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We've all experienced it at some point.  Someone marks down a D or below average next to your name.  Ouch, below average?  How can that be?  I'm an above average person!

We all want to be above average.  So why do I think that sometimes being below average is OK?

Let me explain by telling you a little story about three young animals who went to school.

It was the first day of school.  Rabbit, Fish, and Eagle were excited to begin, they had heard such great things about school.  What a wonderful time this would be!

The first class of the day was swimming.  Fish flashed around the pool, he loved to swim!  Eagle and Rabbit were a little depressed, they flopped around in the water, but couldn't ever seem to catch up to Fish.  The teacher walked up and said amazing job Fish!  You've got an A in swimming!  Rabbit, you got a C, you're just average.  And Eagle, while you managed to stay afloat, I can only give you a D, below average.  Fish was proud, but Rabbit and Eagle were a bit depressed.  This wasn't how they imagined school at all.

The next class was running.  Rabbit took off like a dart, he loved to run!  Eagle hopped way behind him, and Fish just flopped around gasping for air and didn't make it very far.  The teacher walked up, and gave the Rabbit an A+!  Excellent job Rabbit!  Looking down her nose at the other two, she said sternly, “You really need to work on running, Eagle you have a D and Fish you failed miserably, F for you!”

The final class of the day was flying.  Eagle hopped into the air and immediately started soaring…like an Eagle!  Rabbit tried over and over hopping widely in the air trying to spread his legs and fly, but the best he could manage was a huge leap.  Fish jumped as well, but couldn't quite manage to fly.  “Great job Eagle!  You've got an A+!”  Shaking her head, the teacher walked up to Fish and Rabbit.  “You two really need to work on your flying!  You've both failed.  You get a big fat F today!”

Over the coming months, all three animals worked hard on those things they had failed on.  All got a little better at swimming and running, but none other than the Eagle could quite master flying.  They didn't improve much on the skills that they were originally great at since they were focusing all of their efforts on bringing up their bad grades.

In fact, not only did they not get better, they got a little worse at the skills that they originally excelled at.  All three were depressed that they hadn't mastered these other skills, even though they still excelled in one area.  School was no longer exciting, it was depressing.

I wonder what would have happened if instead of focusing on those things that these animals would never be great at, they focused all their energy on those things they loved to do that they were already good at?

That's part of the key to success.  Successful people focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses.  If you're an Eagle, don't bother trying to become above average at running.  There are plenty of others that can run, but few who can fly.  Stop worrying about the fact that you are below average at running, instead spread your wings and fly!

Disclaimer:  Kids (especially my kids) – I am NOT saying it's OK to get low grades in school.  This is not a free pass to getting F's while you eat popcorn, watch TV, and play with your friends!!!  Successful people do work at things in order to get better at them, even things they don't like doing.  You should practice that core stuff and if you practice you can do well.  What I am saying is that you should focus on doing those things that you enjoy that you are great at and don't let the rest of the stuff eat up all of your time, because what you enjoy that you are great at is where you will most likely truly excel in this life.

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Don Smith

Don Smith is a business coach with decades of experience. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois. To work with Don, please click here.