Never Settle: How to Beat Average

by Michael Paradise

Who do you want to be in a year? In five years? In ten?

If you’re anything like me, you think about this type of shit fairly often. But I have news: the answers really don’t matter at all. What matters isn’t who, but how.

You see, the answer to “who?” is simple. I’ll tell you right now who you should be. Your goal should simply be to become the most fucking awesome version of yourself you can imagine being. That’s it.

Quick thought experiment: What would this version of yourself be like? Really think about it. Visualize it by imagining it is already your reality. Now work backwards in time, and think of the steps it’ll take to get there from your present reality.

How will you do it?

And this is where most people fail. You see, it’s easy to have dreams for the future. Pretty much everyone has them. But with most people, they stay just that: dreams.

knowing is not enough, you must apply

“Knowing is not enough, you must apply; willing is not enough, you must do.” – Bruce Lee

Knowing who or what you want to be is worthless if you don’t do shit to attain it. It’s easy to imagine what you want. It’s hard to actually get it.

For example, I’ve had a pretty rough outline in my head of what I want to do for the last year or two. And I’ve spent a lot of time trying to refine that sketch in my mind into some kind of imaginary masterpiece, trying to put the lines together perfectly and get the details just right.

And recently I’ve realized that this has resulted primarily in one thing: I haven’t taken enough action to actually make it my reality. I plan and plan and study and learn how to carry out my goals and all the while… I forget to take a step. Granted, I have taken a few steps. Probably more than a lot of people ever do. But I don’t just want to take steps. I want to run toward my dream.

And I’m sure you do too. So what’s stopping you?

A lot of people struggle with motivation. They know they should work out, but they don’t. They know they want to quit their job and start their own business, but they never do. It goes on and on. Knowing is not enough.

So if most people know what they should do and don’t, what does this mean? That they’re lazy? They just don’t care enough or it’s just not important to them?

Hell fucking no, that isn’t why. Why the hell would they even have dreams if they really weren’t important and didn’t want to attain them? Answer: they wouldn’t.

The problem stems from something much deeper than motivation. Before you can be motivated to change, you must give yourself permission to do so. Yes, I know that sounds like bullshit, but stay with me.

Dreams and Professional Athletes

“Life doesn’t care about your vision. You just gotta roll with it.” – Forrest Gump

Most people don’t change their lives because no one expects them to. In life, you have no teammates you fear letting down, no coaches to impress, no fans or community to answer to.

It’s just you. And no one cares about your dream. No one but you.

You haven’t fully achieved your vision because you don’t respect yourself enough and haven’t given yourself permission to be different from everybody else. I know it’s true for me. And that’s hard to admit.

Being different requires that you separate yourself from average. If average is normal, to be different you must either be above or below average. Obviously here we’re shooting for above.

If you are average, you are by definition a part of the majority. Which also means that the majority of people you interact with fall into this category – and giving yourself permission to be different from them, especially if it’s friends and family, is hard to do. After all, who the hell are you to want something different? (Note: I’m not saying you should cut ties with your friends and family or anything of that nature, just that you need to expect more than “average”).

Look at professional athletes. When it comes down to it, they’re people like you and me. But they hold themselves to a much, much higher standard than the average person. Why? Because it’s their job. Their career depends on it. It is expected of them by everyone. The most well-respected athletes don’t just hold themselves to a higher standard physically though. No, they are respected on and off field because their standards of behavior are higher than average as well.

But they aren’t superheros, despite impressive physical abilities. They just have a different mindset and a different environment. To see game time, they must continually prove their worth. They must play their best in practice and in the game. It’s expected of them by the coaches, themselves, and the team, and the community. They must nurture and build their bodies. They must behave respectably on and off the field and not draw negative attention to their team. Overall, they are held to higher standards by everyone in their life.

However, for us non-celebrity professional athletes you tend to encounter the opposite. When (nearly) everyone around you has average expectations they tend to expect you to have them too. Social pressure to conform is difficult to resist, especially when it’s from people close to you. Of course, most people don’t have bad intentions – they aren’t trying to limit you by having lower expectations. Oftentimes you won’t notice you’ve adopted another’s belief. The problem is it’s easy for these beliefs to turn into assumptions – something you hold to be true when in fact, there isn’t a grain of evidence to support it. But you must view your life objectively and ask yourself if there are any assumptions you have that are holding you back. And you absolutely must test your assumptions.

People instinctively fear the unknown and the majority of people know average. So what does that tell you? Don’t ever settle for average. Please. The world needs something different, something better.

So here’s what you need to do: give yourself permission to commit to higher standards than people around you who have settled and accepted stagnation. If you don’t want to be average, you cannot have average standards. You must hold yourself accountable for something better. You simply must be different.