Are you finding success overwhelming? Reaching too many goals? Is your rapid ascension to self actualization just not your thing? Are you looking for less out of life? Something safer, more predictable? Well, you’re not alone. I too have become tired of success and have found being a better version of myself rather lacking. I’ve had the privilege to spend time with some master mediocres (true masters of mediocrity) and I, myself, have worked hard to implement their strategies into my own life. I truly believe that anyone can master mediocrity. Whether you’re working for minimum wage at a office supply store or playing professional sports I believe that you are fully capable of developing the skills, habits and mentality of a master mediocre.What follows are, what I’ve found to be, the most effective strategies to gain mastery of mediocrity.
- Manage your effort. Mediocrity is not an external judgement placed on another person. No one but you has the insight into your life to know how much effort you put toward a task. You could live in the van pictured above because it’s the best non-mediocre choice you have. Or you could live in the van because other options cause too much brain damage. Only you know your own effort in light of your own circumstances. Master mediocres are acutely aware of this reality and own that results are measured externally thus they can meet or exceed expectations with minimal efforts if they choose environments and tasks effectively. They are able to blend into a wide variety of high achieving environments without ever breaking a sweat. Take a cue from master mediocres and keep this mantra in mind, “Why stand in the sun when you can sit in the shade?”
- Embrace entertainment. I’ve never met a master medicore that spends less than 10hrs a week watching television. Strive to dedicate 2hrs a day to television. Knowing this goal may be difficult to achieve, give yourself the freedom to take two days off a week as you get used to it. This kind of discipline will take some time to develop. A few tips to truly embrace entertainment: avoid news, documentaries or educational television, steer clear of most books as well. These will only distract you from the much needed time your brain and body needs to decompress.
- Set easily achievable goals. Master mediocres never, and I mean, NEVER, set the bar too high. The most effective mediocres I know are highly aware of their own limits and are keen at establishing goals well within reach while those goals are perceived as accomplishment by others. For some goals using the words “couple”, “few” and “more” are very useful. For example: I’d like to lose a few pounds. I’ll read a couple of books a month. I’ll work to be more timely to the office. For other goals, just know your limits. You know you can run a 10k, but a half marathon is a stretch. Stick with the 10k (even better if you’re surrounded by people who only run 5ks, but I’m getting ahead of myself…see #5).
- Keep moving…but not too fast. Let me be very clear, sloth and mediocrity are not the same. Don’t get those confused. Master mediocres go about their business and are active in wide varieties of work, social, and familial life. Master mediocres often move up in their work hierarchies, have long term relationships, are involved in their faith communities and join a variety of recreational activities. Mastering mediocrity is not only about managing effort (point #1),but also about managing perceptions. By continuing to move well within your ability you will continue to accomplish things others count as successful. Just do it at a pace you know you can manage.
- Specialize and be the best. These two sound contrary to the mediocre agenda, but hear me out. Specialization is a key aspect of a master mediocre’s world. Specialization provides a level of eliteness to a master mediocre that others don’t question. The key here is to do something others cannot do as well, specifically, something others in your sphere of influence, cannot do as well. Master mediocres have a unique ability to do something in an organization or group that no one else does. Specialization truly allows a master mediocre to thrive by providing something useful to others while maintaining their ability to manage their effort. Just as important to the master mediocre is being elite within their group. There’s no need to be the best in the world, just be the best of the people around you. You don’t have to be the best you can be, just better than the people you know.
- Wait your turn. Master mediocres have an open door policy. Master mediocres know when they’re near their limit of capacity. They know when the next step will involve risk. It’s here when the master mediocre holds the line, manages surroundings and waits for an open door, for someone to pull them through to the next level, waiting until it’s sure. It’s waiting until you know for sure that you’re liked before you ask someone out on date. Waiting to be sure you have a good idea before publishing it. Waiting for your higher ups to pull you through to a promotion. It’s placing trust in fate to do its work to give you your turn. Don’t go knocking down any doors. Wait for the open door, then step through.
- Share responsibility. No, this does not mean give all your work to someone else. It’s a matter of sharing and at times delegating responsibility. Master mediocres are adept at share responsibility with those around them. The most highly masterful mediocres have an incredible ability to share responsibility up. This is not the same as dodging blame. Not at all. Instead, it’s a skill that master mediocres develop allowing blame to fall on multiple shoulders. Where master mediocres set themselves apart is that they’re able to share blame for failures, but maintain credit for success. By sharing responsibility, someone else, ideally higher up, shares blame thus lightening your load. But that same higher up ends up having to share credit when things go well. This keeps master mediocres free from solely carrying the brunt of negative attention and gaining some of the positive. Master mediocres are aware that negatives are far more damaging than a lack of positives.
- Stay. Master mediocres stay. They wait it out. They stay with what works. Search and rescue teams will tell you the worst thing you can do when you’re lost is to keep moving. They’ll tell you to stay put. Master mediocres not only know how to wait their turn, they know how to stay. Stay with the familiar. Stay with safety. Stay with security. Master mediocres embrace the idiom, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. Master mediocres stay with what they know, in places they know, with people they know. They stay in environments and with information that supports what they know and believe. New places, new information, new thoughts all divert the course to mediocrity mastery.
- Manage relationships. Master mediocres are not only masterful at managing their effort, but are also gifted at managing their relationships. Managing relationships is one of the most important tasks of a master mediocre and ties together many of the above keys to success. Managing relationships frees a master mediocre to do life on their terms. Master mediocres are especially skilled at surrounding themselves with people who want them around, who are willing to share responsibility for failures, who will provide open doors and who will accept the subtle place of inferiority. Master mediocres thrive in trusting environments and work to manage relationships to develop trust in their favor. Master mediocres are able to be just enough for others while getting all they need for themselves. Look for people and environments that embrace you for the minimal effort you put out while giving you all of who they are. You’ll find a long term place in this kind of environment.
- Dream small miss small. Master mediocres not only set easily achievable goals (#2), but they are sure to allow practicality and security to overshadow their dreams. In the movie The Patriot Mel Gibson’s character, Benjamin Martin, coaches his sons on shooting saying, “aim small, miss small”. The idea here is the smaller the target, even if you miss you’ still accomplish what you set out to do. Unlike setting easily achievable goals, dream small miss small is not about managing others’ perception. It’s about managing internal anxiety. Master mediocres dream small in order to minimize discontent. Master mediocres believe that by dreaming of changing the world you won’t be satisfied with what you’re doing now. By dreaming of running your own company you won’t be satisfied with your current role. By dreaming of a great adventure, boredom will haunt you. By dreaming of a deeply intimate and fulfilling marriage, mundane and distant days will derail you. Instead, master mediocres allow easily achievable goals to serve as substitutes for big dreams. Think of how you can articulate your dreams in a dream small miss small framework. By doing so, you’ll save yourself heartache and discontent.
Whether you’re a neophyte or a master mediocre these 10 things will serve you well to develop and maintain mediocrity in all aspects of your life. If you’re struggling to incorporate any of these 10 things into your daily life, please reach out for help. Surround yourself with a community of people who will support you as you incorporate mediocrity into your own life. Find a friend or family member to hold you accountable to developing these keys to mediocrity. Finally, I’m available here on this blog to support you on your journey toward becoming a master mediocre and will respond to questions you may have along the way.