Strong Performance Breaks Away from Competition

In my previous post, I described strong performance in one shoe salesman, weak performance in another. One salesman was completely awesome, the other equally awful. The two anchored opposite ends of a continuum. If they were runners, they would be the first and last figures in the image below. Just look at the distance between them.

strong performance shown in footraceLet me illustrate the same kind of strengths and weaknesses using a footrace as a metaphor. A footrace measures running skill. Like other skills, running can fall in the strong, average, or weak ranges. The image above shows the distance 100 runners have covered after ten seconds. (It also shows what statisticians call the normal curve.)

You’ll notice that there is quite a bit of spread between the racers, with most of them bunched up in the middle of the pack. Those sixty-eight folks are running in the average range where it’s hard to distinguish one from another. In contrast, the first sixteen racers—the strong runners—have broken away from the pack, while the last sixteen—the weak runners—have fallen behind.

In the high and low ranges, strengths and weaknesses are extreme enough to become “visible to the naked eye.” In other words, observers are more likely to notice that you’re fast, if you’re one of the first sixteen runners, or slow, if you’re among the last sixteen to cross the finish line. Arrows below the footrace image mark the point where the average range begins and ends. (This is also known in statistics as one standard deviation below and above the mean.)

Strong performance is an important consideration when planning a career.

Running is only one skill, but this general concept of performing in the high, average, or low range applies across all skills. That same continuum exists for most human behavior, including performance at different jobs. Every occupation has its own unique pattern of required skills. Bloggers, for example, tend to be good at coming up with ideas, remembering words, and putting thoughts in a logical sequence. Bloggers, runners, shoe salesmen—any workers who perform their job skills in the high range are more likely to be successful.

That’s why it’s important to consider the potential for strong performance when planning a career. Otherwise, your student could find herself running at the back of the pack. In that position, she’s less likely to be hired. Or if she is hired, then she’ll have more difficulty keeping up. No job security in that strategy!

In future posts, I’ll share how to identify student strengths and match them with appropriate training so your child can succeed, despite the competition she’ll run up against in the work world.

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