At some point most of us realise that performance grading on a bell curve would mean we just try to be ‘above average’ unlike the times when in school we could have grade inflation and hence more people could get A. And of course there is less room than in school to dispute your score – especially in Asian societies. When we were all in school, we were sort of forcefully pitted against our classmates in various different things ranging from exam results, to fitness and so on. There’s a sense of that relative performance is quite important; but I think the key is considering relative performance of what.
For our co-curricular activities, we don’t face such anxiety. If we are not in a uniform group, we opt out of the comparison of our ability to do drills. When we are not in a music group then we cannot be compared against our peers on our skills on the musical instruments. But for most basic subjects, we cannot avoid the comparison and we will be graded, and probably ranked. But once we step into the workforce, we realised that all the different dimensions are being considered and lumped together into a single grade. That is vague and hard to work on. It’s difficult to aim for any grades because you’re definitely pitted against your colleagues or peers in all the different mysterious ways you can’t even begin to work on them.
Therefore you cannot aim to be above average. You cannot aim at relative performances even if you know that’s what matters and probably how the bosses make these performance reviews. You’ll need to find absolute metrics to work on; to focus on sales calls you make rather than sales you achieve, to measure and quantify your useful inputs and have the outputs/outcomes as an afterthought. And you must not create anxiety for yourself when the outcomes don’t work, but maintain the curious mind searching for relevant and suitable inputs to work on to drive the output.