A long time ago someone told me that average was really just the “best of the worst and the worst of the best.” That’s an interesting way to look at it for sure. That view has helped to shape the way I think about average. In fact, I pretty much am hardwired to go for more than average. I look at mediocrity the same way I look at average. Mediocrity is not my goal in life.
Best selling author Seth Godin writes about the four horsemen of mediocrity: Deniability, Helplessness, Contempt and Fear. They are also the four horsemen of average. Godin often writes how the industrial age brought us a culture of compliance. Compliance brought fear. Fear brought mediocrity. We’ve all seen mediocrity and average abound in nearly every imaginable environment—business, customer service, retail, churches, leadership, government, education, marriage and parenting—just to name a few.
There are a lot of ways to express mediocrity and average but Godin refers to the symptoms showing up most often in these “four horsemen:”
Deniability —It’s the basic problem most humans are born with, “it’s not my fault.” Deniability shows up in organizations through phrases like, “they decided, they created or they blocked.” When we make excuses for lack of excellence and progress, we are denying our responsibility to act or to make changes. How many times have we heard, “that’s just the way the system works. There’s nothing I can do about it.” That’s average. That’s mediocrity.
Helplessness —Here’s another one similar to deniability, “My boss won’t let me.” Compliance and settling for average is a clear path to mediocrity. Excellence is found only when we become solution focused. There will always be problems. There will be glitches. There will be mistakes. Those who rise above all the rest are the creative problem-solvers. “I can’t” should be eliminated from our vocabularies and replaced with “let me see what I can do.”
Contempt —Already disillusioned and discouraged to the point of no longer caring, this average mentality is expressed by, “they don’t pay me enough to put up with this kind of stuff.” Mediocrity oozes out of the pores of those who degrade their bosses, their organizations and their associates with condescension. Even an outside observer can tell that an unhealthy culture exists in that particular environment when disdain and poor attitudes are expressed out loud or through body language.
Fear —The fear of failure is probably the biggest enemy of excellence. If organizational workers or leaders feel it is not worth the risk, mediocrity has invaded the culture. It may be the fear of what others will say about your success or the “what ifs” of failure. Some environments become so toxic that excellence is quickly shot down and those who start rising above average are pulled back to “reality” so everything stays “normal.” Fear is a powerful persuader toward mediocrity and average.
The great news about fear is that once you see it and dance with it (as Godin says), you have a huge opportunity! A chance to make it better. An occasion to bring change. A prospect of hope. An incident for excellence. A cause to shoot for the moon. A reason to live with brilliance. Neither mediocre or average.
QUESTION: What helps you to rise above mediocrity? Please share it with our readers below. Thank you!