The Joy Of Mediocrity

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?

34 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Life

34 responses to “The Joy Of Mediocrity

  1. “Nobody hates me for being too good or despises me for failing.” That’s a perfectly expressed justification for striving to improve — while not giving in to obsession. Great post, Diane.

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  2. Me! I’ll join you! I don’t drink beer but I’ll have a cold coke 😉
    I completely agree with you on mediocrity and having fun is the most important!
    I think I shall make you my guru for mediocrity.
    As for that “illusions of being better than you actually are”….I’m following your lead not to look into that too deeply too! As it is I have issues with self doubts!

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  3. Diane, I think that if you are good at something, great! If not, you can always get better if you want to! As long as you enjoy doing what you do, and do it in the way that you do it, that is!!!
    Like you say, we’re not all Olympians, but we’re all good at something.

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  4. Goo laugh, Diane

    Mediocrity is ok, but what worries me it that half the people in this country are below average. I mean, can’t the government do something?

    Cheers!

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  5. Inga Hinnerichsen

    A few years ago I looked up the bio of one of the hosts on CKUA, Baba. I loved his very early morning show! I’m not a morning person, but there were times, too many of them, when I had to crank out overtime in the wee hours of the morning. Grrrrrr. In his bio on the CKUA website he said that his goal in life was to be average. Average = mediocre. Brilliant! Only don’t slip much below average. I once was in a race walk competition, came in as 335 in a field of about 650. Perfect. Add to that the movie “As good as it gets” and you have instantly eliminated any trace of stress from your life. The Achieve Mentality sucks a big wienie. I am blissfully retired in mediocrity. Cheers!

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    • Right on! Life’s too short to kill yourself doing something you don’t enjoy. And, yeah, I remember doing all-nighters, too. That was back in the days when I believed business was more important than my life. I’m all better now… 🙂

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  6. Once again we are in complete agreement. As you say, I like having a life. A life that includes appreciating the extreme efforts of others as I watch them while enjoying a cocktail.

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  7. As a young man, I had delusions of grandeur.
    As an old man, I have delusions of adequacy.

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  8. ummmm, I know I read this post from top to bottom, but I completely forgot what it was about other than it was something about archery. In other words, its just too much distraction going on with this blog!! You CANNOT bring up “1966 Corvette Stingray with a 427 big-block” and expect readers to focus on the rest of the stuff. I like the modern zr1, but oh my *&^^%$@ the gen2 and gen3 vettes! We certainly don’t build them like we used to……what was this post about again? lol

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  9. I salute you and your mediocrity, Diane. I will happily join you in being “good enough.” But if you paint like Bob Ross, you’re already way ahead of me. I don’t think I could ever get those happy little trees and happy little clouds right.

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  10. I am completely fine with being mediocre at some things but will work like a dog to excel at others. I guess we pick and choose where to spend our efforts. Especially as we get older. Or at least, that’s the case for me. 🙂

    By the way, do you have the revised version of “Never Say Spy” yet? I had purchased the Kindle book awhile back, and you said to wait until you have the updated version ready. Maybe you mentioned it in a previous post, but apparently, retaining blog information is something I’m mediocre at. 😉

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    • Hi Carrie – You’re right, some things are definitely worth major effort!

      And speaking of which, the updated version of Never Say Spy is out. I emailed you a couple of weeks ago at the email address you provided with your comments, but I guess it didn’t go through. I’m really sorry about that.

      Here’s the link to it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005V6BP02. If you have any problems, just drop me a note on my About Me page, and I’ll email it you directly. (It’s safe to include your email address on the contact form because it doesn’t show up publicly – it just comes directly to me).

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      • That’s weird–I didn’t receive that email. Was it my gmail address you sent it to? I just went and checked my spam file and didn’t see it in there either. I clicked on the Amazon link, but by getting it from there, I’d have to pay for it again. I’ll send you a note on your about page. Thanks. 🙂

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        • I’m sorry, I misguided you with the link to the book (brain… almost… working…)

          You should be able to re-download it without paying. If you go to http://www.amazon.com and scroll right to the bottom of the page, there’s a “Manage Your Kindle” link under “Let Us Help You”. Then you can choose “Deliver to…” from the Actions list for the book. Once it’s on your Kindle, you’ll know you have the updated version when you go to the cover and then move forward one page. It will say “Kindle Edition v.3”.

          I’m sending you an email, too, so if you don’t get it, let me know. (Don’t you looooove technology?)

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  11. I’m so-so at sucking back cold ones, and sucky at TSN-watching. Does that count? 🙂

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