I’m going to be a bit controversial in this post because I’m a bit worried about an accepted point of view that has been around for some time now. And although I’m part of the very industry that is promoting this point of view, and indeed, have myself bought into it as well, it’s time for a rethink.
A warning to self help gurus, life and business coaches and motivational speakers – you may not like what I’m about to suggest.
Over the weekend I was reading an article from Dharmesh Shah that was titled “Failure Is Not The Worst Outcome, Mediocrity Is”. You can read the entire article here.
In the article Dharmesh makes his main point in this paragraph talking about his friend and founder of DropBox, Drew Houston. He writes…
“Here’s the big lesson: Many founders think that the worst outcome you can have in a startup is failure. You try something and it fails. And yes, failing is no fun. But, what’s worse than failing is going sideways for years and years. The worst is being stuck in a quagmire of mediocrity. Things are going reasonably well, but not spectacularly well. The reason mediocrity is worse than failure is very simple: Failure lets you move on, mediocrity stalls you and keeps you from reaching your potential.”
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this idea of mediocrity being a problem is one that self help gurus and motivational speakers have been spruiking for years and years. And in fair disclosure, I too have in the past bought into the idea.
However, I’m not so sure anymore.
I’m still a big believer on trying to be the best we can be – personal best as a pursuit in areas that are meaningful to us, that inspire us, that breathe energy into our sense of well-being and that help us to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life is a pursuit well worth while.
However, surely the reality is, that the majority of us will at best, always be ‘average’ – it’s the normal distribution curve of life… isn’t it?
In business, not every business will achieve superstardom, most will be mediocre compared to the superstar corporations… better than the disasters and failures, but not as good as the most successful.
Is that really a problem?
I get what Dharmesh Shah is suggesting that mediocrity might cause stagnation… however, rather than beating ourselves up for having an ‘average’ business, making ‘average’ wages, employing ‘average’ people and making an ‘average’ difference, I reckon there’s a better approach.
I reckon we should celebrate mediocrity for a change. Why? Because the reality is most of us are, at best, mediocre. Sure, that might not be you, but I reckon it’s a hard point to argue that most of us are average… and what’s wrong with that?
The mediocrity-success paradox.
There’s a bit of a paradox here, because again, I’m not saying we ought to aim for mediocrity, and I’m not saying that we ought to just accept being ‘ok’ and not pursue our personal best.
But let’s not beat ourselves up when we’re at least doing a pretty good job, otherwise we get caught up in the zero sum game of trying to achieve at ever continuing heights of success, and hold off on feeling good about who we are and what we’ve achieved and our sense of well-being stagnates
So let’s celebrate mediocrity, while still continuing to pursue our personal best.