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The tale of two averages

There is a strong positive correlation between the efforts we put in towards something and the results that we observe. The more time we spend writing, the better we get at it. The more games of Chess we play, the better we get at it. And so on.

Of course, the correlation is not always linear. Sometimes, it is exponential, giving us much bigger returns even for little increases in effort. And sometimes, especially as we start getting good, it is diminishing, giving us little incremental improvements even for significant investment in terms of effort. Nevertheless, the correlation is always positive.

The only time there is a negative correlation is when our efforts are misdirected. But, once we ensure that our efforts aren't misdirected, we always see a positive correlation between the efforts we put in and the results we achieve.

This means that we can plot two curves for any kind of activity - like playing Chess, making money, acquiring skills, acquiring reputation, building a brand, etc.

The first curve is that of the results that we observe where the x-axis is the people in our sample and the y-axis is the results that they achieve in the activity that we are plotting for. The second curve is that of the effort that is put in where the x-axis is again the people in our sample and the y-axis is the effort that they put in towards the activity we are plotting for.

By nature of this plot, we would expect to see a bell curve in both the cases where majority of the people are at the centre in terms of the effort they put in as well as the results they achieve. People putting in outsized efforts towards something is a rarity while people achieving outsized results is a rarity as well.

And these are our two averages. Most of us put in an average amount of effort towards what we do and achieve an average level of outcome as a consequence.

But what all of us secretly desire is to stick to our average efforts (or even lower them) while dreaming of achieving outsized results. This can happen to a handful of people by mere luck as the effort to results is only a strong correlation and not the only factor in play. However, it is the most important one that we can control.

Instead, it is the efforts curve where we should actively be looking to pull ahead of the average. As long as we don't do that, we are relying on luck to pull us ahead of the average on the results curve.

And luck, by definition, is a rare occurrence.

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