what I’m reading: The End of Average

As part of my year of pause, I’m trying to spend less time scrolling social media and more time reading books. So here it is, the first (non-picture) book I finished in 2018: The End of Average by Todd Rose

I made my best progress on this book the night I handed my phone to the lovely folks at the Ginza Apple Store with three full (childless!) hours to burn. I’ll share some of my thoughts on this, as well as the other books I read this year – partially to help me remember them, but mostly because I hope you’ll find it interesting.

It’s a petite paperback and definitely thought provoking, though I think it falls a bit short of the promise of its subtitle to explain “how to succeed in a world that values sameness.” The author provides interesting examples of companies and individuals who have been successful by going against the grain, but seems to concede that the kind of dramatic institutional changes needed to allow for more individualistic systems – especially at work and in schools – are probably still quite far away. That said, maybe understanding more of where our “averagarian” social structures come from can help you recognize what parts aren’t meeting your needs and encourage you to tailor as much of your environment to your individual situation as possible.

Many of my takeaways will probably be most applicable at work, however I think the reminders about the education system will help me to think more about my kids’ particular strengths and learning patterns, especially at home. I may not be able to drive widespread change of the local school or national curriculum, but I can try to create a learning environment for them that is more flexible.

On that topic, I marked this passage at page 57 in my version:

“…society compels each of us to conform to certain narrow expectations in order to succeed in school, our career, and in life. We all strive to be like everyone else—or, even more accurately, we all strive to be like everyone else, only better. …We have lost the dignity of our individuality. Our uniqueness has become a burden, an obstacle, or a regrettable distraction on the road to success.”

I think that stood out so much because it speaks to one of my fears for my children – that simply being born “different,” especially here in homogeneous Japan, will somehow add to their burden. I recognize my privilege in having relatively mild scenarios to worry about, but nonetheless find myself hoping they find some magical balance of blending in just enough, while still preserving their individual spark. But I suppose we all want that for our kids, whatever our situation may be?

So just in case you’re not going to read the book yourself, here’s the thing to know: there’s no such thing as an “average person.” You can collect data about lots of people, bring them together and calculate a statistical average, but there might not be a single actual person out there who would fit that mold. We are so much more diverse and complex and beautifully individual than that!

Overall, I’d recommend this book and think I’ve talked mochi into reading it in Japanese, so if he ever does a write up of his own I’ll be sure to link to it here.

Have you read The End of Average? Let me know what you thought! And please share any other book recommendations as well. I have a few lined up to read next, but would love some new ideas.
kuri xx

2 comments

Would love to see your “to read” list! I just started GoodReads but it’s taking a long time to set up and enter all the books I’ve read…I’m trying to find books that are not too heavy or depressing.

oursunnycorner

Great idea! I have a tendency to collect books in moments of high ambition, then take forever getting to them. Maybe sharing my list will encourage me to actually read what I’ve bought.

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