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Assuming the value that clients obtain from an advisor is distributed in a bell-shaped curve, the average client obtains considerable value from the average advisor – and even from a mediocre one.

Harry Truman once complained that what he needed most was a one-armed economist because nearly all of them concluded their observations with “on the other hand …” before launching into an opposite argument!

Name any idea or subject and there will be a range of opinions. Examples are endless; from the proper color for automobiles (black, white, and silver are most common) to complex economic theory.

For most things, there is a pattern to this diversity

Most observations clump around the middle, with outliers at the extremes. In science and academia, this is called Gaussian or normal distribution and it is illustrated with a bell-shaped curve. Normal distribution and the bell curve have been tested and apply to almost everything, from human height to test scores to highway traffic speeds.

I’ll skip the heavy math here, except for one fraction. Roughly two-thirds (2/3) of usual observations clump in the middle, with the other third (1/3) split between opposite extremes. Here’s how it works: Most sources report that the average height for an adult American male is 5’10” with a standard deviation of around 2.9”. In terms of normal distribution, this means that two-thirds (2/3) of American men are between 5’7” and 6’1” tall. The other one-third are either shorter than 5’7” or taller than 6’1”.