3 Key takeaways from “End of Average”

Have you ever sat clueless through a class, wondering what your life has to do with differential equations? Do you ever notice that personality tests are very similar to horoscopes? Do you also feel that they are non-sense? If the answer is yes, this book is for you! Todd systematically upends our very foundation of society in “End of Average”.

The author articulates three principles of individuality to help us navigate away from the perils of what he calls “averagianism” — the jaggedness principle, the context principle, and the pathways principle.

1. Jaggedness Principle

The jaggedness principle highlights the multi-dimensional nature of our individuality. For instance, we confidently label people as introverts or extroverts. This could not be further away from reality. Someone labeled as an introvert may be very coy at work. The same person may be very chatty and expressive with their mates. A person may not have the best GRE score, but still they might be best graduate researcher in the country!

woman sitting near white wooden door
Photo by Masha Raymers

We still use dated concept of traits and averages in all walks of life. In our education system, we rely on standardised tests that compare you on “a score” against the average e.g. SATs, GRE. We rely on standard curriculums that are neither flexible nor personalised. At work, we rely on performance systems that apply a bell curve to fit people into buckets. According to author this is not an optimum way to judge people, their personality, performance and behaviour.

Recognizing our own jaggedness is the first step to understanding our full potential and refusing to be caged in by arbitrary, average-based pronouncements of who we are expected to be.

Todd Ross, End of Average

Author compels us to re-think how we perceive, measure and act so unconsciously using avergian labels and methods!

Coming Soon
Is our fascination with average measurements misplaced?
Is our fascination with average measurements misplaced?
Is our fascination with average measurements misplaced?

2. Context Principle

An IQ test should not decide our intelligence. Similarly, a 4 letter label from our personality test should not decide our personality. The common flaw among both is the lack of context. For instance, a kid who shows repeated aggressive behaviour may be labelled as a “brat”. However, you can perhaps explain that aggression as linked with very specific circumstances. Yet, if you remove or alter the circumstances, that kid may be very pleasant, otherwise.

The author cites bullying in school under peculiar circumstances and how it made him react aggressively. In summary, context is critical and cannot be ignored.

Astrologers figured this out long ago, which is why horoscopes often seem persuasive—if the astrologer informs us that Leos are sometimes shy, well, we are all shy sometimes. It just depends on the context.

Todd Ross, End of Average

Author encourages us to use “if-then” scenarios rather than traits to compare personalities and behaviours that are not greatly explained by traits. For instance, don’t refer to someone as aggressive but refer to the behaviour in context. In other words, you could say, “John is aggressive with his peers when his physical dimensions are mocked”. This doesn’t mean John is aggressive in general! For me, the key takeaway was a new way of thinking about people’s personalities and behaviours at a more granular contextual level.

3. Pathways principle

Pathways principle argues against normative thinking. For instance, in order to become a successful developer you must study computer science is normative. In reality, you could be a janitor who takes up classes on YouTube and turn out to be a better developer than a computer science student.

we remain reluctant to grant students extra time to complete tests or assignments, believing that it is somehow unfair—that if they are not fast enough to finish these tasks in the allotted time, they should be appropriately penalized in the educational rankings.

Todd Ross, End of Averages

We assume that if the children don’t crawl through their development, there must be something wrong with them.

average
Photo Credits – Harvard Ed Magazine

Author suggests that once you understand your personality and behaviour under different circumstances, you can begin to make sense of which path to take to achieve your goals. There is no easy answer, however author encourages us to explore the unexplored paths, and have faith in your “better-self” as opposed to a relatively better than “average” you.

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