on being average

a room-full of ‘exceptional’ people. at william temple house, london, 2017.

in ‘design as art’, bruno munari quotes the bauhaus, thus: “the basic teaching error of the academy was that of directing its attention toward the genius rather than the average.”1

i often wonder if we’re all mostly mediocre or average in most things (including cognition2), with only very tiny differences in skills or appearance.

in 2021, shekhar introduced me to a web-series, ‘average ambili’, which was about a girl who was average in every way. some time after that, i came across a letter from a soldier3 to his alma mater, in which he suggested to students that it was “okay to be mediocre”.

it would be nice to remove the vocabulary of “being the best” from our lives, and focus instead on just “doing your best”.4

first drafted in 2021. added to in 2022.

  1. i haven’t been able to find munari’s source, but i will place my trust in munari and go with the quote for now. 

  2. a short article on BBC about how rocket scientists and brain surgeons aren’t necessarily more clever. dated, 202112. 

  3. i found a twitter post (from 2021) with images of the soldier’s letter. i do not know how true the letter was, but i did like the twelfth point written in it ; it read thus: “it is ok to be mediocre. not everyone will excel at school and not everyone will be able to score in the 90s. if you do, it’s an amazing achievement and must be applauded. however, if you don’t, do not think that you are meant to be mediocre. you may be mediocre in school but it is by no means a measure of things to come in life. find your calling, it could be art, music, graphic design, literature, etc. whatever you work towards, be dedicated, do your best. never go to bed thinking i could have put in more effort.” 

  4. in 2011, while having chai with a young designer (me!), sudarshan dheer’d said (something like this): “never compare yourself with someone else (that’s harmful) : only look at what you were yesterday, and try to better that.”