The fear of mediocrity

There is something I fear more than anything. I see it all around me, but only sometimes it raises its ugly head to shred my mental stability into pieces. That fear is the fear of mediocrity, of having lived a life that most people live on this planet.

Fear can be a good motivational tool, if understood and handled well. For example, the fear of failing can be a really bad thing or a really good thing, it depends on how you approach it. But the fear of mediocrity is unique. It can be a very powerful motivator but one that comes at a heavy price.

The problem with this fear is that those who suffer from it need to toughen up more than anyone else. If not, then it can be so exhausting that one would rather accept mediocrity than face it head-on.

There is no golden bullet to be able to overcome it. The only way to deal with it is to travel this slow, arduous, often difficult uphill journey. I am not kidding when I say that those characteristics are the only ones that signify to me that I am fighting mediocrity. That I am doing what I can to overcome this fear. Otherwise, which is most of the time, I am clueless about whether I am heading in the right direction or not. All I know is that if it seems slow, arduous, and difficult, then I should keep going.

The constancy of this fear is what enables those who are ready to overcome it to do remarkable things. That constancy is absolutely necessary for this to happen. It’s because mediocrity is all around you. Being mediocre, by definition, means being average. When you are surrounded by what makes up the average, if you don’t have that constant itch, you will succumb to being average.

Of course, depending on who you are surrounded by, your definition of mediocre might change. It is something you should be careful about because that can act as a double-edged sword. If you are surrounded by low achievers, then the smallest achievement can be very satisfying. But on the other hand, if you are surrounded by high achievers then the fear of mediocrity can propel you to heights no one has ever achieved.

To end on a lighter note though, here is a conversation between a carton of milk and a muffin. Guess what they are talking about? The fear of mediocrity, of course.

About Akshat Rathi

Akshat Rathi is a senior reporter for Bloomberg News. He has previously worked at Quartz, The Economist and The Conversation. His writing has appeared in Nature, The Guardian and The Hindu. He has a PhD in chemistry from Oxford University and a BTech in chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai.
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4 Responses to The fear of mediocrity

  1. Pingback: Cancer Alchemy and Yoga. « ahimsamaven

  2. Excellent post! Its uncanny as I spent about 3 hours last night talking about the same stuff.
    Mediocrity indeed can be a great motivator but one has to 1st define what is mediocre and whats not. As its a relative term and different for each person. Needless to say once you achieve the later, in no time it become mediocre as well and its a loop.

  3. Pingback: Leadership Thought #329 – Never Settle For Mediocrity « Ed Robinson's Blog

  4. hartsoffice says:

    You and I must be cut from the same cloth!
    When you said,
    “The problem with this fear is that those who suffer from it need to toughen up more than anyone else. If not, then it can be so exhausting that one would rather accept mediocrity than face it head-on.”

    And how you have to fight it, and it is slow and arduous, that is EXACTLY how I feel and have to deal with this overwhelming urge and anxiety to battle this monster of being mediocre. I think the fear, and anxiety of it are part of why I slide back all the time, not willing to fight head on.

    An inspired post! Thank you so much!

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