Average versus Exceptional

Are you an average or an exceptional individual? Are you in the middle of the scale or are you on the top of it? Are you generally fitting all the descriptions of your generation or are you an outsider?

Safer versus Risky

Being an average person surely gives you a bit of a safety. Average is cozy. You don’t get too much resistance from the society, as long as you fit in the limits. In fact, being average guarantees that society will support you rather than reject you. An average person lives an average life; has an average income, is in an average relationship, follows an averagish career. Not too much trouble, but not too much excitement either.

An exceptional person is usually a risk lover. If you look carefully at all the leaders, inventors or successful businessmen you’ll find they all have something in common: they all loved risk, in one form or another. Risk is dangerous. Risk can not only put you in danger but it can be extended to your close group, to your community, to the entire society. This is why exceptional people are usually rejected by the society.  Being exceptional is surely an exciting path but it can be also filled with trouble.

Easier versus Difficult

Being average is usually easier, all you have to do is follow the rules. Go to school, graduate, get a job, get married. But this will not guarantee in any form that you will be successful, nor that you will live a fulfilling life. It will be safe and you’ll survive. It’s the easy way.

Being exceptional is usually harder, because instead of rules you will have to follow your dreams. Start a business, travel the world, love unconditionally or be a rock star. This will not guarantee that you’ll be successful either but you will surely live a fulfilling life. Following your dreams is better than following their rules. But it will be difficult and you may fail. Many times. It’s the hardest way.

Indulging versus Uncomfortable

Even if you strive to be exceptional you may consciously chose to live an average life. Because being average is indulging. You may have the abilities, the talents or the call to become exceptional, but you maintain yourself in a field of laziness and mediocrity. Why? Because you like it living safely, without taking risks and in a comfortable space. You indulge yourself with a underrated lifestyle, with an illusion of safety constantly reinforced by the respect of the rules.

Being exceptional is no lazy afternoon or slow party week-end. It’s constantly getting out of the comfort zone and try something new. It’s restless and exhausting. It’s challenging and full of surprises. Living an exceptional life will give you a lot of pressure and confrontation. Breaking the rules in order to achieve something bigger is no easy task.

Faster versus Slower

Average is faster. You’re walking on somebody else’s footsteps, you move quicker. So many other people were there before so you don’t have much to do than to dumbly move forward. You’ll advance in any standard metric faster than anyone else. You’ll soon have a job, a paycheck, a mortgage, a car, a house, a family. Sooner than you expect.

Exceptional is slower. You’re walking on fresh territory. You discover your own path with each step and you advance slower. Nobody chose the path you chose so you’re actually building a road. You’ll hardly have a job, a paycheck, a mortgage, a car, a house or a family in the traditional way of speaking. But you’ll do it your way.

Pressuring The Exceptional

There is an inner pressure of the average over the exceptional. The average will always try to manage the exceptional, to derail, to confuse, to stop it. Because being exceptional is a danger to the established order and you must be aware of that. You are threatening the rules. If you get rich by 24 and the rules are saying this is impossible, you have a problem: society will try to convince you that this is impossible. You know it isn’t, but apparently you’re the only one who knows that.

Average is based on rules. If there are no rules, the average cannot exist. This is why being exceptional is constantly pushed away. If you chose to be exceptional, be prepared to face not only your inner limitations but a constant pressure from the outside world. You have to win a double battle: with you and with them.

The Choice Of A Personal Path

The good news is that being average or being exceptional are just choices. There’s no genetic imprint that says you’re going to be an average person or you’re going to be an exceptional one. Everything is choice.

I know it was my choice to start my own business 10 years ago. It was my choice to acquire so many different skills. It was my choice to travel, to learn, to change my eating habits, to experiment gratitude, to play the money game, to accept and transform my aggression, to do all those other thousands things that created the reality I enjoy right now. It was my choice to live my life as I wanted. And I had my share of rejection and criticism from the society, that’s for sure.

