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Can we all be average, below average and above average at the same time?

[OP]
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Mar 6, 2014
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Can we all be average, below average and above average at the same time?

It was junior high school and I tried out for my favorite sport at the school, basketball. I really wanted to be a part of the school team so I spent the entire summer practicing basketball drills and I got pretty good. The school year began and I got through the first cut and we are now in preseason training. I was a shooting guard but not a very effective one. Sometimes I would go through an entire scrimmage session with zero points and no assist. The coach and other payers has determined that I was the weak link. In the last training session I overheard the coach saying that they will do a final round of cuts and me and a few other guys are on the chopping board. I got a little upset at the situation, but more so at myself. When practice session began, I got rotated in, I ran out to a open space and asked for the pass. The point guard looks at me, hesitated but passed me the ball. I launched a 3 point shot and it went in, all net. I suddenly felt a strong burst of energy and focus within me, like I was possessed. The point guard give a thumbs up at me and he got the ball again (we are playing half court so the winning side gets the ball). The point guard looks at me again and wanted to see if that was repeatable. He passed it to me, I shot and made another 3 pointer. This time you hear some applause on the bench. The practice went on and I lit up the score board. The game went to game point and the other side now has the best player guarding me, after one pump fake and a cross over dribble I passed the best player on the team like he was standing still. I danced around the 6'7 center and finished the game point with a beautiful layup. The bench went insane and everyone were giving me high 5's, the coach dropped his clipboard like he just found Steph Curry on his team. I went from being on the verge of leaving the team to being on the starting lineup. However, I couldn't repeat my performance from that special day at training, and I went back to being a bench player. The next year I gave up and didn't show up to trials.

(TLDR)
Sorry for the long story, you can start here if you didn't read any of that, but I wanted to illustrate how I could be from below average to above average in a moment's notice. This happens again and again in my life, in school I could score a 60% in a test, I get egged on by a friend and I get upset, that burst of focus comes and I score 100% on the next one. One time in high school, the teacher asked the people sitting around me if I cheated, as she can't believe a B student can write a prefect test. It happens now and then at work or in a relationship too. I would be told I can't do something because I lack skill or gift, I get upset and the next thing you know, I went on and accomplish it.

Whenever this happens, I become shock afterwards and people around me become awed and doesn't know what to think about it, but every time I fail to repeat the success and I sink back to average.

Do you think it is a confidence thing? A mental thing? What is it? Where does the energy and focus come from?
Last edited by Statistics101 on Sep 11th, 2020 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
13 replies
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Mar 14, 2005
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A student with an A in one class and four C grades in other classes is not an A student.
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Well, the average is not static. It’s constantly informed by subsequent data points. Luck and random chance can yield outliers well above or well below the average. It sounds like that’s what happened during that particular practice.
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OntEdTchr wrote: Well, the average is not static. It’s constantly informed by subsequent data points. Luck and random chance can yield outliers well above or well below the average. It sounds like that’s what happened during that particular practice.
Sounds like basic statistics. OP needs to take a Stats 101 class
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[OP]
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Mar 6, 2014
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Toronto
Becks wrote: A student with an A in one class and four C grades in other classes is not an A student.
That's not my point at all. What I'm trying to say, is every average (C grade) person has an A grade person inside him or her. Also, I'm not talking about some Joe Blow who doesn't play basketball suddenly show up on the court one day and lit up the scoreboard, that would be an highly unlikely random event. I'm talking about hard working people who trains every second in their lives, versus an average pool of people who also train every second of their lives.

I'm sorry if I didn't make this clear. Think of it like an average pool of Olympic athletes, or average pool of NBA players, where even the worst person in the pack trains daily and eat and sleep thinking about their sport.

I think when you guys think about average, you are thinking about some dude who sits on a couch watching TV or something.
OntEdTchr wrote: Well, the average is not static. It’s constantly informed by subsequent data points. Luck and random chance can yield outliers well above or well below the average. It sounds like that’s what happened during that particular practice.
Sorry to say this, but only low achievers would believe any success or achievement could ever come from luck or random chance. There is no luck involved in hitting 4 consecutive 3-point shots, running a half marathon under 2 hours or scoring 100% in an exam even if it was multiple choice. The statistical chances of those things as random events is near zero. This is why only the poor buys lottery, and only the ordinary would believe people like Bill Gates or Barrack Obama achieve their success through luck or just being in the right place at the right time.
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There are many components to greatness. Talent, work ethic, drive, opportunity, confidence, luck etc.

What you were/are lacking isn't clear, but people are different. That's life. I believe the acceptance of that, that there is no such thing as equality, and that it is evil as a concept, would be a huge step forward for society.

The best you, is still worse than someone else, and that's ok.
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Becks wrote: A student with an A in one class and four C grades in other classes is not an A student.
Life is about more than grades in school, especially for people with unconventional talent or ability.

