Mediocrity: Worse Than Failure

Posted By Rajeev Thakur On Wed, Nov 16, 2016

“Do not drown me with mediocrity. Give me passion, desire, make me inhale breaths of lust and love in the dark hours that tingle down my spine…” ― Virginia Alison

Mediocrity is a quagmire in which so many people I meet or have worked with are stuck in. Over the years of running my business I have painfully observed people live happily in their ordinariness, refusing to seek the rewards of excellence & greatness, resigned to self-justifications, happily blaming the world for their ultimate fate. They remain cocooned within their egg-shells refusing to break out in to the exciting world of madness & excitement.

Mediocrity literally means “halfway up the mountain.” It denotes being in the middle, neither leading the pack nor sprawling on the ground, just half-way up in a state of having given up. This middle-level of success can be called a mediocrity (from the Latin mediocris meaning “unremarkable”) 

Most people seem happy excelling intermittently, failing occasionally & mostly happy just getting by. There is no effort to reshape their thinking or reworking their paths or retooling their processes to achieve their goals as if their lives depended on it. These people identify themselves with ordinariness, a comfort zone created by lack of ambition & easy satisfaction.

Mediocrity is a state of mind. It exists because you think it does. It’s a horrible trap because it does not give people the discomfort to move & change themselves. The world doesn’t reward mediocrity. You’ve got to be great at something. Nothing is ever ‘good enough.’ It’s either “excellent or inferior.”

For any organisation mediocrity in its people is an anathema. A chain is as strong as its weakest link hence mediocrity in people is a burden that pulls organisational excellence down.

In his self-help book “The Greatest Miracle in the World”, Og Mandino has dwelled on this aspect. The book is based on the true experiences of the author: 

“Most humans, in varying degrees, are already dead. In one way or another they have lost their dreams, their ambitions, their desire for a better life. They have surrendered their fight for self-esteem and they have compromised their great potential. They have settled for a life of mediocrity, days of despair and nights of tears. They are no more than living deaths confined to cemeteries of their choice. Yet they need not remain in that state. They can be resurrected from their sorry condition. They can each perform the greatest miracle in the world. They can each come back from the dead…..”

That indeed is true. Mediocrity can be resurrected. I have observed that inherently every person is good & capable. While some are self-driven towards achieving excellence in life, for some a continuous process of mentoring & counselling can have a huge effect in transforming them. Unfortunately there is a third category which suffers from serial mediocrity & it is important to identify & get rid of them before they pull the team down.

In my experience I found the following three the most common factors that lead people to mediocrity:

  1. Lack of ambition: Mediocre people lack ambition. They are happy, ensconced in their comfort zone. They are averse to taking risk & fear the unknown. They would rather walk the trodden path than blaze a trail. They don’t have big dreams or audacious goals required to achieve greatness. They set the bar so low, they always feel exceptional
  2. Not holding self responsible: These people truly believe that it is the world outside, the external circumstances around them that are responsible for their state of being & hence develop a victim mentality. They do not take the onus of their situation; hence do not attempt to change their life. Unfortunately they do not realise that all change begins with oneself & without change they relegate themselves on the dump of mediocrity.
  3. Conforming, rather than daring to be different: Success today belongs to disruptors not to those who conform & disruption needs to be a continuous process. Conforming to convention is the easiest way to live but the best way to kill progress. Those who are afraid to buck the status quo are likely to end up mediocre.

In the end mediocrity is worse than failure because failure is learning, it is dynamic & lets you move on; mediocrity is static, it stalls you and keeps you from achieving your full potential.