Mediocrity is the cousin of relativism.
“We are not the fastest, but we are not the slowest.”
“We don’t have the best service, but we are better than most.”
“We are not the market leaders, but at least we are not last.”
“I’m not the best dad in the world, but I’m not the worst.”
Relativism is the crutch that mediocre people use to get through life.
When Aristotle says “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit,” I’m tempted to say that even mediocrity is not an act but a habit as well.
Only the mediocre are always at their best.
Set the bar low enough and everyone is exceptional.
Excellence does not mean perfection. It means striving to do the best job you possibly can, in everything you do.
It means being open to criticism, and fixing mistakes.
It means learning.
Most importantly, it means chasing absolute goals, and not measuring ourselves against anyone else.
The sad lie of mediocrity is:
Doing 4% less does not get you 4% less.
Doing 4% less may very well get you 95% less.
That is because almost good enough gets you nowhere. No sales, no votes, no customers.
The sad lie of mediocrity is the mistaken belief that partial effort yields partial results.
In fact, the results are usually totally out of proportion to the incremental effort.
Big organisations have the most trouble with this, because they don’t notice the correlation. It is hidden by their momentum and layers of bureaucracy.
So a mediocre phone rep or a mediocre chef may not appear to be doing as much damage as they actually are.
The flip side of this is that when you are at the top, the best in the world, the industry leader, a tiny increase in effort and quality can translate into huge gains. For a while, anyway.
In the Republic of mediocrity, genius is dangerous.