The high school I went to had an extended learning program that made it excellent for kids who played hockey. Lyle Odelein was in my class; he wasn't a great classroom student, but he excelled at his chosen profession, with career earnings of $16,896,931.
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Statistics101 wrote: Sorry to say this, but only low achievers would believe any success or achievement could ever come from luck or random chance. There is no luck involved in hitting 4 consecutive 3-point shots, running a half marathon under 2 hours or scoring 100% in an exam even if it was multiple choice. The statistical chances of those things as random events is near zero. This is why only the poor buys lottery, and only the ordinary would believe people like Bill Gates or Barrack Obama achieve their success through luck or just being in the right place at the right time.
Nobody is saying that luck is the only thing that plays a part, but it certainly does play a part. Here's a pretty salient example from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. There is a disproportionate number of NHL hockey players born in the first quarter of the year. The reason for this is that most kids start to play hockey at a young age. Those born in January are, on average, significantly more developed than those born in November, since 11 months of development is huge among young children. Because they're more developed, they're stronger, bigger, and faster. Because they're stronger, bigger and faster, they're more likely to be promoted to the more competitive teams. Those teams have better coaches and increased competition which provides more opportunity to continue to develop those skills. Simply being born in February instead of December is pure luck. There's no skill or hard work involved in that. Does that mean that there are no NHL players born in December? Of course not. Luck is just one variable. Opportunity is just one variable. But it's still a variable and should not be dismissed. Could I sink five 3-pointers in a row? Assuming that I have the physical capacity to shoot the ball the required distance, sure... if I shot 100,000 balls I'm sure that somewhere in that set would be five in a row that went in...but that's just the nature of statistics. It's not luck or skill, both are important. Bill Gates and Barrack Obama achieved what they did due to many characteristics that are not unique to them, and many others with many of the same characteristics may not have achieved nearly as much.

Here's a really interesting video that looks at this:

[OP]
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Mar 6, 2014
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OntEdTchr wrote: Nobody is saying that luck is the only thing that plays a part, but it certainly does play a part. Here's a pretty salient example from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. There is a disproportionate number of NHL hockey players born in the first quarter of the year. The reason for this is that most kids start to play hockey at a young age. Those born in January are, on average, significantly more developed than those born in November, since 11 months of development is huge among young children. Because they're more developed, they're stronger, bigger, and faster. Because they're stronger, bigger and faster, they're more likely to be promoted to the more competitive teams. Those teams have better coaches and increased competition which provides more opportunity to continue to develop those skills. Simply being born in February instead of December is pure luck. There's no skill or hard work involved in that. Does that mean that there are no NHL players born in December? Of course not. Luck is just one variable. Opportunity is just one variable. But it's still a variable and should not be dismissed. Could I sink five 3-pointers in a row? Assuming that I have the physical capacity to shoot the ball the required distance, sure... if I shot 100,000 balls I'm sure that somewhere in that set would be five in a row that went in...but that's just the nature of statistics. It's not luck or skill, both are important. Bill Gates and Barrack Obama achieved what they did due to many characteristics that are not unique to them, and many others with many of the same characteristics may not have achieved nearly as much.

Here's a really interesting video that looks at this:

I love Malcolm's work and have read all of his books and I agree with you on that concept of luck. But what I think we can agree on is there is no such thing as pure luck, you can't earn a university degree or win a PGA tour with pure luck, it just doesn't happen. It's still 99% hard work even for the "luckiest" person alive.

If I shoot 1000 3 point shots, I might be able to consecutively land 4 or 5 shots at some point. If that is "luck" then is Steph Curry very lucky or very good? If Steph Curry starts playing poorly next year, did his luck ran out or is he no longer good? If Curry suddenly lights up the score board with +40PTS on game after a 10-15 game dry spell where he doesn't score anything... is he suddenly "good" again? Where did the "Goodness" go during his dry spell? I think this happens to all people, and not just athletes. You could see your colleague in sales suddenly one afternoon start stuttering and miss key points in his sales pitch. Or a top chef over seasoned or overcooked a dish etc.

