Average Is a Dead-End

Average Is a Dead-End

Remember average?

It's the brand marketer at a packaged-goods company refusing to sell whole-wheat bread, because the average person doesn't like it. Or the dietitian at the airline who says it should serve only peanuts, because the average person won't eat a corn chip.

Average made America great. Average was the mass market, the sweet spot, the high-volume, high-profit, churn-'em-out-and-move-on middle.

Average is dead.

America's best-selling beer isn't Budweiser or Miller. It's other. Salsa now outsells ketchup. There are so many alternatives, so many distribution channels and so many different kinds of consumers that average just isn't interesting anymore.

Are You Average?

Is your company average? Are you an average person doing an above-average job for an average company selling an average product to the average consumer?


This is the hard part. In crazy times, the animals with the greatest chance to survive are the outliers -- the super-fast cheetah or the mammoth with the extra-thick wooly coat. Of course, being an outlier is risky. If the world gets warm fast, that mammoth will be awfully unhappy.

All your life you've been trained to keep your head down, fit in, stick with it, and be quiet. And in stable times, that's a fine -- though boring -- strategy.

But now the rules have changed. Change is the new normal: Anything could happen; instability is a constant. And the best strategy is not to hunker down and fit in. It's to stand up and stand out.

How can you make your company's products more exceptional? How can you take astounding risks with your career? With your cover letter? With your resume?

You Can't Have It Both Ways

You cannot simultaneously be invisible and stand out. If you're invisible, one thing is certain: You're going to become extinct. Maybe not instantly and maybe not violently, but there's less and less room for someone who doesn't make a difference. In my humble opinion, it's a lot safer and a lot more interesting to make a point.

Start slow, that's fine. But start. Take some risks. Be exceptional. Be salsa, not ketchup.

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[Seth Godin is the best-selling author of Survival Is Not Enough.]