But I’m still living it the same way. And guess what: I don’t have an average income, an average relationship, an average health, an average career. It’s way much better than the average.

What’s your choice? To risk and win, or to stay low and safe?



Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner


The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”

And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.

Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.

If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.

Running For My Life -from zero to ultramarathoner

Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Hi Dragos,

    What an excellent article! Exceptional isn’t always going to be easy. It is, though, going to be fulfilling. And what I really loved is the idea that exceptional is slow. In a fast-paced world, this is such a great point to hear. I have some things coming up that are taking me outside of my comfort zone – and this article today really helps. Thank you!

    Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

  2. I have been average for many years, and I am starting to realize I was making a choice to stay in that mire of normalcy and comfort. I am really starting to become uncomfortable lately and while it feels different and scary at times, I know it is leading to a whole new paradigm of success. Thanks Dragos for not allowing me to get comfortable again!

    Jay’s last blog post..The Sunday Ponder

  3. Excellent article! The characteristics of most leaders would put them on the risky side more often than not. I do think we have to be careful in quantifying this … a great leader doesn’t necessarily go out and think, “I want to do something risky” today. Rather, the leader is thinking, “How can I push the envelope? Where can we advance the leading edge of something?” That by nature moves the leader into risk.
    Very thought-provoking and insightful. I like it!

    nutuba’s last blog post..March Serenity

  4. I feel that steady change is good for keeping your mind fresh and life not becoming stagnant.

    This article makes me think of how parents raise their children to take the safe route. Finish school and find a job that has a retirement plan then work there for the rest of your life. This is settling to me.

    People shouldn’t settle in any area of their life. They have the capablity to improve and experience life to the fullest.

    There is always something better- perhaps unknown because we do not explore other possibilities. Remaining closed minded.

    Everything worth while seems to take longer. This reflects of the value in your venture. It seems fast and easy is like a whirlwind. It blows in as quickly as it blows out.

    Many people are being laid-off from jobs. The shock is one thing but they need to realize that is an opportunity to find a better job or change their careers.There is always a positive side to every experience. People have to take obstacles and make them opportunities.

    Wonderful article.
    Cheers

    BunnygotBlog’s last blog post..Follow Your Gut, Your Brain Will Do The Rest

  5. I’m definitely a risky winner. I stayed safe for many years, but started dying inside. When I took a major risk, I started living again. I feel like I’m finally on my way………………..:)

    LisaNewton’s last blog post..Under the Sky

  6. I don’t want to just stay low and safe. I was not happy when I did so for many years of my life. I am prepared to now take a different path, one that requires me to really explore and find out for myself the answers to my questions. I realize that I am taking the less than conventional path and that I can feel alone sometimes. However, I take comfort that the freedom I am experiencing is prizeless and no money can bring me that much happiness!

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..What Are The Akashic Records?

  7. @Lance Thanks! Slow is sometimes better than fast. The point is to get there. Time is most of the time just an illusion. I’m curious about what are you going to do to challenge yourself even more!

    @Jay I know how it feel to be scared when embracing a new path. It’s difficult and challenging and you think it would have been better “the other way”. When I listened to the voice and comfort and bounced back in my cradle, I always had huge regrets. Better scared than sorry 🙂

    @nutuba Thanks for sharing that leadership perspective. Leaders are risk takers but they also have huge responsibility. Their actions affect all their followers so they have to carefully assess every move. Glad I made you think more at that 🙂

    @BunnygotBlog I love how you talked about “settling”. I just found on one of the blogs I read a wonderful quote: “Some people day at 25 but they aren’t buried until 75” – Benjamin Franklin. Thanks for your constant contribution to this blog 🙂

    @Happiness is Better Welcome to my blog and feel free to come visit as often as you like 🙂 I too agree with Bunny about things that are easy to get: a fast reward is most of the time a worthless reward.

    @Juancav totally agree: better do it and live with it, than not doing it and live without it 😉

    @LisaNewton Welcome here and thanks for sharing. I feel the same about taking risks, they have this strange property to actually reignite our lives.

    @Timothy C Burns Desire and Faith are great tools to create your reality, you have a strong point here. Thanks for your comment!

    @Evelyn Lim Congrats for your decisions! I know how it feels to be rejected by the society when you chose an alternate path, happened to me a number of times and it still happens. But as Timothy said, Faith is the glue that will bring your new reality together 🙂

  8. I think that what keeps people leveled out is mainly Fear; in order to migrate away from the center you need Courage and as Timothy C. Burns said, Faith; I tend to place desire a little bit on the weaker side in the sense that it is closer to creating false expectations and limitations i.e. it is in a way closer to Fear.

  9. @elena diaconu that’s one very interesting interpretation of Desire. Close to Fear… It’s like if you don’t get what you desire you’d totally fail. Thanks for enriching the conversation with fresh insights 🙂

  10. I went through life (up through college graduation) playing it safe. It was pretty easy getting though with average grades and I was just sick of the repetition of school – tired of it since sophomore year of high school. Then during the pains of job hunting I began to realize that I was heading toward more of the same average-ness. After plenty of reflection and thought, I went after creating an online business. I’ve been struggling to get my business off the ground and I’m finally seeing some honest return. I’ve faced my fair share of criticism from parents, my brother, friends, friend’s parents… Its definitely tough facing the criticisms, but even more so going against the grain. Even so, I findit 10 times easier to wake up in the mourning, way easier to work for myself and my chosen business partner. I embrace the challenge and finally don’t feel I am just a walking zombie in a daily routine. And that’s before I am successful.

  11. Apparently there’s a whole backlash against being “average” that I simply can’t understand. Here’s why:

    Most people consider “average” as being unhappy, dull and so on. That’s wrong because “average” means just the average between the highest peak and the bottom. For example, let’s assume I’m an average tennis player. This means I’m somewhere between Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal and somebody who just started learning tennis. Or if the IQ of a genius is around 190 and the stupidest person on Earth has an IQ of 60, an average person will have around 130 points of IQ which isn’t that bad.

    If, overall, I’m an average person, chances are I’m pretty good (or above average) in some areas and not so good (or below average) in others. Going back to the sports analogy, I’ll probably suck at table tennis, but people I work with respect my skills.

    Also, the levels of happiness or excitement aren’t related to how exceptional you are. I’m guessing that most people don’t know how to enjoy life and have fewer and fewer hobbies. It’s really depressing to have the same routine 5 days per week: go to work, then go home and open a can of beer and sit in front of the TV. But it’s really simple to do that and fewer people try to find things to do to make their life more interesting.

    For example, right now my goal is to be able to go to the seaside by bicycle. I know, it might sound stupid because I can go to the seaside by car but that’s what I want to do now. Also, I need to spend a lot of money on equipment (a road bicycle, cycling pants, cycling t-shirt, cycling sneakers) but this also makes work more fun because it allows me to fulfill a rather short-term goal. I also find new friends, in cycling clubs. I get to see parts of the city while I train that I normally wouldn’t notice. My body looks leaner.

    This makes me happy and it’s not exceptional at all because I don’t indent to be a professional cyclist.

    I also noticed a book about wood carving. I’d like to do that one day but probably when I’ll be older and I’d like to spend more time indoors or in my backyard. It would be fun to learn how to draw. Or speak Japanese. And so on.

    There are tons of things I’d like to do. None of those are exceptional, but for me they are fun and interesting. That’s what people should try to do because that’s what makes them interesting.

    Too bad there are so many sites and blogs out there about how to be a better person, all with their own keywords and practices. But the only way to be happy is to do things that make you happy. Go to the movies, fix a car, whatever floats your boat. But don’t think for a second that strangers know better than you what makes you happy.

