When Mediocrity Reigns

   The dictionary aptly defines mediocrity as “moderate to inferior in quality." Derived from the French term of the same spelling, mediocre literally means “halfway up the mountain.” Insinuating how accepting mediocrity is to fail to achieve one’s objective or fall short of attaining one’s potential.  If I had only one word to capture the essence of this definition I’d offer the term . . . settling.

   Everywhere we look today it is apparent scores of us are content settling. By settling I mean despite our knowing there is a different way or a different plan that could help us move in the direction of our dreams, aspirations, and objectives, we choose instead to disengage and do or say nothing. And why shouldn’t we?  After all, going along with the herd instead of doing something to break from established convention is certainly safe. It keeps us from risking our well thought out career paths, prevents us from disrupting our finely honed promotion plans, or protects us from venturing too far outside our tightly scripted personal lines of responsibility so we can keep our circumstances secure, predictable, and above all, controllable. But any way you try to rationalize it, choosing to consistently settle for less than we are capable of doing and being hurts far more than it ever helps.  
   Now please don’t get me wrong. We have all undoubtedly found ourselves in that awkwardly uncomfortable position of settling at one time or another on this journey we call life. But the real problem occurs when settling becomes the norm. Like a good habit gone bad; an addiction gone wild, the price of settling for mediocrity and refusing to bring our best selves to whatever it is we are doing costs all of us dearly. 
Need proof?
   Economists estimate that an estimated $300 billion is lost every year due to disengaged employees.  Gallup, one of the world’s leading researchers in the area of personal and professional engagement and satisfaction levels, actually calculates the cost of mediocrity to the American economy to be as much as $350 billion per year in lost productivity. 
   Elaborating on these figures, Gallup researchers go on to describe how their findings reveal only 29% of American’s in the workplace today are fully engaged in what they do. Even more startling is the fact these same statistics highlight how 58% of people are content sitting on the sidelines and accepting mediocrity as the norm. Seemingly more interested in being spectators than they are being active contributors to the mission, task, or purpose at hand.
   Of course, a mediocre me mindset doesn’t just impact us at our work. It subtly infiltrates every facet of our lives, lowering our confidence, reducing our willpower, and zapping our motivation. All of which make us prone to do what is safe rather than what is right; doing what is desired instead of what is required; or worrying more about what people may say about us than about doing what is most important to us.  
   Here’s the bottom line: Allowing mediocrity to influence all facets of our lives is insidious and dangerous. In addition to clouding our thinking and hindering our actions, it cultivates doubt for the future, stifles forward motion, and rationalizes away opportunities to innovate, stretch and grow. In simplest terms, mediocrity paralyzes us in place. It convinces us to ignore the warnings in our lives so the status quo can have its way with us. Leading us to abdicate responsibility for taking the initiative to promote the positive change we want to see occur in our surroundings.  
   Begging the question, which warnings might you may be missing in your personal or professional life at this moment?

(This post is derived from my forthcoming book, Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo Will Propel You from Ordinary to Extraordinary, and is currently available at all major online booksellers and will arrive in bookstores March 12, 2013).

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John Michel
experienced leader, humanitarian, visioneer, and renown status quo buster,
is the author of the ground breaking book:
Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo will Propel you from Ordinary to Extraordinary
Check out his blog at www.MediocreMe.com or drop him a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.