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Embracing mediocrity


"Every life seems to strive to its maximum except human beings. How tall will a tree grow? As tall as it possibly can. Human beings, on the other hand, have been given the dignity of choice. You can choose to be all or you can choose to be less. Why not stretch up to the full measure of the challenge and see what all you can do?"
- Jim Rohn

Stephen Dubner, the co-author of Freakonomics, when asked to describe what mediocrity is, said "Mediocrity is being content without putting in maximum effort."

Most of what you read today in non-fiction has what Jim Rohn says as one of the core tenets. It is also popularised by startup culture that we are not doing justice to ourselves if we aren't stretching to the maximum and pushing the boundaries to do more and more.

Why is this?

The natural tendency in a capitalist culture is to not be content with the status quo and to keep striving for more, to keep pushing the boundaries. Not being content is the new content. Have you had days where you just lie around and not do anything and not feel guilty at the end of it (or during)? I can't remember the last time I had such a day. Not a day where I did nothing, of course. But a day where I did nothing and didn't feel guilty about it.

Naturally, mediocrity, as defined by Stephen Dubner, is the antithesis of capitalist culture. Mediocrity is not something people aspire for. It is something that people find themselves in and desperately think, 'How can I get out of this?'. And yet, ask a kid in class picking courses the criteria for why she selects a certain course and you will likely hear that it takes the least effort to get good grades in that course. Of course, you will always have oddballs that take up something because they actually like it, but they are not representative of capitalist culture.

And that is precisely what mediocrity is. Choosing to put in the least effort that will let one be content. If more and more people embraced mediocrity, the consumer economy will fall on it's head. The reason you have every item one can buy at every possible price point is simply so that people at any level can be allowed to stretch themselves to get that much better.

Perhaps mediocrity isn't a bad thing at all. Perhaps we can embrace it. 

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