You Are Clearly Not Average

Photo by WARREN BLAKE on

Average is a statistic not a person. There is no such thing as an average human being.

In 1950 the U.S. Air Force measured 140 dimensions of over 4000 pilots to help improve the design of the cockpits of their airplanes. The idea was if you could determine the dimensions of the average pilot you could design a better cockpit. A young Lieutenant named Gilbert Daniels calculated the average of the ten dimensions believed to be most relevant for the process. Daniels compared the measurements of pilots to the average and was shocked to find not a single pilot fit the average on all ten measurements. Even if you took the average of only three measurements fewer than four percent would qualify. There was no such thing as an average pilot. You would have been designing a cockpit for someone who didn’t exist.

Todd Rose has researched and written about the idea of average extensively in his work at Harvard. His book The End Of Average is well worth the read.

When it comes to comparing two different groups of people, like people who exercise or meditate regularly with people who don’t, it can be helpful. But, when we try to apply it to an individual human being like what’s the best form of exercise for you or how much stress is too little or too much for your friend it’s useless, because like the pilots in Daniels work, no one is average. Here’s where we need to take the time and do the work of coming up with the right fit, the one that helps you be the best you. Rather trying to fit the person into the program we really can create the program that fits the person. And it’s a lot more fun.

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