What I am trying to get to is this sudden burst of performance from "average" people including myself. I can't explain how it comes and goes. On that special day where I beat a future NCAA player on the court, I could recall a sudden lightness on my legs, I could move faster and jump higher. My mind became focused and clear and I could predict what my opponent would do. It's almost like another person in my subconscious mind said, the hell with this weak performance, I'm going to take over and show everyone how this is done.
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Statistics101 wrote: I love Malcolm's work and have read all of his books and I agree with you on that concept of luck. But what I think we can agree on is there is no such thing as pure luck, you can't earn a university degree or win a PGA tour with pure luck, it just doesn't happen. It's still 99% hard work even for the "luckiest" person alive.
I agree. Is anybody arguing otherwise?
If I shoot 1000 3 point shots, I might be able to consecutively land 4 or 5 shots at some point. If that is "luck" then is Steph Curry very lucky or very good? If Steph Curry starts playing poorly next year, did his luck ran out or is he no longer good? If Curry suddenly lights up the score board with +40PTS on game after a 10-15 game dry spell where he doesn't score anything... is he suddenly "good" again? Where did the "Goodness" go during his dry spell? I think this happens to all people, and not just athletes. You could see your colleague in sales suddenly one afternoon start stuttering and miss key points in his sales pitch. Or a top chef over seasoned or overcooked a dish etc.
I'd argue that "luck" is what we use to explain outliers. If I made five 3s in a row, I'd be lucky based on my average. If Steph missed five in a row, he'd be unlucky based on his average. Just because luck could explain a certain outcome for me doesn't mean that it can apply to everyone experiencing that same outcome. Steph's "goodness" is a result of his average, which is the result of his performance over time. He doesn't lose his "goodness" unless his performance declines over time and his average declines with it.
What I am trying to get to is this sudden burst of performance from "average" people including myself. I can't explain how it comes and goes. On that special day where I beat a future NCAA player on the court, I could recall a sudden lightness on my legs, I could move faster and jump higher. My mind became focused and clear and I could predict what my opponent would do. It's almost like another person in my subconscious mind said, the hell with this weak performance, I'm going to take over and show everyone how this is done.
We call that luck. You got lucky. The stars aligned. You happened to have a great night sleep and you ate just the right thing at just the right time and your body metabolized it in just the right way to provide you the most efficient energy when you needed it and you weren't worrying about the interview next week or about the argument that morning and your head space was clear and your opponent was sluggish etc. etc. etc. You got lucky.
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OntEdTchr wrote: Nobody is saying that luck is the only thing that plays a part, but it certainly does play a part. Here's a pretty salient example from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. There is a disproportionate number of NHL hockey players born in the first quarter of the year. The reason for this is that most kids start to play hockey at a young age. Those born in January are, on average, significantly more developed than those born in November, since 11 months of development is huge among young children. Because they're more developed, they're stronger, bigger, and faster. Because they're stronger, bigger and faster, they're more likely to be promoted to the more competitive teams. Those teams have better coaches and increased competition which provides more opportunity to continue to develop those skills. Simply being born in February instead of December is pure luck. There's no skill or hard work involved in that. Does that mean that there are no NHL players born in December? Of course not. Luck is just one variable. Opportunity is just one variable. But it's still a variable and should not be dismissed. Could I sink five 3-pointers in a row? Assuming that I have the physical capacity to shoot the ball the required distance, sure... if I shot 100,000 balls I'm sure that somewhere in that set would be five in a row that went in...but that's just the nature of statistics. It's not luck or skill, both are important. Bill Gates and Barrack Obama achieved what they did due to many characteristics that are not unique to them, and many others with many of the same characteristics may not have achieved nearly as much.

Here's a really interesting video that looks at this:

There is just enough luck in the world to not begrudge others for their success and not hate yourself for your failures. What a beautiful world.
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It's not a confidence or mental thing, but rather a motivation thing. When you get egged on, you get motivated and turn it up a notch. Then it seems, you lose motivation and fizzle out after.

Motivation is related to discipline. It's big in the work place as well. Modern work places have a belief that having engaged employees leads to better performance. On the whole and in general, this is typically true. But on an individual basis, sometimes this is not. The self-motivated, extremely disciplined individuals will be just as effective whether they are engaged or not, usually because they take pride in doing the job they are paid to do or more.

A perfect example would be like my parents, they were the boat people that Canada graciously opened their arms to and welcomed in 1980. They made their way here so that my siblings and I could have better opportunities. They spent their entire life working hard manual labour jobs. There's no such thing as workplace engagement in the 1980's let alone in manual labour work. But it is the self motivation, discipline, and pride of doing the job they were hired and paid to do and doing it extremely well, so that they can keep their job and put food on the table for the kids. I'm sure many people have parents that were in similar situations with similar work ethic.

From the sounds of it, it seems like you are the type that needs engagement and motivation to get the best out of you. There's nothing wrong with that, it seems to have become a societal shift with each generation. In my own personal opinion, that's less desirable than someone who can self-motivate and be disciplined enough to perform at an extremely high level.

So what you need to do is to find ways to motivate yourself to get the best out of you. So back to your basketball story, if you got benched, then either you tell yourself, you want to be a starter and you keep busting your butt off to outplay and outwork the person that took your spot, or you simply say, "okay" and take the demotion and sulk about how sucky you are or maybe you don't sulk, but you are perfectly content or okay to ride the bench. And there's nothing wrong with either mindset, it's just that if you are okay with resolving to sitting on the bench, then be content with it - don't complain about it, but do nothing about it.
Last edited by kenchau on Sep 11th, 2020 7:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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It might be idealism. You may think you want something, and you go to great and tall odds to get it. Being scrapped talk shouldn't be you motivator. I guess you worked all summer long on it and wanted to prove it. It might be that once you attain these things, you fall back in light with "normal". The sky is blue, I'm not doing what I thought would be thrilling, but it's only so if you motivate yourself. Try to motivate yourself to do something new again, and lay back and see what drives you. If you take a longer time doing it, or it's not the real thing, you might not see it. Get what you need, worry about societal wants later. That comes and goes, just like life, see the upside of things and do things that you enjoy. You obviously have it in you to do great things, but maybe you start to look for the next thrill. Nothing wrong with that, just dream bigger I guess. Hopefully you won't trip while it happens lol

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