Average Is the Default

After 18 months of writing, I looked back and realized: I had done a lot of different things, but none of them were all that great. I guess it’s common for young people starting a career, especially a self-employed one. Still, I lacked focus. And, like Seth Godin, I concluded that “average is for losers.”

If I wanted to build something truly meaningful, I couldn’t just jump on every side project suggestion or idea that sounded vaguely fun or promising. For the rest of that year, I prioritized Four Minute Books, the project that felt the most original and, thankfully, it worked out financially speaking. Had it not, I would not be here today.

Of course, the first thing I did once the site paid comfortably for rent and food was to…lose focus. I went right back to doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and just a tad of something else too. For a while, that seemed to work out on paper, but this year, more than five years later, I once again had to conclude: I did a lot of average stuff, and average is for losers.

So now, once again, I’m prioritizing Four Minute Books — with one key difference: I think it’s okay to be average. I fully expect myself to be a loser.

The thing about average is that it’s just the default. By definition, most people will always be closer to average than extraordinary, whether it comes to money, books read, sprinting time, or social media followers. Without average, extraordinary wouldn’t exist. It’s the average that makes outliers matter — two sides of the same coin, one the yin to the other’s yang.

Therefore, average is nothing to feel miserable about. It’s not something to feel anything about at all. Average is just normal and, even if you’re trying to make something great, you’ll spend many days doing boring stuff until one day, maybe, you’ll become an “overnight success.”

When you accept average, you don’t need to change the world in a year. You don’t need to make a gazillion dollars, and it’s okay if your website relies on annoying ads so you can pay the bills. Without average, there’d be nothing to work towards. No desirable future that you must assemble brick by brick.

I feel a lot better about Four Minute Books now than I ever have before. I don’t have a big five-year vision about how we’ll revolutionize the book industry. Maybe that part might come later. Maybe never. For now, I’m just happy that we can save a lot of people a little bit of time each day. That we can give people permission to read, even if they only have a few minutes to spare. That we can help people learn where, otherwise, they might just have watched another cat video on TikTok.

The website has a good amount of users, but other than that, it’s pretty average. It looks average. It has ads on it. We send out a normal newsletter, and often, we promote products that lots of other people promote too. That’s not to say that those things will never change. In fact, I’d like them to. I’d love to have a stellar looking website, zero ads, and the best, fully fan-supported newsletter in town — but right now, that’s not where we’re at. We’re at average, and that’s perfectly okay.

Accept that you’re starting from average, and you can focus on the daily work required to turn a 5 into a 6, a 6 into a 7, and a 7 into an 8. No delusion, no dramatization. Just good old hard work and the hope that, one day, you might cross the finish line of great — and on most days, that — average — is more than enough.