Every day, ordinary working people give up on their dreams and settle for an average life.
Who can blame them?
Average is safe. Average takes no risks, it makes no waves and climbs no mountains, it goes along with the crowd and it’s invisible. But if life is about experiences and challenges then ‘average’ achieves nothing, all you gain is a list of ‘if only’s’ to look back on.
“The more you settle, the more regrets you’re gonna have.”
Sadly too many of us will remain the passenger instead of the driver of our lives. Nothing more than an anonymous cog in a corporate wheel.
“The masses of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau
Many businesses do exactly the same thing. They limp along, without any real vision or passion, content with ‘OK’. Surviving when they could be thriving.
“Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; lick it once and you’ll suck forever” – The Beach Boys
Most of them didn’t start out that way. It gradually crept up on them without ever noticing.
I’ve worked with companies where mediocrity flourished at every level. Employees were paid just enough so that they would not leave and in turn they worked just enough to not get sacked.
The service, the product, the vision and the expectations were all average.
I believe great companies succeed because in the beginning, at least, it wasn’t failure they feared – it was mediocrity.
Fear of failure leads us to play it safe, follow our competitors and constantly watch what others are doing in the marketplace.
Fear of mediocrity leads us to think outside the box, try different stuff and look at things in a different way to everyone else. It makes us actually use the old ’grey cells’ instead of just repeating what everyone else does.
In the beginning
In the beginning of anything new and exciting there is always passion, drive, self-belief, curiosity and a wish to do something great. The possibilities are all there out in front of us.
So what makes so many people and companies settle for the mediocre?
It’s always there lurking in the background, waiting for an opportunity for take over. It can come in the disguise of early success, early failures, setbacks, disappointment and a wish to find the easy way rather than the best way. You can settle into mediocrity because it’s easy, it’s the path of least resistance and convenience.
11 ways to beat that demon ‘mediocrity’
1. Beware success
Now I know that must sound a little strange, after all isn’t success what we want?
But think about it; success too early, too quickly can make you feel over confident, and can breed arrogance. You start saying to yourself “what’s all the fuse about, that was easy”, “we don’t need to work so hard”, “this time next year we’ll be millionaires”.
Then before you know it you’ve taken your foot off the pedal and you start missing opportunities.
Resting on success is a sure way to turn a great company into an average one.
2. Get excited about failure
This is another strange one I know but the early setbacks, and failures, can work to your advantage. They make you think, rethink and reposition. They make you raise the bar and try harder.
3. Go for big and juicy
Set big, juicy, exciting goals but make sure you set a path full of small, juicy, achievable ones along the way.
Celebrate the small wins every time. And if you have a team of people helping, you’ve got to make it something they will benefit from personally.
4. Do stuff differently
Don’t just repeat what everyone else is doing. Do that and you only add to the mediocrity ‘chorus’.
5. Be decisive
Make a decision and take action! Inactivity, indecision and indifference breed mediocrity. Decide and move forward and don’t worry – you can always change it again if it doesn’t work.
Get into the habit of making choices because decisions are progress.
6. Be fearless
It’s safer not to try and most people don’t, whether on a personal level or as a business. When you don’t even try then mediocrity wins by default.
Try it now, launch it now, say it now, do it NOW!
Don’t let fear or failure lead the way. Failure is a necessary stepping-stone to success. It may be one or a series of failures – such as Edison’s 10,000 attempts to create a light bulb or Dyson’s 5,126 attempts to invent a bagless vacuum cleaner.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho
7. Stand for something!
Give your customers, followers and your team something to believe in.
Marketing hype might bring customers to your door, but if there is nothing remarkable about the brand they won’t stay long. Marketing hype wears off easily and what’s left has to be worth staying for.
8. Beware of the ‘what if’s’
‘What if’s’ are important in the development of any idea or business; without them ideas lack research and all important product, market and customer data but, if allowed to take over, they can paralyse us with fear and indecision.
We can spend far too much time over-analysing.
I remember one well known client who would take months to decide on whether the chapter headings in their new brochure should be red or blue. Every possible ‘what if’ any partner, secretary or spouse came up with had to be tested and proven or disproven before the client made a decision.
In the end they never did anything that made them stand out from the norm. They took no risks, made no groundbreaking decisions, and settled for mediocre.
Don’t get me wrong! They had great plans, even a vision for the future that was exciting and unique but that’s all it was – a plan.
9. Be restless
Restless but not impatient. When the going gets tough don’t settle for ‘good enough’. If you’ve reached ‘good’ then going for ‘great’ takes real commitment, passion and drive and if just making profits is the goal, often ‘good’ is enough. The trouble is every time you settle for less than your vision and full potential, you risk slowly slipping into mediocrity.
10. Bin your mission statement
There is a big difference between standing for something and having a mission statement that says you stand for something.
Mission statements are a waste of time! There I’ve said it and I’m not taking it back.
I have helped clients all over the world define and craft their missions statements but, more often than not, they were meaningless.
They should call it: Bla, bla, bla.
Why? Because it’s empty, shallow and it’s meaningless. The chances are it will be full of the same mediocre waffle you will find in any corporate mission statement.
Most of the time business mission statements are full of marketing speak: the same as the competitors, something they thought their customers would want to hear and something that was safe and vague. Believing in it themselves was not important.
Result? A set of words that is cold, clinical, vague and shallow.
11. Write a manifesto
A manifesto has passion, belief, power and intention and manifestos are the ultimate challenge. They make you take a hard look at what you stand for and what your company will stand for. A manifesto has real meaning; real power, and people can get behind them – you, your staff, your suppliers and your customers.
Why? Because a manifesto is a living breath and changing statement – something to live by, not a box ticking exercise. People rally around a manifesto because it is something they can relate to and believe in. It is real, it is attainable, and it strikes a chord. I can guarantee if you compare the mission statement of any 10 FTSE companies they will all say much the same thing.
A manifesto should be a simple and compelling statement of what you stand for and, equally important, what you don’t. It should be from the heart, not with an eye to what you think your customers want to hear, or something that will sell your products.
How? Keep it simple. No marketing jargon or big clever words. Don’t over complicate it. Write it from the heart and make it memorable. Above all, keep it real.
Here are a couple of good ones:
- Ben & Jerry’s: ‘Making the best possible ice cream, in the nicest possible way.’
- Walt Disney: ‘To make people happy.’
- Buzz Lightyear’s motto from the ‘Toy Story’ movie – and if you have children you will know it off by heart – is, “To infinity and beyond”. I even had to stand on the end of our sofa to say that one again.
- Richard Branson suggested Virgin’s should be ‘Screw it, let’s do it!’
Don’t settle for mediocrity!
But at the end of the day it’s up to YOU. Don’t let YOU get in the way of YOUR full potential.