Nov 17, 2021–I’ve stumbled on a phenomenon I call the Fallacy of Averages.

Humans like to measure everything by talking about “averages.”

The term has become part of our language:

-Grade Point Average

-Average Daily Requirement

-Field Goal Average

There’s even a Law of Averages.

Yet when you dissect it, there really is no such thing as “average.” It’s just a chimerical midpoint between pendulum swings.

Let’s examine some:


I’ll wager everyone remembers their final Grade Point Average to the hundredth place, no matter how long ago you left the halls of academe. Your GPA was critical in advancing to the next step in your education, no matter what level, and once there, getting into programs of your choice. But by itself it imparts no useful information. It is meaningless. A high GPA could mean you took easy courses, or were good at test taking, or you cheated.

When my surgeon is standing over me with scalpel in hand, his GPA is irrelevant. I only care that he got good grades in Surgery and Anatomy. It doesn’t matter if he got a D in Ballroom Dance or Badminton (I actually took both of those, by the way, during my college career).


Sports nuts are addicted to averages. You can’t have a decent barroom brawl without arcane statistical averages batted about.

A 30-plus Field Goal Average for the starting point guard might mean someone scores lots of points against weaker opponents. But they might score a lot because they don’t bother playing defense. They might not be good in pressure moments. They might not share the ball or pass to the leading open player on a fast break.

When the game is tied in the final 10 seconds, the coach doesn’t look at a player’s season scoring average to determine who takes the last shot. He looks at for the player most likely to perform under pressure. Averages don’t win tight games.


Some of us remember the inflation of the late 1970s. The overall average rate of inflation was in the mid-two-figures according to the governmental agency-in-charge of-churning-out-official-numbers.

But in the real world, the official rate did not apply to every item. Certain segments were high, such as mortgages and gas prices. But in every economy, creative individuals find ways to circumvent rising prices. When beef gets expensive, people turn to flank steak and alternative sources of protein. When gas prices soar, people turn to carpooling, bicycling, and staying home.

These are not optimal outcomes, but the point is the average inflation rate is not useable information for most of us. To a consumer, the only rate that matters is the specific cost of a specific item. If it’s too high, the consumer substitutes a different item.

I think my point is that you can’t live life based on average anything. My big issue with reducing everything to “average” is this: If you acknowledge the power of “average,” exactly half of all that exists and everything you do will forever be below average.

Who wants to live in a world like that?