A while ago my good friend Scott was telling me about this amazing couple he met at Harvard. The husband graduated Harvard with Masters in law and business, moved on to become the CEO of a billion dollar company, was an accomplished pianist had three lovely children with his beautiful wife who was a doctor and chief resident at one of the top hospitals ….ya da ya da ya da.
And as Scott spoke about this couple and their imminent move to Shanghai where they were going to raise their children to prepare them for a brave new world, I started to smile.
“What’s so funny,” Scott asked.
He stopped and I laughed as I said,
“I’m just thinking about how they would describe me?”
Mediocrity is contagious
I made a joke about how mediocre and underachieved I felt compared to this couple. I mean …. Jesus … they achieved success at everything from sports, academics, business, romance, family and were now heading off to a new self-created adventure.
Most people aren’t like that, and it’s a curious thing that instead of being drawn to people who have this kind of achievement, we seem to be repelled by them, as if they have something that we don’t want.
Most of us are drawn to people like ourselves, people who look the same, dress the same, have the same academic standards, and earn similar incomes.
Yet we claim to want more, but how can we if we don’t move closer to the people who know how to produce what we want?
Inertia keeps us stuck
We stay stuck with our current structures of habits, friends, jobs and conversations.
We stay stuck also because we think that those people are somehow essentially different from us. And it’s easy to believe that because when you listen to the stories of successful people they fall into one of two camps:
The Golden Spooners
The members of this apparent golden spoon group always were successful; seems they were born that way. They were the ones that had the lemonade stands at seven, went into publishing at thirteen, made the all star team, served their country and became a four star general along the way (while getting their college education), married their college sweetheart, and graduated to become a captain of industry or a head of state. It seems that each success they had, just led to others.
Their successes don’t inspire us because we don’t see ourselves in their life story. We didn’t start out in business at seven, and we didn’t make the team. We smoked pot and chased girls, we didn’t serve our country, we asked “Would you like fries with that?”
At our age (if you’re in your 40’s and up … hell even if you’re in your 30’s) we think there’s no way we could begin to accumulate that kind of success. So we marvel at them, but ‘know’ it’s not possible for us. These people were lucky/gifted/blessed with the golden spoon or Midas touch.
The Rock Bottoms
Then there’s another group of successful people that either had a completely crappy life or suffered some extreme circumstance, and they hit rock bottom. They almost over-dosed in a crack house, were so depressed they attempted suicide, gambled their wife away in Vegas, … you get the picture.
But then at that moment when they almost, or indeed lost it all, they made a decision, had an epiphany that prompted them to write the book, screenplay, start a company, give their life to feed the hungry or whatever and from that moment they became famous and successful.
You’d think this group would inspire us to get moving but they don’t. While we do find ourselves a bit more in this group we don’t see ourselves as ever having been as messed up as they were, and we get that it was because of their rotten life, because of their hitting rock bottom that their life turned around.
We know that’s never going to happen to us.
We’re way to responsible and normal for us to get suicidal or gamble away our life savings. We’ll never have that kind of motivation.
So we stay stuck
So we stay stuck (but content) with our average lives.
We tell ourselves that we have a good life and that we really don’t want anything more. We resign ourselves to our average circumstances because we believe that even though getting more out of life is possible for other people, it’s not possible for us.
What we need are new heroes
What we need are new heroes, heroes that represent the rise from mediocrity. No drug addiction, slave trading, Lehman brothers past; no innate talent, no history of continuous success either; just a past of averageness.
Just and average Joe or Jane who read a few books, went to a couple seminars maybe, and just decided that s/he had had enough mediocrity and was going to achieve his or her dreams.
And actually did it.
Now that would be a hero for the masses
Now there’s someone people could relate to. No distortions of the past, to make it look more successful than it was, just embracing a past life for what it was—average—and choosing to be excellent instead.
That’s a story everyone can relate to. Now there’s no excuse. You could do it to.
I intend to be one such hero
Bit presumptuous maybe, but bold declarations are the beginning of bold achievements.
I’m aiming for excellence, which I won’t attain, but I’ll be escaping my own mediocrity.
I’m not starting a music career, or curing cancer or anything so grand. I’m just harnessing a passion of mine to help people.
At a practical level I’m just using my love of lifelong learning, to provide people with the help they need to get more out of their lives.
Wish me luck. If I succeed at fulfilling my dream, anyone can, and you’ll have no excuse.
And that means you’ll have to start giving mouth-to-mouth to the dreams you’ve given up for dead. There’s life in them yet.