Category: Ability

Statistically Speaking, You’re Nothing Special

Statistically Speaking, You're Nothing Special
I read this answer on Quora to the question “What are the most difficult things people (have to) learn in their twenties?“:

There are always going to be people who are smarter, better looking, more sociable, and just all around “better” than you.  In fact, you’ll learn there are LOTS of people who fit that description.  To be happy, then, you have to learn to accept yourself and your shortcomings.

In a room with ten people, you have pretty decent odds at being the most attractive, or the smartest, or the best at ping pong. But  in an earth-sized room with 7 billion people, your chances of being the “best” anything are slim to none.

Compare Wisely

Make your goal to be the most socially adept or fittest or smartest person in a room. If you walk into enough rooms you’re bound for a life of disappointment.

In other words, we have to be very strategic about where we invest our self-worth–and the kinds of stories we tell about ourselves.

Our natural tendency is to assess our value with comparisons. Often, we make comparisons of ourself against other people–and feel good about ourselves for being more competent than Larry and feel bad for being less competent than Sally.

This way of measuring self worth is haphazard because it’s essentially random.

I can’t control who walks into the room, what natural abilities they have and how much opportunity they’ve been presented with in life.

The Person You Should Compete With

I think a lot of contentment happens when you stop asking “am I better than that new person over there?” and instead ask “Am I better than the self I was last week? How about a year ago?

Comparison is a powerful storytelling tool, but it’s only as good as your benchmark. If you ask the right question, you’re still comparing, but it’s against your own benchmarks–and significantly less arbitrary.

You  control your own goals and track your own progress. You can control whether you’re a little bit better runner or a little more patient individual than you were last week. You have a natural ability that you can capitalize on and invest in. You have weaknesses you can minimize.

Statistically speaking, each of us individually is nothing special. But statistics aren’t everything.

You’re worthwhile. It’s just that (thankfully) that worth isn’t simply based on comparing yourself to someone else in our 7-billion-person room.

When you tell your story, make it about how you’ve changed (or been changed). Don’t spend the whole time accidentally talking about everyone else.

[Image source: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc]