Mediocrity: Is There A Cure To The Other Pandemic?

from the Latin medius “middle” + ocris “rugged mountain.”

The Mediocrity of Machine Living

Mechanization best serves mediocrity.

Perfect is the enemy of good.Voltaire

Mediocrity: Distancing Isn’t So Easy

Advising Against Mediocrity: A Difficult Plea

  • “Whatever’s normal, do the exact opposite.” That’s from Jesse Cole, president of the Savannah Bananas, a baseball team that sold out every game from 2017–2019. While other teams prioritize baseball (because that’s “the rule”), Jesse Cole prioritizes fans, fun, and entertainment. Jesse “un-mechanizes” by defying the rules of normalcy. He takes a page from the legendary Bill Veeck, who once said, “I try not to break the rules but merely to test their elasticity.”
  • Ramp up, and risk up. Mechanization has both a leveling effect (i.e., dull, repetitive, and predictable) and a sedative effect (safe, proven, and serene). One way to break this machine is to put some stress on your output, to churn faster than the machine of mediocrity. The other way is to put some stress on your routine, to risk higher than the soft slope of “somewhat mountainous.”
  • Find something/someone you can put a face to. It might be a rival business or a rival service. At the task level, it might be a rival staff doing better work.
  • Choose above you — make yourself the underdog. Mediocrity lives in playing small (but don’t overshoot).
  • Tap into your fighter’s attitude, your winner’s mindset. As your villain toils in mediocrity, you’re playing to outthink, outperform, and outcompete … to win! For you, the battle is a reality, and “Winning means you’re willing to go longer, work harder, and give more than anyone else.” — Vince Lombardi.
  • Benchmark against your villain … you vs. their quantity, quality, or risk. If the battle is one of quantity, bury your villain beneath output. If the battle is one of quality, bury your villain beneath value. If the battle is one of risk, bury your villain beneath resolve.
  • Beware the anti-library. In his spectacular book The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes unread books (i.e., your “anti-library”) this way: “Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. … You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books.” It’s a great passage, but it neglects to mention the infinity of scholarship and the danger of trapping oneself in the accumulation of knowledge.
  • Focus on know-how, not knowing. It’s in the velocity of learning where vulnerability arises, in the ego of readership — proving one’s intellect by stacking titles — or in the fear of missing out … i.e., the FOMO of things unlearned. But consider the greater value of learning one thing (at the extreme) per year, committing to it deeply, and moving beyond mere theory and absorption. There is greater value in small knowledge practiced than there is in large knowledge amassed.

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