This Holiday Season, It’s OK to Embrace ‘Average’
Not too many years ago, my late father-in-law caught me working late during the holidays, undoubtedly trying to demonstrate the commitment and hard work to a company that had just promoted me. And he remarked to my wife: “Poor Tim. You know, average is best.” It was a funny comment, kind of his way of saying that, as opposed to what I was doing, the average person could enjoy the life they had because they weren’t always thinking they had to go to the wall for something or someone else.
In many ways, this kind of “hustle” attitude certainly pervades our culture when it comes to marketing, business, or any endeavor. I’m reminded of that message daily, whether it’s Elon Musk boasting that he works 23 hours a day, Melissa Mayer pushing 130 hours a week, or, Gary Vaynerchuk talking about how he answered Tweets at 3 a.m. for years.
If you’re not getting what you want, you have to work harder!
Listen, for example, to this clip from former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer about the relationship between effort and greatness, where he remarks: “I don’t want to be around average.”:
It’s a compelling argument for sure.
And honestly, I don’t know a single good business or marketing executive that wouldn’t somehow equate excellence with over-the-top effort. With the pandemic going on (and people’s jobs and livelihoods at stake), there’s probably even more reason to run yourself into the ground. It’s literally about your survival. In marketing, furthermore, we know those who are good at it pay attention to details – and those details take effort and time to do well.
There’s no getting around this. Hard work is key to success. But, let’s dispel one thing: You don’t have to inhabit a go-to-the-wall mentality every waking hour.
Why ‘Hustle’ Culture Is Detrimental to Us as Marketers
Indeed, this kind of “hustle” culture can be pretty detrimental to our overall well-being as marketers and human beings. Consider these data points:
- Employee burnout is at an all-time high, according to recent surveys, no doubt in part due to exhaustion from the pandemic, but perhaps more so caused by the always-on approach to business trumpeted by so many.
- Working longer hours increases your susceptibility to anxiety and depression, according to studies and interferes with getting sleep, which can have serious negative impacts on your concentration, memory, cognitive ability and judgment.
- Hustle culture creates unrealistic expectations. Inevitably, many entrepreneurs and others who pursue success have the goal of becoming “extraordinary.” Isn’t that what you’re sold all the time by other successful individuals? Become the Michael Jordan of your industry! But such expectations aren’t realistic. After all, by definition, extraordinary individuals aren’t all that common, otherwise, they wouldn’t be extraordinary! Pursuing such an unattainable goal can often lead to disappointment and further stress and anxiety.
Stop Thinking ‘Extraordinary,’ Think ‘Average’
No one is suggesting that you should have mediocre expectations or effort. But it’s clearly time to stop buying into the extreme – the “hustle-all-the-time” thinking and these goals of becoming “extraordinary.” The truth is, most of us are, indeed pretty average at most things. Hence, counter to what you hear all the time, how about embracing that? After all, if you know you’re average, you understand a few things well:
- You know you need to improve. Average people understand that they may not be great at something but they set the goal of getting better and learning something incrementally – one of the keys to becoming successful. In other words, average people establish a more realistic baseline for themselves. They’re honest about their level. They set up achievable challenges that are within their reach. Think about it this way, if we play a video game, most of us have to struggle through level one and then progress through the game from there. Others may breeze through the first few levels and then get stopped at a mid-level. Few go straight to the final boss challenge. The point is, everyone finds that level at which they’re challenged. If our mindset is that we have to be extraordinary all the time, and we try to emulate those select few, we’d give up immediately because the challenges are too hard. Instead, embrace your “average” ability, find your level, and improve from there. If you’re a marketer, there are numerous boot camp training options for you to learn new things, especially at the level you need.
- You ‘get’ other people. We say it often, but one of the qualities of a great marketer is that they understand their audiences, who, for the most part, are average. In other words, these marketers are empathetic to the plight of everyday people. And because they know others well, they ultimately help people succeed in a practical way, which translates into more brand loyalty and top-of-mind awareness for their companies. Plus, think of it this way: The biggest benefits aren’t even that you become a better marketer. Being a more empathetic individual will provide the added benefit of helping your relationships and bringing you the joy of knowing you’re helping others.
- You know you need to take breaks. Let’s face it: No one is a machine. Working 20+ hours a day is not sustainable nor, as demonstrated above, helpful to your health or well-being. Average people understand this. They understand that breaks are necessary to keep going for the long-term. Taking a break and doing something other than work has also been proven to improve your creativity. That’s because in order to solve different problems, you sometimes have to apply solutions from outside the field. From a marketing perspective, we often get inspired by areas that have nothing to do with our specialized expertise: history, architecture, gardening, sports, music, or the arts, for example.
We know this year has been unlike any other. And due to financial or other situations, there will be even more pressure to keep trying to do it all, even during the holiday season. But we hope you can give yourself that break, embrace being average, even if it’s just for a little while. It might just do you some long-term good.
At Marketing Nice Guys, our goal is to help you excel at digital marketing. Learn more about our full-service Marketing Consulting or Marketing Help Desk support options. We also provide corporate marketing training and marketing boot camps open to the public. Contact us anytime.