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creativity column

Be anything but mediocre.

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I want nothing to do with mediocrity and neither should you. I hate that it even exists. In order to prevent it creeping into your world, you have to consciously guard against it permeating your work or personal life. The Latin translation of mediocrity means “halfway up the mountain.”

The good news is creativity will always be one of the best tools to fight mediocrity. I believe far too many people are content with accepting the status quo. They don't want to make waves or rock the boat. It’s easy…be the sheep. The reality is, you won't move mountains or get people excited to work with you if you're content to just go with the flow. What one of the biggest hurdles companies face today is the unwillingness to tackle the tough challenges to take their business to the next level, and I lay the blame right at the feet of mediocrity.

The ability to innovate at a high level is something that runs counter to the thought process of many leaders because they believe the things that made them successful once will work again now as they race towards an uncertain and ever changing future. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Keith Ferrazzi of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a California-based research and consulting firm believes, “The choice isn't between success and failure; it's between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity.”

Growing up I was taught that risk and failure were things to be avoided at all costs. In the real world, however, you need both to succeed. Taking calculated risks and failing along the way is how true success is ultimately achieved. Most managers aren't comfortable with employees who fail because they are often not allowed to - that's when mediocrity sets in and the bar gets lowered. Employees become complacent and less engaged when they feel their ideas are not appreciated or their efforts go unnoticed because they didn’t “reach goal.” Be vigilant and pursue excellence anyway.

Albert Einstein, widely regarded as having the 20th century's most brilliant brain offered this wisdom, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the person who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express opinions courageously and honestly.” Then there's legendary Ad man, George Lois, “Only with absolute fearlessness can we slay the dragons of mediocrity that invade our gardens.”

I realize that no one sets out to have a mediocre career or an average life. But it happens - Don't let it happen to you. Not everyone will understand or participate in your desires to rid the world of mediocrity…and that's okay.

I always wondered why we see it everywhere if it’s something so many of us detest. But it occurs to me not everyone has the energy required to see it eradicated. Yes, it can be defeating and demoralizing at times when you realize that not everyone will share your disdain for mediocrity.    I will continue to do everything in my power to avoid it and stamp it out, while helping others do the same.


William ChildsComment