Hollywood is regularly churning out super hero movies and their sequels. At the moment they seem to be almost a sure thing at the box office. Iron Man, Spider Man, Batman and Captain America all seem to capture the imagination of the people as they pay big movie theater prices to see these super humans. It is obvious that “super” is what the people want to see.
What if there was a hero named Mediocrity Man? He had super powers that were inside of him but he was afraid of them. Any time that he saw himself do something out of the ordinary, he would instantly recoil and deny his abilities. Rather than keeping his secret identity from everyone else, he would hide or deny his powers to himself. What if Clark Kent never changed into Superman? Would you watch that movie? Of course not.
If this hero existed, why would he hide his powers? The reasons would be the same that you or I don’t do the things that would produce greatness.
- It’s too hard.
- It will take too long.
- I might not succeed.
- Or worse, I might succeed and the people would expect more out of me.
- I don’t want people to make fun of me.
- No one in my family, town, state or country has ever done it before, who am I to be first?
Imagine the Earth being filled with superheroes. What if people were getting most out of themselves every single day? What would that look like? I’ve been Mediocrity Man. I’ve traded in my cape for a t-shirt on a regular basis. Feeling comfortable in the cape is difficult because I know all of my faults, all of my weaknesses and every way that I have ever screwed up. The hero in the movie never falls for long. He gets his super powers and continues on until the world is safe again. For us regular heroes, it’s not a magic movie moment involving a radioactive spider or the destruction of Krypton that begins our ascent. It’s a consistent decision to be the best form of ourselves.
For most of my life, I’ve had a portion of Teddy Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne memorized. “It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” It’s moving. It moves me in the sense that I actually take action when I think of it, hear it in my head or in my heart. The issue is at the moment, the critics have such a large megaphone that it becomes hard to hear our heads and our hearts. The echo of other people’s point of view tends to linger, burn and even cut the ones who are actually in the arena. The credit may belong to the man in the arena but that credit is hard earned because people want you to lose and never let you forget it.
The only thing to do is go deaf. Deaf to the jeers, the criticisms and the negativity. The volume of the critic does not matter if you pay no attention. Besides the only reason the words of the critic ever penetrated is because you believed them at least partially. Their message about you being a failure or a loser resonated with you on some level deep within. So the inner critic is actually the one that has the power to take you down.
The way to silence the inner critic is to run. Run straight into the arena. Sleep there, eat there, get your ass kicked there but at least in the arena, the inner critic has to stay in the stands. He can’t get his hands on you as long as you stay fixed in the center of the ring. Perhaps in the end you’ll find out that the critics were right and you didn’t have the stuff. But at least you’ll know for sure, while they’re left wondering about themselves. Outwardly chastising but inwardly envying the chance that you took to gain the credit of the arena.
Have a great weekend!
Mediocre means “ordinary, average, middle-of-the-road, unexceptional, lackluster and forgettable.” In many ways, I would put myself in the category of mediocre. I’m 5 foot 9 inches tall and weigh 190 pounds. My bench press and squat numbers are nothing impressive. I got a 1060 on my SATs (the old version). My yearly income is nothing to “write home about”. By most accounts, I am pretty mediocre.
The thought of mediocrity has been one that has entered my mind several times over the past year. The realization of my own mediocrity was nothing new. I have little chance to become exceptional in most areas. Even for my age, the benchmarks of excellence are pretty high. This divide creates a chasm that stagnates improvement. With the possibility of excellence off the table, it is easy to see why so many people lose their drive. However it is actually in this chasm that I believe we actually have the greatest of societal opportunities. As a collective (Athletes, Americans, Humans), we can choose to strive for better mediocrity.
In the past, I have written about the “Bannister Effect” and how the breaking of new ground creates possibilities for others to follow. That is a concept that I still endorse wholeheartedly. However as I thought about my own mediocrity, I came to realize that we need a “second wave”. There must be another push from the middle. The outliers pulling forward will only have an effect on those that are close to their level. For example, the 10s only pull the 9s forward but the effect is almost unnoticeable by the time that it reaches the critical mass in the middle.
This second wave needs to be created as an individual and a collective undertaking. The mediocre individual competes for the most part with himself. Improving with a partially selfish desire to take a step up one rung on the ladder. Despite this selfish motivation, the individual also recognizes his membership of a collective (Athletes, Americans, Humans). The “mediocre Americans” are getting better. The middle of the road changes from 5 to 7 and there is a pride in self and the collective.
Better mediocrity would change so many things about our lives and expectations. Perhaps mediocre would no longer be a slight insult but rather an identifiable force pushing the forerunners to greater excellence. If you happen to be mediocre, choose to be better mediocre!