Are you average or above average? By definition, you are probably average although I like to assume that most readers of Productivity501 are above average. But for the moment, lets assume you are average. How can you become above average?
Time is the great equalizer. Everyone has the same amount of time–whether you are average, below average or above average. The simple difference between people who are average and those who are above average is that above average people spend more time on the things that really matter.
While this is simple to state, identifying the things that are really important and that really matter can be surprisingly. When Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, it probably didn’t look like he was focusing on the things that were really important, but it turns out he was.
Lots of decisions in life involve taking calculated risks. You have to ask yourself, “what are the chances that this will pay off and how big might that pay off be.” You may not be able to predict the future, but you can at least avoid doing activities that only have potential for a very low pay off and have a very low chance of success.
What’s amazing is that so many people don’t even do this. They will invest huge portions of their life in things that have very little chance of succeeding or that have very little chance of being valuable if they do succeed. Sometimes they invest in both.
In 1901 a school teacher in her 60s named Annie Edson Taylor was concerned that she wouldn’t have enough money. She had traveled around different parts of Michigan looking for work and even traveled to Texas and Mexico unsuccessfully looking for work. Her husband had died in the Civil War and she was looking for a way to provide for herself in her later years.
Her solution? She had some friends seal her in a barrel and became the first person to go over Niagara falls. While she briefly made a bit of money speaking about it, she never really made any significant money off of it. Looking at the chances of success and the potential payback, you wonder how in the world she convinced herself to try such a stunt. No one had gone over the falls before although they had sent a cat over in a barrel, so it wasn’t like she had at lot of reason to believe she’d survive.
Even if she survived, it was dubious whether or not she could make any money off of it. If she had skills as a speaker–maybe it would work, but plunging over the Falls doesn’t automatically make you a decent orator.
This is the same way many people choose what activities to invest in. They randomly select something without looking at the probability of success and without looking at the potential if they do succeed.
Being above average means being deliberate about how you choose to spend your time. It means choosing activities that are likely to be profitable rather than simply trying random things and hoping some how you get lucky.