Recently, a friend and I were having a philosophical discussion about work. “After all,” she said, “not everyone can be stars. Some people have to be in the middle.”
“True, but no one has to be mediocre,” I answered. And I believe that, but that belief has not stopped me from sliding into mediocrity at times.
No kid ever hopes to be the mediocre adult: the one who doesn’t do the best work, who doesn’t take chances, who spends hours on the internet hoping the day will pass away. Yet so many people do just that.
Many of us tend to blame external circumstances:
- My teacher (or job) is so boring; no one could be interested in this stuff.
- My boss (or professor or workplace) doesn’t care about me.
- The job market is so bad that I have to take this awful job that doesn’t use my talents.
- I’m going to be a chemist; I shouldn’t have to care about literature.
It looks less impressive written down; when we say these things in our head, we have the dramatic internal music playing with the appropriate James Earl Jones voiceover stating eternal victimhood.
But let’s face it: There really is no excuse for being mediocre. In my job, I will never be the best person at data analysis in my reports. That is just a fact. Still, that fact should not be an excuse for me to gaze at Facebook or Pinterest while I hope something more exciting and more aligned with my interests comes my way.
I still have to put in the time and the work. I ask for help when I need it. And while I know that my report will never be the one shown as a good example to SACS committees, I’ve put in the effort. And even more than that, the more effort I put in, the more I become interested in data analysis and the better I become at it.
Now I’ll never choose to spend a free evening with a statistical report over Jane Austen. Still, it’s a victory because life is too short to be spend it wishing to be somewhere else.
Mediocrity is not one of the seven deadly sins (because unlike sloth, things do get done), but it is a dangerous road to find yourself on. It’s not a good way to spend the present. And doing mediocre work simply means we’re daily practicing doing mediocre work, which puts the future at risk as well.