As usual, I was dazzled by the Olympics. So this may sound strange, but I’ve been thinking about the joys of mediocrity lately.
I’ve competed in archery off and on for quite a few years, and my skills are to the Olympics what a tricycle is to a 1966 Corvette Stingray with a 427 big-block. I’m only good enough to get an inkling of the tremendous physical and mental preparation necessary for Olympic-level archery.
The thing is, there’s such a small margin between an Olympic gold medal and last place, we don’t really get a sense of perspective. When all the competitors are world-class, missing by a fraction of an inch or a few hundredths of a second looks like failure. Just for giggles, the IOC should invite a few ordinary weekend warriors to compete in the qualifying rounds of the Olympics. You know, like a pro-am. Then we’d understand how amazing even the last-place Olympic finishers are, compared to the average joe.
So hats off to the Olympians… but I’m celebrating “average” this week.
Mediocrity lands me square in the middle of the pack. Even though I’m worse than half the field, I’m still better than the other half. Nobody hates me for being too good or despises me for failing. And when I don’t excel, hey, I’m just doing my part to make those top guys look good.
Excellence takes a hell of a lot of time and effort and commitment. Mediocrity isn’t nearly as much work. I love variety, so it’s far more fun for me to do lots of things more or less competently than to practice one thing long enough to do it perfectly (which probably explains my mistake-ridden piano playing and Bob-Ross-style oil painting).
And best of all, the phenomenon of illusory superiority kicks in at some point, too. (Oversimplified definition: If you’re not very good at something, you tend to think you’re better at it than you actually are.)
I’m not going to analyze that theory too closely because it might damage my happy illusions about my own competence. I’m just going to say that with mediocrity, I can relax and enjoy. If I end up winning, great. If not? Well, no surprise. I get to have fun either way. Granted, it sucks to end up in last place, but what the hell, somebody’s gotta come in last.
I realize this attitude makes me sound like a lazy slacker. Don’t get me wrong, I do my best and I’m always trying to improve. But “my best” means I work out 4 to 6 hours a week, not 4 to 6 hours a day. I like having a life.
I have tremendous respect for the Olympic athletes. Citius Altius Fortius is an admirable motto. But ya know what? “Good enough” is good enough for me.
Now, who wants to join me while I suck back a cold one and watch TSN?