The Average and The Distribution

The average tells you nothing about the distribution.

Imagine two bowlers bowling in 10 tournaments, both average 220, but one averages between 215-225 every event, while another averages 190 in some but 250 in the others. Which one actually made more money? Likely, the less consistent guy because he likely won the events where he averaged 250 and a disproportionate amount of money goes to 1st place.

Depending on the way the rewards are distributed, it may make sense to take a risk rather than to focus on consistency. Sure you may fail at times, but if the upside is skewed heavily compared to the downside, then risk-taking rather than consistency is likely the best bet mathematically.

Taking this to a different context, when it comes to ideology, extremism on both sides leads to the same average as everyone huddled in the center. However, the huddled center distribution has shared vision allowing us all to move forward without too much friction, while the divided extremist division leads to shouting, emotions, violence, and overall bad behavior. It leads to every conversation being either an echo chamber or a fight, no actual discussion. It leads to “I don’t want to understand you. You’re a nut job.” This sounds like politics, but I’ve seen it at companies too, and it’s not a good culture.

Here are some things that are likely distributed differently than you may think:

  • Responsibility
  • Knowledge
  • Relationships
  • Opportunity
  • Courage
  • Athleticism
  • Intelligence

Figuring out where you stand on these may help you realize where you can relate to the masses and where you stand out. Then you can figure out how to maximize that to optimize your success.