Average?

Monday Evening Chrono:

Fact 1: I read a NY Times article shared with me by Tom Hood – “Top Test Scores from Shanghai Stun Educators.”  15-year olds from 65 countries were tested in Science, Reading and Math.  Shanghai students took 1st place in all subjects.  U.S. Students finished 23rd in Science, 17th in Reading and a dismal 32nd in math.

Fact 2:  I flipped through the new Fortune Magazine issue to learn that in 2005, four out of five of the world’s top banks were American.  Today, 4 of top five banks are Chinese.  Article proceeds to state that the U.S. made up 46% of the world’s GDP in 1960.  Today, 21%.

Fact 3: I walked into my Son’s room to find him studying AP Calculus. I peered over his shoulder.  Would I even have exited high school if I had to take this course?

Fact 4:  After finally settling in after my evening reading, I proceeded to get destroyed by Susan for my 6th consecutive defeat in Words-With-Friends.

With the slide to mediocrity now complete, I was off to check in on my Tweets for inspiration.  My eyes landed on a HBR Blog post written by Bill Taylor (co-Founder of FastCompany Magazine): Average Is Over.  What’s Your Extra?  Coincidence?  Deepak Sharma would say not.  The post is just what the doctor ordered and is worth reading in its entirety.  My favorite excerpts:

  • That Used to Be Us, Thomas Friedman’s newest book… — a principle so clearly true, and so crisply expressed, that it should become a mantra of sorts for leaders everywhere who want to build something great and do something important. Chapter Seven of the book is called “Average Is Over,” and it’s a rallying cry that captures what it takes to stand out from the crowd in a world that keeps getting more crowded.”
  • “In a hyper-connected world where so many talented non-Americans and smart machines that can do above-average work are now easily available to virtually every employer, what was ‘average’ work ten years ago is below average today, and will be further below average ten years from now.   As a result, everyone needs to raise his or her game just to stay in place, let alone get ahead.” In an environment where “average is over,” they go on, everybody has to find their “extra” — their unique talent, skill, contribution, or commitment that separates them from the pack and lets them do something special.”
  • “…their insight applies just as powerfully to companies and their leaders. The business world is overflowing with products and services and designs and marketing campaigns that are adequate. The real challenge — and the huge opportunity — is to turn something adequate into something amazing. It’s just not good enough to be pretty good at everything. The most successful companies, products and brands have figured out how to become the most of something. That is, to find and embrace their “extra.”
  • “I don’t care what field you’re in or what kind of company you work for, what qualified as average performance ten years ago is below-average today, and what is average today isn’t nearly good enough to create long-term success and outsized value. You can’t do something big if you’re content with doing things the same way as everyone else. In a world of hyper-competition and limited attention, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.”
  • “Friedman and Mandelbaum have nailed it. There’s no excuse to settle for “good enough” anymore. Average is over. What’s your extra?

Sources: NY Times, December 7, 2011 (Thank you Tom Hood) – Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators.  Fortune Magazine, December, 2011. What’s Next For Wall Street?

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