    1. That’s one long comment, Andrei, and that’s way over the average. Kidding, of course 🙂

      I’m not having any backslashes against “average”, all I’m telling is the “exceptional” is giving me more thrill…

      Everything is a choice. You can chose to be exceptional at some thing and average at other stuff…

  12. It all boils down to the choice, but most people don’t even realise that they are making the choice, that’s what got me for a long time. I was just cruising along because no expects you to do anything different. Then when you try to be something more than average suddenly everyone is there needling you, it’s a big risk and a lot of fun.
    Thanks for the article.
    .-= Kaitlin´s last blog ..How Not To Travel The World =-.

  13. […] Not too much, not too little. Not too talkative, not too silent. Be in the middle. Talk in the middle. Live in the middle. An averagish life is a wasted life. You don’t really live, you’re barely acknowledging a statistical model of the reality. There’s not such thing like the average in real life. You’re either up to something, either not. Chose to be exceptional. […]

  14. […] some great advice on being great, check out these two great articles – Average vs. Exceptional by Dragos Roua and Five Steps to Make Yourself Great by Penelope Trunk. […]

  15. I have spent all my life to be exceptional, my life is sometimes more edgy than a movie but it’s the only way I wanted it to be!

    I am happy to say that at 30 years old, I am finally able to appreciate and notice the rewards from 15 years of challenging it all.

    I never know what tomorrow will offer and I have achieved it without having to work a job in the last 10 years! My dream is getting closer and closer.

    I never had a supportive family, on the contrary everyone was against me! I defied all and today I stand proud!

    Nothing can unravel the stand of a self-made man from the bottom’s up. No self-help books or blatant false confidence can equal to the glare of a king in it’s glory.

    I have lived!

  16. Let me start off by saying, thank you. I have been struggling internally for the last 9yrs of my life trying to convince myself that all the “normal” things I have should be enough for me and that I should just be happy. Like most of us, it was ingrained in me to go to college, get married and have kids. I did that. I got settled into a job that most would think is above average, plus it offers great benefits and a 401k to retire. But, at around 25yrs old, I started to think, ” Now what?” That eventually turned in to a mental struggle of “I dont want to work for any one else but how can I do this with so much on the line” Fast forward to today after I successfully failed at 2 business ventures, and almost got divorced because of “needing” to be more than average, I’m back to “normal” life. I go to work, go home, cook for my family, I workout 3 times a week, take my kids to basketball practice and swimming 2 times a week, go to sleep, wknd comes and I pretend with my friends during brunch or happy hour that life is great and Monday I start all over again. I keep telling myself or rather convince myself that my happiness comes second, I have a great husband and children that I would give my last breath for. Me doing the “normal” everyday routine of life makes my husband feel secure that I work a “normal” job and my kids have stability and health insurance, home cooked meals etc. The idea is that one day…after my children are adults and I have a big enough nest egg, I’ll retire and really live.. But, a few months ago, once again (like it always happens when I go back to “normal” life) I’ve been feeling like I’m suffocating. And, I could never understand why?? Until today. I had a talk with my dad about living a life of fulfillment and one’s purpose in life. He had watched a sermon by T.D. Jakes on exceptionalism vs average and told me to watch it. Me being me, I needed to know what that meant first and why I should watch it outside of because he told me to LOL! So I googled the ideas of exceptional vs average and this popped up. This article and all the comments were so enlightening you have no idea, I thought I was crazy and feeling selfish for feeling like I “needed” more out of my life than the “normal.” I’ve been so grateful to have so much at the age of 33 and Lord knows I’m appreciative but, I know I was meant to do something more than “this” with my life. This was step 1. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your nice words and I want to share also that every time I get an “echo” like this from someone who finds value into my work, my life gets a little kick in the ass. A nice kick in the ass, that is 🙂

  17. Personally, I risked and failed!Now i m looking for happiness and fullfillment into staying low and safe. I lost my abilitity to make “exceptional” choices. I m full of fears and regrets and I ve got a feeling that I have ruined my life already; i mean the exceptional version of my life.

    Your work is very inspiring. thanks for posting

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