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It is possible to take a path that will lead you nowhere — well, nowhere you want to be in life. This path you accidentally take is a result of a few small decisions. They are decisions you make all the time which you might brush off or not even be conscious of.
They can be excuses or little sayings that repeat in your head or decisions you don’t see as life-changing when they might be.
I walked down the path of mediocrity for years. I woke up every day feeling like I wasn’t the right person. It felt weird. All of my hopes remained hopes and any opportunities for “something else” were ignored.
Here are the problems that lead you to mediocrity, and you might see them show up in your life.
“Don’t feel like it”
95% of the time I don’t feel like writing (the other five percent is when I experience unemployment, the death of a loved one or heartbreak — these are the times I can’t stop writing because it’s therapy).
I watched a documentary recently about a CrossFit champion named Froning, who, in 2015, was the fittest man on Earth. Throughout the film you see his training regime and family life on display. What shocked me was that he started a lot of workouts “not feeling like it.”
After events he could be found yawning and feeling tired — and even being over CrossFit and wanting a break. Just like me, often, he didn’t feel like it. But what made him the fittest man in the world was his ability to show up when he didn’t feel like it and get started. Once he began training, his body would follow and he’d go from not feeling like it to being in the zone.
The path to mediocrity is letting “the not feeling like it” feeling be an excuse.
“Be the best”
People always tell us throughout our lives to be the best. A question that helped me was “Be the best to who?” You don’t want to be the best in everyone’s eyes and you can’t even if you try.
Trying to impress everybody is an impossible dream that will make you go crazy.
It drives many people in the corporate world to go crazy and become toxic leaders who come to work only for the status symbol of their paycheck.
Quality is subjective
This “be the best” nonsense shows up in the writing world all the time. Writers ask other writers for feedback on their work and expect to be told it is good or bad. But writing, like any pursuit in life, is subjective.
A story about my 104-year-old grandmother might be helpful for one person and sound like ancient stoic trash wisdom from Marcus Aurelius to another person. Neither person is right or wrong.
“The best” in any sense is only relevant to where you are on your life’s timelines. The best today might be unhelpful and useless when you’re forty.
What you see right now might be the best until you discover a new best.
I used to admire Michael Jordan as a kid, then Daft Punk as a teenager, then Tony Robbins as a twenty-year-old, and now people like Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss as a thirty-something wannabe writer. All of these people were the best in my eyes when they needed to be. The same is true in your life.
The Broad Approach
When we try to do everything, we achieve minimal results.
Your life’s work is to curate: skills, people, thoughts, experiences.
I get emails all the time with ten links to different resources because the sender didn’t take the time to curate one link that would make my day awesome.
In our careers, we meet people who have tried their hand at way too many businesses. They jump from one to another and never land anywhere. They are always onto the next thing rather than focusing on the one thing.
The path to mediocrity is *not* actively curating and therefore confusing people you meet with a broad approach to nothing.
Doing Small Things Right Doesn’t Matter — Focus on the Big Things
I never used to make my bed or do the dishes. My home office was a mess and the boot of my car looked like a charity auction for small kids in fluro t-shirts.
These cleaning chores were the small things. I didn’t do them, or when I did, bother to do them right. They didn’t matter. Later in life I realized that how you do the small things is how you do the big things.
If I didn’t take the time as a twenty-year-old to do the small things like making the bed, how, as a musician, at the time, was I ever going to do the big things like producing a Grammy Award Winning Song? Well, I never did.
My brain was always obsessed with the big things and therefore, I never spent the time doing the small things like saying yes to DJing for twenty people or noticing the small innate sounds in the background of my music that were distracting from the thumping electro house beat.
The real magic in the small things is their meditative power.
The small things, like washing the dishes, take your mind off the big stuff that can, at times, weigh you down and make you want to give up.
The path to mediocrity is being so obsessed with the big things that you never spend a ridiculous amount of time on the small things that produce all the results after you spend more than 10,000 hours doing them.
Now is not the time to accidentally walk down the path of mediocrity and be separated from where you want to be in life. Keep going when you don’t feel like it, be the best you can be to the people that matter and remember quality is subjective, curate every part of your life and remove unwanted waste, and do the small things well.
Nobody is born mediocre. We make tiny decisions each day that lead us down the path we call “unsuccessful” and that means we are in control and can course correct.