How to Beat Mediocrity

personal development Jan 26, 2022
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Mediocrity is a fascinating word. How do you define it?

For me, to be mediocre is to settle for the seductive sufficiency of the status quo. Things are neither good nor bad. Everything, including you, is just fine the way it is.

But the etymology of the word provides additional juiciness.

Mediocre comes from two Latin roots: medius, meaning middle, and ocris, meaning rugged mountain. To be mediocre then is to be in the middle of a rugged mountain. That metaphorical mountain may be the task at hand or your life in general. Regardless, mediocrity is an invitation you don't have to accept.

I like to think of mediocrity as being between two mountains. The first mountain is the mountain we climb early in life. This mountain is the one we climb to define ourselves through achievement. We identify through success, status, and stuff.

That may sound shallow, but our institutions and systems encourage climbing the first mountain. Some go their whole lives believing this is the only mountain to climb. I know I climbed this mountain longer than I like to admit.

As David Brooks points out in his book, The Second Mountain, there's another peak we can ascend if we choose to see and scale it. This second mountain is the mountain of fulfillment, where we identify through soul, sacrifice, and service.

What drives us on the first mountain is lack and the pursuit of happiness. It's an outer-journey driven by our unconscious or subconscious. Our life's first act begins on the first mountain.

Climbing the second mountain is motivated by abundance and the cultivation of joy. It's an inner-journey consciously undertaken. Our life's second act begins on the second mountain.

There are other elements to each mountain, of course. Also worth noting is that most of us can't find the second mountain until we spend some time climbing the first. Finally, it's easy to settle for mediocrity halfway up either peak.

Which mountain are you on? how high will you climb?


Scott Perry, Chief Difference-Maker at Creative on Purpose

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