I often get the nasty notion that in many respects, I’m a horribly underachieving person. I’m untidy, rather callous, careless and self-centered. I eat and drink too much, I respond disproportiantely to a great deal of things, and in many subtle and stealthy ways, I have little tiny prickles of evil all over the DMZ of my personality.

So, how do I explain the fact that I’m still, on the whole, a rather amiable person, am considered smart, responsible and useful to employers and peers, and am generally depended upon (definitely by the people close to me)?

Well, this is probably an oversimplification (something that science does run-of-the-mill), but I think that this can be explained, plainly, by “averaging” of traits.

In my opinion, while in most fields I am average or slightly above average in abilities and achievement, there are a few fields in which I am very good or even extremely good at. I’m superb at languages, semantics and connotative analysis. I got extremely fast fingers (which I employ very well as a means of making a living, making an hourly sum surpassing that of my peers immensely). I usually have a superb memory and an uncanny ability to draw the most elusive of memories long after people have forgotten about them.

The mishaps I have with my personality are balanced by my enormous devotion to the people and things I care about: my carelessness is balanced by my exaggerated sense of duty to a selected cause (so even if I spent all of my life living in a shithole, if I make it my business to be tidy, I’ll be tidy, and extravagantly so)

This would be a trivial observation if it weren’t for this implied derivation: perhaps the reason I allow myself my vices is that they are a luxury I subconsciously grant myself due to my virtues.

Maybe it’s some sort of “negative decompensation mechanism” that human beings (and other animals) have when they can allow themselves to take bad advantage of their “wealth”. It’s myopic and destructive in the long run (hence my current attempts to diet out the little beerbelly I’ve grown this past few months) – but in the short run, I could never escape the notion that I could simply “get away with it”.


3 Responses to “Averaging”

  1. jeffsdeepthoughts Says:

    Interesting… Perhaps I’m belaboring the obvious by pointing out your main point. But it occurs to me, having read this post, that there are in fact two ways to be above average. One way is to be way above average in a few respects but have other characteristics which weigh it down. The other is to be a be slightly above average, more or less across the board.
    I wonder if there is a thing a bit like natural selection at work here. (Clearly it’s on an individual level)
    But I wonder if we start with a certain expectation for ourselves. If our path seems to deviate significantly from this we don’t allow ourselves certain traits. In some ways we weed these out of our personality gene pool. (This is all meant metaphorically. I’ve got a reasonable grasp on concepts like genes and personality)
    For example, if I’m born with pretty good recall and I expect to graduate college with honors, then I met get away with a mediocre work ethic in terms of studying, and I met get away with an occasional night of drunken debauchery.
    If my work ethic leads to failing grades, I’m likely to study more and drink less until I’m on track toward my goal. If I’m expecting high honors, though, and I earn only B’s, then I might drop drinking altogether. (Or double up on studying… whatever.)
    On the other hand if I’ve got poor recall I don’t have the luxury of vices such as a mediocre work ethic or even occasional nights of drunken debauchery.

    I’ve recently finished an amazing book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. (In the name of transparency I’ll tell you I have a suspicion that he may be a Christian but he’s never mentioned it… This isn’t me proseltyzing) His central thesis is that individualistic success stories are essentially a myth. He lays out a pretty compelling case for the idea that the radically succesful were very much in the right place at the right time in addition to being hard workers, appropriate risk takers, etc.
    The book is a bit related to this topic in that Gladwell explores the context of success and failure and considers that it’s much more than just being naturally talented.

  2. freidenker85 Says:

    You know, this brings an interesting thought to my mind: many times when I feel more successful than usual, I can’t help thinking it’s just dumb luck, a coincidence. It’s possible that more talented people might do well and even better than me in many fields, but on the whole, there really isn’t much of a difference between us. The major difference is greater than any one person – it’s that unpredictable treasure trove that nature gives every time a beneficial dice-roll occurs.

    I’ve often lamented my very good but not excellent grades, but I usually fail to mention that during my time in high school (and even last semester!) I drank a lot, spent most of my time knee deep in my own personal issues, and skipped classes on a regular basis. I just can’t help feeling like I could get away with it – and now when I look at my slight overweight, I really think that it’s this mode of thinking that brought me into it. Things might be a bit too easy, and then I get sloppy.

    It’s very hard to uproot.

  3. Nessa Says:

    Interesting. I too have little tiny prickles of evil all over me. (I loved how you worded that, going to use it in the future).

    Let’s see… I’m very untidy, I procrastinate, I have a terrible memory, I’m pretty self centered, I can’t stand sleep deprivation.
    I’m also very good with analytical stuff, I type fast, I’m good at languages (well, 2) and I am good at predicting what teachers are most likely to ask in an exam (without cheating).

    I think I developed procrastination because all my life, I haven’t needed too much time to finish my work, so I’ve used the time to do other things and in the last minute, I easily get away with whatever I’m supposed to do.

    However I had to balance that with my intolerance to sleep deprivation. I couldn’t leave everything to the last night and not sleep.

    I do my work somewhere in between, it works.

    I guess I do have something I can’t control getting in the way, and that’s mainly depression. I have it in me to finish uni and graduate but mental factors interfere.

    But I am pretty lucky in many ways too.

    I think I agree with what Jeff said about Success and it being a matter of being in the right place at the right time along with having the talent to take on the opportunity.

    We’ll see where my special mix of circumstances takes me.

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