we care to look. I learnt the value of ‘organization’ and ‘method’ from a former boss of mine and also from my elder brother. Today, I am much more systematic in the way I approach a particular task. Each individual has some quality which can rub off on us. For that we need to get closer and imbibe the best. I knew a person who had a spastic brother. She had to interact with doctors, volunteer helpers and educationists everyday. Through this she developed her unique skills of negotiation and people management. She brought these skills to her work and made a success out of it.

Keep Improving

The Japanese have a word for it - ‘Kaizen’. It is quite simply an incremental improvement method. You improve in small steps. More than a method, it is a philosophy and a way of life. We should be willing to change. Because every aspect of our life deserves to be constantly improved. We may be average, but we can target ourselves to learn new skills. For instance, I have decided to learn two new things every year. For this year it was learning graphic designing and blogging. For a five year period I will learn ten new things. With the advent of cheap internet resources to learn are available to us at the touch of a button. We would be foolish not to take advantage of it.

Bounce back from defeats

Their is nothing more powerful than an average person who holds his head high and goes about life with a surety and zest. Success and defeat come in equal measure. What we learn determines our growth. Sometimes, setbacks forces us to think creatively, to find new solutions and to adapt. When one door closes another opens somewhere. This is a very true maxim. Abraham Lincoln could have been destroyed by his seeming ordinariness. He came from a very poor background and was ungainly in appearance. He went on to greatness and gave a new definition to the word - ‘Average’.

As Lincoln once said - ” God must have loved the common people, because he made so many of them.”


Anonymous said...

Thank you from all my heart. I googled "average people" and came up with this article after feeling a little depressed. I am blessed with a sister whom everything she touches turns to gold and somehow became her personal cheerleader. I get calls from her regarding her every victory, but no reciprocal concern for my life. I am going to share your well-written article with my son, who wants a fast road to success. I truly am his cheerleader and see great things for him.

Saikat Basu said...


We all have shared experiences and all we can do is to learn from them and improve. And most times we have to be our own cheerleader's :)

Anonymous said...

Very motivating.
Thank You