This is a short story I read a long time ago, almost certainly before 2000 and likely before 1990.

I don't recall if it was in a magazine or in a book/anthology.

It was probably published a decade or more before I read it, because technology is not present in anything beyond about mid-1970s levels.

The plot remains very strongly with me though:

An exactly average man decides one day to buy, from an ad in the back of the yellow pages or newspaper classifieds or similar, a set of lessons that claim to impart a particular skill.

His friend advises against it, claiming they don't work very well, and are a waste of money.

But because he is the exactly average man, average in all respects, the lessons work extraordinarily well, and he becomes an expert/virtuoso/etc.

So he begins to get all the lessons and become extraordinary talented.

Some of the lessons include piano lessons and weight lifting/body building/health improvements.

I believe it ends in disaster for the average man, a cautionary tale about excesses in any form.

For the life of me I cannot Google this now, to share with a friend who claims to be "very average".

  • what sort of disaster? – user14111 Jun 22 '17 at 3:34
  • I don't recall. Ostracized perhaps. Or he collapses under the metaphorical weight of all his new-found talents. It might have been a "be careful what you wish for" cautionary tale. – studog Jun 22 '17 at 21:52

Sounds familiar but the only story I've read with similar plot is Isaac Asimov short story "Profession". I'm quite certain that it is not the correct one, though.

  • Definitely not Profession, although that's an Asimov tale that has escaped me somehow. Thanks! – studog Jun 22 '17 at 21:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.