Written by: Jeff Altman, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
When I was growing up, people would typically end a conversation with someone by saying, "Take it easy," as though that should be what a person should aspire to do. It was a statement uttered without thought like answering the question, "How are you," by saying, "Fine." It was a reply born of habit that yielded an encouragement to be average. When I think of average, the first synonym that comes to mind is "mediocre." Why would you ever want to encourage someone to be mediocre? Yet millions of people still end conversations every day with this "encouragement" or similar.
In our society, mediocrity is rewarded in too many workplaces. If you’re willing to settle for average, you’ll find many people who will reward you for it. However, if you want to do more and be better than that, you’ll have to act on some of the things you think differently about and challenge conventional thinking and acting in the world. I believe it is important to learn how to break free from the chains of average and live life as an exceptional human being instead of just another cog in the machine.
Do you want to settle for being seen as a "team player?"
Teamwork is hugely important in every workplace, but what happens too often is that people let go of their drive to be the best they can be, and instead try to be a "team player." They develop the habit of putting others first and their own ambitions second . . . or later. Mediocrity is rewarded in this case. You can be a team player and an individual at the same time. It is possible to help others and make them look good without letting your own talents and abilities go unnoticed and still be the best that you can be. Make your co-workers and bosses/managers and leaders look good, while still being a leader among your peers as well.
Always do your best, even if you don’t feel like it.
Best effort is something that all bosses and managers want from their employees. However, what often happens is that people let go of this commitment and allow themselves to do less than they are capable of, just because they don’t feel like doing it. You may think that you don’t have the energy or enthusiasm to do your best, but you still must focus and try. You should always do your best, even if you don’t feel like it because if you don’t, you are letting yourself and others down. You’re letting your boss or manager down while letting your work suffer. Don’t let mediocrity take a foothold in your workplace. Always do your best and don’t give in to those feelings.
It’s better to act great, be great, and do everything "world-class"
If you need to be great for your job, you’re in the wrong job. There is a big difference between doing something great and doing something “good enough.” Doing something great means exceeding the “minimally viable expectation” for you. There are no mistakes, no flaws, and no room for improvement. If you’re doing something good enough, often means doing just enough to get by. Sometimes, people cut corners and make mistakes along the way. If you want to be great, you need to do things "world-class." This means that you’ve thought ahead, taken your time, and put in the effort so that the outcome is excellent.
Fame and money are among the things that matter, not the only things.
Fame and money shouldn’t be the only things that you strive for in life. You need to have a goal and a vision and the willingness to focus on your life’s mission. Something should drive you every day. Unfortunately, many people focus on fame and money as their driving force, and wind-up content with mediocrity. Fame and money are among the things that society has conditioned us to look for, but they shouldn’t be the only things that drive you. Look for things in your life that matter, give meaning to it, and then go after them. The drive for fame and money can actually end up holding you back from achieving what you find meaningful in your life.
Everyone’s job can be a stepping stone, not a burden to carry.
One of the biggest things that people believe is that their job is a stepping stone to something bigger and better. Unfortunately, many people don’t get past the tedium or humdrum to the vision for their work that helped them to choose this career. They become trapped by their job and the things that they routinely do, settling for being mediocre and never progressing beyond the point where they are. People become trapped by their salary, title, and grind leaves them unable to take the next step because managers and leaders only see them as good soldiers or doers, not as someone with an upside. If you’re in a situation like this, you have to make a conscious choice to break free from mediocrity from the illusion that you are trapped, and take the steps forward. Leadership and management will often need to be reconditioned to see you differently. That starts with you needing to think and act differently about your job and work, in general. Look at your job as a stepping stone instead of something that traps you and keeps you from moving forward. Start training others to see you differently by not taking on more of the “grind work.” Instead, push for more strategic responsibilities.
Start by changing yourself.
If you want to change the world, you first need to change yourself. You need to look and ask what changes you need to make in your life. And it is often easier to start with the things that you have control over. You don’t have to change everything about yourself, but you do need to change some of the things that are keeping you from making progress. Ask yourself, “Whom do I want to be? What do I want to do? Why does this matter to me, let alone anyone else?” Changing your attitude, your vision for the future, and the things that you’re letting hold you back may take time. Start by thinking differently about life in general and be willing to embrace change. Ask yourself, “What’s possible now? What can I do today to move the needle forward?”
You can change the world anywhere you are.
Look inward> Let your actions and your attitude spill over into the rest of the world. You don’t need to be a CEO or a leader of some huge company to change the world. You can do it with what you have, where you are, and what you know. There are people all over the world who need what you have to offer. They may be suffering or need what you know and what you have experienced. Many can be helped without ever meeting them. There are people who need a shoulder to cry on, a friend to listen to them, or help to get through a tough time. You can make a difference in their lives. You can be their light in the darkness.
If, at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again until you do.
Success may not come overnight. You may have to try things a few times in a few different ways before you and others experience you differently. You may have to let go of some things and start again with a new approach. You may have to take the wrong path before you find the right one. You may have to make mistakes and learn from them in order to succeed. You may have to go through times of trial and error before you get there. However, if you keep trying, and you keep pushing forward, you will get there . . . eventually. Keep trying even when things get tough and even when you’re not sure if you’re doing it right.
The Bottom line: Society teaches us many things that help it operate smoothly, but make us feel mediocre and unfulfilled in our own lives.
We are conditioned to believe that we are not enough and that we are not worthy of greatness and success because it is easier to control people that way. If we let go and allow ourselves to be great, there may be more competition to reach the pinnacle, which may make our lives more “complicated.” However, continuing to do what you’ve been doing as you’ve been doing it up until now has been dissatisfying. You can be great, instead of being conditioned to mediocrity.
Jeff Altman, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter, is a career and leadership coach who helps people with their careers, including job search, hiring more effectively, managing and leading, and resolving workplace-related issues while being the person they want to be in life. He has written 9 books and guides to job search and hiring, including "The Ultimate Job Interview Framework" and "The Right Answers to Tough Interview Questions." He is the host of No BS Job Search Advice Radio, the #1 podcast in Apple Podcasts for job search with more than 2100 episodes, as well as JobSearchTV.com on YouTube, Amazon, Roku, Apple TV, and 90+ smart sets. Jeff works with clients worldwide and is a popular speaker.