Say it with me: I’m not average. I’m special. I’m different.
I live in the camp that we ARE all unique snowflakes. Some folks disagree with that and say that line of thinking can be harmful but screw those people. We are all individuals. We all look different. We all experience life differently. We all have the potential to live fulfilling lives that can make a positive impact on the world.
Get off the path of average
It’s easy to conform to societal norms:
- Get a soul-sucking job like everyone else
- Stay in a crappy relationship
- Dream of traveling the world
But you don’t have to stay on the path of average. You don’t have to let other people control your circumstances.
It’s weird to type this, but I teared up while writing those three short phrases at the beginning of this article: I’m not average. I’m special. I’m different. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written them before. I may have said them out loud but it means more to write them down. Writing has a sense of permanence that spoken word doesn’t.
I’ve always felt like I was different from other people. It started for me as a kid when I was—maybe not unlike you—bullied in school. Growing up I was a bit of a gangly mess. I think by age eight I already had size 13 shoes (okay, maybe not that big) and my ears were probably fully grown. I wasn’t taller than the other kids (yet), but parts of my body were definitely not on the same growth patterns as others.
Here’s a photo of me nowadays embracing my awkwardness (with my wife in tow):
While growing up it wasn’t that I thought I was different, it’s that I was told I was different. I was physically and emotionally punished for it.
Fortunately for me, I had an incredible guiding force in my life when I was a kid: my mom. No matter how bad things got, she was there to support me and help me. I’d love to share the bits of wisdom with you that she shared with me, but the honest truth is that I’ve completely blacked out the memories of the majority of my childhood. That’s not a joke; it’s a hard truth. I’ve locked away a lot of uncomfortable memories in one of those bank vaults with the titanium wheel and fingerprint pad on the outside. Maybe we’ll dig into that issue at a later date, folks.
Nonetheless, I started out very average but was molded into something else by my peers and circumstances throughout my teens. I resisted making friends and clung tightly to the ones I trusted. I tried not to excel at much of anything for fear of more bullying.
In a not-so-average-twist-of-fate, I scored 1430 on my PSATs in high school (1600 was perfect at my time of taking them). I was in an SAT planning class, and when I got my score a couple guys who were on the high school basketball team with me made fun of me and called me a nerd. If you can imagine trying to be a jock, but then being called a nerd in front of your peers (by your supposed co-jocks), it was painful. When I took the actual SATs, however, I purposefully breezed through it—scoring a very average 1050. I didn’t intentionally organize this decline in test scoring, but I’m 99% certain my subconscious took the reins and made it happen.
I remember getting my average SAT scores and showing them to my fellow co-jocks like a badge of honor. “Look at this 1050, it’s completely average! I’m not a nerd anymore right??” I didn’t want to be made fun of, so I managed to fit perfectly in the middle, hidden away from nerd-criticism.
Staying average begets staying average
In college, I coasted through classes, friendships, relationships, mediocre part-time jobs, all to make sure that I stayed right in the line of average. Sure, there were blips of standing out—like that time my friend Alun and I decided we’d bleach our hair and dye in some leopard spots (still sorry about that, Grampa). Or when I got my ears pierced. Or when I wore parachute pants and puffy vests. It was the early 2000s people, give me a break.
But then something happened. A moment in time that I can picture with absolutely perfect detail. The moment I decided not to let external influences keep me in a state of average any longer.
I was sitting at the desk of my perfectly average 9–5 job right out of college. I can still remember the beige desk, beige chair and the beige carpeted half-wall that surrounded me. My office was a literal emobodiment of average. Then there were my starchy gray dress pants and blue button up shirt from Express. Also, extremely average.
Where was the not-so-average moment, you ask?
Somehow a copy of Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow ended up in my beige existence.
A splash of color and uniqueness amidst my perfectly mundane existence.
If you’ve read The Purple Cow, you know where this is headed. If you haven’t, just know that Seth talks about standing out from a crowd of normal (average) black and white cows and becoming a “purple cow.” Here’s the singular takeaway for me while reading Seth’s book: “I want to be a Purple Cow. No, you know what? I am a Purple Cow.”
F*$k being average!
This is a memory I can recall clear as day. In the middle of reading this small hardcover purple book written by some bald guy I’d only just recently heard of, I said to myself, “F*$k being average. I’m different. I’m special.”
It was in that moment that I created the tiny snowball-sized idea in my mind that would eventually turn into a roaring avalanche of difference.
I didn’t want to be average anymore. I didn’t want to hold myself back from standing out. I wanted to embrace my difference.
This was a pivotal shift in my life. For the first time, I was going to completely buck the system and abandon the security and stability of the average American Dream. I was going to start my own business. I was going to be different. I was going to strive to do bigger things with my life. I was going to throw away my starchy gray pants and get some sexy salmon pants! (Okay, truthfully, I still don’t own sexy salmon pants.)
From that moment forward, I’ve pushed as many proverbial envelopes as possible. I’ve taken more entrepreneurial risks than many people will take in their lifetimes. I’ve refused to settle for average.
You shouldn’t settle for average. You are not average.
I don’t think you should settle for average either. We all have own our unique differences. It can be uncomfortable to embrace who you truly are, but it’s time to show the world your true colors.
My wife Caroline had a great quote about not being average:
“When we play small, nobody wins. We miss out on realizing our potential and the world misses out on all the great things we can create when we’re living out the fullest, brightest expression of our gifts.”
Stop pretending to be someone you’re not for fear of ridicule or criticism. Don’t waste your time surrounding yourself with people who make fun of you for being yourself. In fact, one of the best things you can do for yourself in this lifetime is to quit your crappy friends.
You don’t have to stay on the path of average.
You don’t have to let other people control your circumstances. You don’t have to continue to do things the same way you’ve done them before. You alone can decide your future, you just have to let go of your past and take action (which won’t be easy, but is absolutely doable).
You are not average. You are special. You are different. And so am I.