Doing your Best is Overrated

March 10, 2017
Think about what makes something or someone “the best.” Apple carved out a space as the top maker of smartphones or how J.K. Rowling inspired a generation of young readers with her books. An image of success comes to mind.
So much of success, however, is completely circumstantial. We can only be our best if we are lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. Luck is completely out of our control.

A better strategy is to be average. Over time the more we invest in our average performance, the better it improves and the chance to get luck shifts more in your favor.

In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talks about “regression to the mean,” or a return to the overall average. We see this in sports. Athletes who play an exceptional game one week are less likely to play at the same level the next. The opposite is also true. A player who plays a bad game is more likely to perform better in the next one. The conditions of the game drive much of the success of the players.

This is why teams practice so often. If they can increase their average the chances of winning also increase. The same can be applied to creative work. It’s impossible to tell what our best or most successful work will be but we do have control on how to refine our work and hone in on our craft.

Average performance is subjective which means you can always be growing. It may not seem like that in the moment when hundreds of projects are completed with no recognition it might be hard to stay motivated. We see the validation of a job well done. Know that you can collect your moments of a job well done and it increases the chances over time that “the best” has yet to come.

If you are fortunate enough to seize an opportunity when it happens then you can be catapulted to being the best. But it takes dedication and patience.

Skill with come with practice. Luck will come with time.

About the Illustrator
Derek Kunze is one of the coolest people I know. Check out his work on Instagram and his wit on Twitter.

This post was originally published on my Medium.