I was recently dealing with a local business. The name of the business doesn’t matter. Hell, even the line of business it’s in doesn’t matter. It can be the Generic Debt Blogger of the business world and still be good enough for the purpose of this post. Financial Uproar: mailing it in since the last time I made this very same joke.

I went to this business, with the intent of giving them money. I’ve been there many times before, so we chatted about a few things. I probably spent 15 minutes in there in total. They were trying very hard to be my friend, and I appreciated it.

I was told to wait a few days for a response. I had a bit of an odd request and they were short-staffed, so they couldn’t get on it right away. Okay, fine, not a problem. It was a Tuesday afternoon, and I was promised a phone call before the weekend.

You can probably see where this is going. It’s been more than 10 days later, and I’m still waiting for said phone call.

Normally, such things don’t bother me. As those of you who have emailed me can attest, sometimes I take a while to respond to things too. And sometimes I just have no interest and won’t respond at all. I realize that some people are like me, so I’m willing to be persistent sometimes.

Anyhoo, while driving yesterday, I heard said company’s ad on the radio. To paraphrase, it said to patronize the company because local businesses offer better service than their big city competitors. Ah, yes, because we’ve never heard that argument before.

Of course, it isn’t just that company that’s delusional about the level of service it provides. I’d say the number of companies who think they provide better than average service has got to be close to 95%. It’s like that old joke about how many people think they’re a better than average driver, but worse. Most people won’t insist they’re better than average 14 seconds after barely missing an accident.

What does this have to do with your life? Plenty, actually.

There’s a lot of average out there

If you talked to 100 Wal-Mart employees or 100 open heart surgeons, how many do you think would insist they’re better than average? I’m guessing the number would be pretty close to 100 no matter what profession you surveyed. We asked 100 Family Feud surveyors…

When we think of people we know, we can all list that guy who kills everything he touches, but still thinks he’s a gardener. And yet, our biases ensure that we never, ever, paint ourselves in the same critical light.

In theory, that’s the whole point of a performance review at work. But in reality, bosses judge people not by the level of performance, but by a number of other factors. If you’re attractive, your boss is going to be more likely to overlook your faults. That’s why, naturally, I’m never told of my weaknesses. Or, your boss might think you’re more annoying than the average housefly, and judge you accordingly. Even if you’re a superstar.

The fact is, you’re probably pretty close to average at whatever it is you do. And you know what? That’s okay. It takes a lot of brains and experience to be even an average surgeon. For somebody who doesn’t know an income statement from a nine iron, there’s value in the average financial planner. I’m perfectly okay taking my average car problems to an average mechanic. You don’t have to be above average to swap out some brake pads.

The issue becomes when average people insist that they’re above average, including me, you, and everyone else. Even if we are above average, all you’re really doing is just patting yourself on the back by constantly telling yourself how great you are. That helps nobody, but this blog post has helped many. Well done, Nelson.


If you constantly tell yourself that you’re a below average person, after a while you’re probably going to believe it. If you take that knowledge and mope with it, it’s probably not such a smart thing. But if you take that attitude and use it to make actual improvements, good things are bound to happen. Like the business I tried to patronize, you won’t think you’re the best at something that you really suck at.

It’s good to be hungry. It’s good to work harder at being better. Combine those two, and you’ll probably be well on your way to actually being above average.

Tell everyone, yo!