Average in America is a prison—here’s what it looks like and how you can break free

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If you do what everyone else does, you'll get what everyone else gets, which isn't much.

Here's what average looks like in America, according to U.S. census data, Pew Research Center findings, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Institute of Retirement Security, NerdWallet and the CDC:

  • The average American household is about $131,000 in debt.
  • The average American spends $69 a day.
  • The average American has $34 in their pocket.
  • The average American watches 33 hours of TV a week.
  • The average American reads just four books a year.
  • The average American works 34.4 hours per week.
  • The average American is 17 pounds overweight.
  • The average American spends 116 minutes a day, or about two hours, on social media.
  • The average American spends five hours a day on their cell phone.
  • The average American consumes 11 alcoholic drinks a week.
  • The average American exercises just 17 minutes a day.
  • The average American has less than $1,000 in savings.
  • The average American makes about $48,000 a year.

If you're average, you're in good company. But are you happy with being average?

If you want to be better than average, you have to do the things that above-average, successful people are willing to do.

So, what do above-average, successful people do that average people don't?

According to my five-year study on the daily habits of self-made millionaires, successful people do many things that set them apart from average people. I tracked over 300 things self-mades do that average people don't do. Here's a small sampling:

  • They put their ladder on the wall. Successful people pursue their own dreams and goals. Not those of their parents, family or friends.
  • They engage in deliberate practice. Talent is not enough. In order to become expert in your field, you must practice your craft every day, for many hours a day.
  • They don't rely on passion or motivation. Passion and motivation will only take you so far. Successful people forge good daily habits. Good habits put you on autopilot for success. Unconscious behaviors and ways of thinking will help you achieve day after day.
  • They never stop trying. 93 percent of the self-mades in my study did not accumulate their wealth until after age 50. They kept trying. They never quit on their dreams. They were persistent. And another little factoid I found in my research was this: These persistent self-made millionaires eventually got lucky. 87 percent of the self-mades in my study said they would never have become rich if not for luck. At some point during their very long march towards success, luck found them. And transformed their lives.
  • They are frugal. 84 percent of the self-mades in my study were careful with their money. They invested time and patience in finding the highest quality at the lowest price. They delayed gratification for things they desired until they got their money's worth.
  • They do not gossip. Successful people avoid gossip. Gossip is negative and damages relationships.
  • They read to learn. 88 percent of the self-mades in my study read 30 minutes or more every stay to gain knowledge about their career, craft or industry.
  • They experiment. Successful people experiment until they figure out what works. This takes time and patience. When they figure out the right way of doing something, they turn it into a habit.
  • They seek feedback. Successful people overcome the fear of criticism and seek feedback from others. They use this feedback to improve their product or service.
  • They create a blueprint of the life they desire. If you don't have a blueprint of your ideal, perfect life, how can you create a great life? Successful people script out the life they desire and then pursue dreams and goals that will help them create that life.

Success sets you free. Average imprisons you. If you want to be free, you must do what average people are unwilling to do.

Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of "Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life."

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