There is something about entrepreneurs that makes us believe that we can do things differently… better. This motivation is what wakes us up at sunrise and keeps us glued to our inboxes, spreadsheets, and phones until after midnight. It is the superhuman energy that provides confidence, humility, relentless drive and minds that race a mile a minute. We’re always thinking of something that we could be doing- all of the time. It is what generates excellence.
The feeling is great but I am realizing that this driving force can be easy to lose when you’re surrounded by people who… well… people who don’t work that hard. Attention aspiring entrepreneurs!!!! Mediocrity is everywhere and it is highly contagious.
I am not joking.
Preface: I have been spoiled. I have had the immense pleasure of having some extraordinary clients, business partners and now artist (the more experience I get, the more I realize how extraordinary this really is.) They have been passionate, responsible, reliable, detail-oriented and completely dedicated to their craft. Everyone I have worked with has been this way… up until now. I have now entered a world where halfhearted effort, sluggish work ethic and mediocrity are the norm. When you are surrounded by effort at 50% it becomes very tempting to operate at 70% and blow everyone away. However, I am trying hard to nip this in the bud before I catch the plague and plunge into business failure. There are four ways that have been helping me that I hope will help others avoid this destructive disease:
TOP FOUR SYMPTOMS OF MEDIOCRITY
Mediocrity sufferers tend to make one-line email responses a habit. There are definitely busy times that call for a quick “Sure, no problem” reply but if you cannot recall the last time you expounded upon an idea, suggestion or statement in a message, you may be a carrier. I sometimes get caught up in this pattern and catch myself avoiding full sentences and well-developed thoughts. However, I recently decided to set a standard for my emails by, at least, including a greeting (Hello, Hi, Dear, etc.), one complete sentence (“Ok” doesn’t count) and closing (Thanks, Cheers, Best.) It may seem trivial but everything you say is a part of your brand, no matter who you are talking to or about. An extra 30 seconds can set you apart.
Avoiding this one can be a challenge. It is so easy to point fingers especially when it is indeed someone else’s job to handle a certain responsibility. When others are pointing fingers, it makes it even more difficult not to join the blame-game but in reality, it is a mediocre way of avoiding responsibility. Who cares whose job it is; if it is affecting you, your brand, your company and in my case, my artist, I need to get it done. To avoid catching this symptom, I recently wrote the following saying on my dry-erase board: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. It helps.
Logic can always make sense and that’s what makes it particularly hazardous in mediocre situations. I have been starting to condition myself to set off a loud alarm in my head anytime I catch myself providing a logical reason why something went wrong, didn’t happen, didn’t go as planned, or, worst of all, wasn’t my responsibility.
An event was recently lined up for an artist I am managing and it did not go well. The artist was supposed to host a hot nightclub party but on the night of the event, there was barely anyone there, the DJ was rude and the timing was off. Initially, I, along with the rest of my team, became very frustrated and ranted about the people who were in charge of the event. Amidst my logical tirade (it was in fact their job), I suddenly realized I actually should have seen it coming. I was an event planner for eight years. Had I gone into the situation as a shrewd entrepreneur and seasoned event producer, I would have spotted the glaring holes a mile away, before it happened. Instead, I was more concerned with focusing on the fact that it “wasn’t my job” and couldn’t wait until I showed up and saw the failure to let people know what should have happened. See where I am going with this? Logic is a killer, especially when you outsmart yourself.
This leads me to the number one, most vicious, most violently contagious symptom of mediocrity…
This has honestly been the BIGGEST hurdle to avoid on this road; there is a ton of complaining that goes on in the world and boy is it easy to hop on that train.
Like logic, complaining will usually feel justified. The way I have tried to combat this popular mediocre pastime is by constantly challenging myself to identify what is not being done and do something to make it happen. The tricky part then becomes checking up on whoever should be doing it without offending and potentially shutting the person down, even though the task should have been handled already. This forces me to think about everything differently. If something isn’t happening then I haven’t done a good enough job of communicating its importance. This approach can be hard to swallow but it is the best way to avoid the complaining bug.
GOOD NEWS: There is a cure!
Stay honest. Sometimes the biggest antidote for mediocrity is admitting you are being mediocre. Swallowing pride has been tough for me, especially when I am surrounded by people with very large egos, who will rather die than swallow theirs. At the end of the day, however, this is the only way to be greater than mediocrity.
It isn’t about “beating” anyone, it is about integrity. I quit my 9-5 job and created the possibility of being an extraordinary entrepreneur doing what I love, helping others, gaining wealth and working hard in an authentic and principled way. I made a commitment to achieving this and only this. This means I must be honest and own any instance in which I may be one-lining, blame-gaming, logic-fying or complaining in order to avoid taking responsibility. Getting caught up in other people’s commitments to shirking duties, exploiting, power tripping, belittling or any other mediocre agenda item, only derails my awesome journey.
Bottom line: Staying away from mediocrity is a decision. I may have caught a few contagious symptoms of it once or twice already, but today I have decided that I will be excellent.
“Mediocrity will always try to drag excellence down to its level. Don’t trade your superiority for their inferiority.”