The Standard Deviation of Life
You remember the concept of standard deviation from high school statistics. It’s the measure of a set of data relative to a mean or a norm. It’s a way to quantify variation. A quick example, courtesy of Wikipedia, tells us that the average height for adult men in the United States is about 70 inches, with a standard deviation of around 3 inches. This means that most men (about 68%, assuming a normal distribution) have a height within 3 inches of the mean, or one standard deviation, and that almost all men (about 95%) have a height within 6 inches of the mean, or two standard deviations. If the standard deviation were zero, then all men would be exactly 70 inches, or 5ʹ10ʺ.

So here’s the point: the standard deviation for you is zero. There is no standard deviation for you, because there is only one you. There is no “norm”; you are one of a kind.

Now, if you want to know how many standard deviations off of a norm you are for height, weight, IQ, income, or another quantifiable norm, go ahead. But as I recently pointed out in another post, all of life’s unhappiness comes from comparison. What’s the point? We can’t do much/anything about most of our observable characteristics.

But here’s where a norm and the concept of standard deviation is valuable: it’s called positive deviation. It’s an idea presented in a book called Influencer, and it’s very powerful. A positive deviation is a significant outlier that marks a positive example to learn from and act upon.

What’s a positive deviation that you should look for and aspire to achieve? What has an outlier accomplished that will pull you in the direction of their positive deviation? It could be something as simple as emulating a “positive deviant,” such as a volunteer at the humane society, a political activist fighting for what they believe in, or just coaching a new co-worker who needs some advice.

I’m asking myself where can I go beyond the norm of my daily life and do something that is creating a positive deviation from the status quo.

Who is setting a positive deviation and making things better in your world?

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