Todd Dewett | December 4, 2019
|Being average is so damn easy, because, as it turns out, mediocre has a strong gravitational pull. Doing just enough, barely meeting expectations, being just good enough to avoid problems, failing to really invest and create your best effort – it’s so easy to do. Besides, don’t you have other things to do? If you don’t phone it in once in a while, you’ll over-invest your time at work and miss out on personal time, hobbies, and friends. Right?
The gravity sucks you in. It seduces you. At work, you feel like you have real standards, but then one week your schedule is nuts and you’re forced to just do the minimum to get things done… and no one seems to notice. You get away with it. You wonder why you’ve been pushing so hard. Just getting by is pretty easy.
Sometimes mediocrity is aided by context. Who you surround yourself with matters. Are they superstars, typical performers, or underachievers? All performance standards are socially contagious, so choose your colleagues, friends, and reference points carefully.
Other times, mediocrity increases its grip on you when you choose to make excuses. You tell yourself the boss is nuts. He doesn’t know what he wants, and when he does set expectations, they are not clear. What are you supposed to do? Excuses quickly become a narcotic you love indulging.
Finally, mediocrity gains strength when your goals are not challenging. If you work in a place with weak to modest performance standards, you can get sucked in easily. Just go with the flow, right? No! Define excellence. Chase excellence. Celebrate excellence. The further from mediocre you run, the weaker its gravity.
Once you make mediocrity a norm, unproductive behaviors set in. You shop online, read a book, play games on your phone, and overindulge in socializing with anyone else caught in mediocre’s gravity. You collectively reinforce each other in an effort to rationalize your unimpressive efforts.
It’s time to break free of mediocre.
Change the standard. The buck stops with you. No excuses allowed. Look first at what is expected of you by your supervisor. Then ask how much better you can do. Think about how excellence for a given task is linked to your next advancement goal. Remember that with each and every effort you make you’re either moving forward or spinning your wheels.
Involve real friends. Real friends are people willing and able to help you flee mediocrity. This may or may not include your boss or all of your colleagues. It will definitely include your best colleagues who understand excellence, your mentor, and hopefully and a coach. You need consistent positive reinforcement, thoughtful perspectives, and helping hands. These are the beautiful resources that pull you away from mediocre’s gravity.
Cut out the cancer. You can no longer indulge in people who are holding you back or things that bring you down. There is a person or two (or three or four!) you need to let go of. You might have shared an interesting history, but now they are just an obstacle, a negative influence. They don’t chase excellence and they don’t help you chase excellence. Be decisive and a little selfish in choosing with whom to share your time.
In the end, excellence is not a mystery. Step one is admitting you’re underperforming relative to your potential. Step two is choosing to do something about it. Change the standard. Involve real friends. Cut out the cancer. Focus your efforts in this manner and no goal will be safe. It’s time to leave mediocre behind you.
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Meetings: Never let the outcome of a meeting be determined during the meeting! Do the homework before the meeting: the analysis, the conversations, the coalition-building. Show up ready to be successful. Part of your preparation should also include thinking through who will be in the room and how they feel about the issues that matter to you. How people act in a meeting should rarely surprise you.
“In poorly run meetings, time moves at the speed of stupid.” What a great reminder! We have all endured meetings that were run ineffectively or possibly should not have been held at all. It doesn’t have to be that way if you remember that meetings must be: vital, planned, organized, refereed, and properly followed-up. Otherwise, it might feel like a silly waste of time.
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