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Thread: The Mediocrity Trap

  1. #1

    Default The Mediocrity Trap

    As of recent I've begun to realise how average I am. Never excelled in anything in my life, always being just above average when compared to a "normal" human, but never exceptional at anything. Going to uni now, but I'm behind schedule and this is only week one while giving it the best I can, stuck as a musician since forever (haven't made progress in three years), terrible at doing let's plays (yes, I did that. Don't judge), so many things I wanna start doing, but I just can't shake off the idea that I'll never be truly amazing or memorable. Just average.

    I can't deal with that idea. I can't accept that I'll never be remembered for my abilities, even though I can do nothing to change my mediocrity. I'm in a mental prison I can't get out of. I'll forever be below what I want to be. It's very much a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't know if I'll ever be able to be the person I want to be and it's killing me from the inside, especially when I see others doing things effortlessly. I want to be the best I can be and that does not seem to align with what I want out of life.

    Anyone feeling the same? Or am I just being pretentious?

  2. #2


    Honestly dude, give yourself a break. It does sound as though you are creating that mediocre self fulfilling prophesy you mentioned. Perhaps you need to narrow your goals slightly and go a little more gently on yourself.

    Have you really given any thought to where this feeling is coming from....who built those unrealistic expectations, was it you or perhaps someone else. Also, is it you or someone else that you feel you need to impress.

    I'm an artist and I think I actually do ok, and I am a perfectionist also, and although I wish I was the next Picasso, thankfully I'm feeling ok if im not.

    Perhaps try and focus on the pleasure you can gain from the talents you already possess, even if they may not shatter the universe.

  3. #3


    It's something I've been having trouble with the last few months. It's hard to just give myself a break, especially because doing so would mean lowering the standards, which leads to this quote I came up with a month ago or so:
    "To accept mediocrity is to admit defeat"

    I know exactly where it comes from and if the person who reads this comes across this, which I doubt, know this is not personal. Someone close to me I saw living life in the fast lane, having done literally everything I ever wanted to do and more, being their full potential, while being only 5 months older. I've seen it's possible to have nothing and crawl to the top. I don't want be a part of the common, forgotten folk. I wanna make something of myself. I've only got one shot at it and I need to do it with the lemons that have been thrown at me. The problem is that this person literally has the IQ to single-handedly put a rocket on the moon, so I'm comparing myself to someone out of my league, an expression which I hate, because this person is still a human being just like me, so you'd think that whatever person X can do, person Y can do as well.

    I just can't stand being nowhere, being no one. Why must I be this way? How do people settle for less than they want?

  4. #4


    Success may be more about how we project what we have to the world than doing nothing because we fear mediocrity.

    You should always aim to be better, to reach higher and never settle for mediocrity, but never underestimate the power of your influence on others. After all, you've encouraged me to embrace your cause. Because your questioning has actually, led me to believe in your passion for success. Seriously, a passion well placed is far more powerful than talents wasting away in the dark.

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by FinnTheSnuggly View Post
    I just can't stand being nowhere, being no one. Why must I be this way? How do people settle for less than they want?
    Well, what is it that you really want to be? Everyone is mediocre or rather average at most things. Very, very few people are able to be outstanding at one thing, and even less are able to achieve excellence in more than one area of life. If you just want to be "famous" but you don't care what for, then make a humiliating but hilarious viral Youtube clip of yourself - any of us would have a head start on that one ;-)

    When questions like this come up, there is a quote I always think of from Rise of the Meritocracy 1870-2033:

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Young
    The classless society would be one which both possessed and acted upon plural values. Were we to evaluate people, not only according to their intelligence and their education, their occupation, and their power, but according to their kindness and their courage, their imagination and sensitivity, their sympathy and generosity, there could be no classes. Who would be able to say that the scientist was superior to the porter with admirable qualities as a father, the civil servant with unusual skill at gaining prizes superior to the lorry-driver with unusual skill at growing roses? The classless society would also be a tolerant society, in which individual differences were actively encouraged as well as passively tolerated, in which full meaning was given to the dignity of man. Every human being would then have equal opportunity, not to rise up in the world in the light of any mathematical measure, but to develop his own special capacities for leading a rich life.
    You shouldn't aspire to be something simply because that's what society thinks is good if it's not something you personally value. Try out some of the things you want to start doing, but don't be too disappointed if they don't seem to be leading anywhere right away. Some things you try when you're young will turn out to be not for you - others can be the basis of a life-long passion. Just don't try to do everything at once, because then you wont have time to do anything right. You have the next ten years to figure out what you're going to do with your life, and the ten years after that to build yourself up to the top.

    On your profile you've got "Interdisciplinary Social Sciences" listed as your occupation. If this is what you're doing at university you may be in a good position to make your mark in a particular occupation or academic field, since most really original work is done by people who are able to move ideas or information around between areas of life.

  6. #6


    Our first day at Westminster Choir College as freshman, we were told not to compete with the other students. There would be some great performing musicians, especially from the senior class. I learned that you can always find someone who's better than you are, but that shouldn't stop you from performing. I kept playing and practicing for years, and over time, I got better and better. After I graduated from college, I was practicing between 7 and 8 hours a day. To be really good, that's what it takes. Being great belongs to the geniuses and unless you're one of those handful of performers, it's pointless to compete.

    Maybe this will put it into perspective. When I was working on my Master's, I had to write a comparison essay, so one of my composers was Mendelssohn. The Romantic period probably saw some of the greatest musical geniuses the world has ever know, including Chopin, Franz Liszt, Brahms, Wagner, Berlioz and the list goes on and on. All of these greats competed against one another, and they would get together and play their latest piano compositions for each other. As you may know, Franz Liszt composed some of the most difficult, if not impossible pieces to play.

    There were two armed camps, the conservative composers like Mendelssohn and Brahms, and the more creative rebels like Liszt and Chopin. Liszt sits down to the piano and plays one of his incredibly difficult pieces and at the finish, chides Mendelssohn, "Perhaps you have a piece to wow us with?"

    Mendelssohn replies that he hasn't composed anything for the occasion but he says to Liszt, "But I have something I can play that will impress even you, Herr Liszt." He then plays the piece Liszt just played, note for note, just from listening to it.

    I realized that I could never be really great, not like that, but I could contribute to the world, music that was worth listening to. Next month I will be playing in my church, the Bach "Fugue in G Minor", Herbert Howells' "Psalm Tune No. 1" and the Viernne "Carillon on the theme, Westminster", along with some Schumann and Chopin on piano. You don't have to be the best to have something to offer. Sometimes my pieces go very well and sometimes I struggle. The more I practice, the better they are, even if they aren't 100% note perfect. They're close and they do what they have to do.

    Society will always have pat little sayings, and they're almost always over simplifications that take little to nothing into serious consideration. Haven't you read a book that wasn't written by a major author, but you really loved the book because it said something to you that you needed to hear? Music is the same way. The simplest music Bach wrote were the chorales, but were would the St. Matthew Passion be without the great Passion Chorale that appears six or seven times throughout the work? It's the most moving part of the Passion, that and maybe the first chorus. The beauty about art and music is that it speaks in different ways to all of us. Paul Simon liked it. He used the melody on his Kodachrome Album, "and I dreamed I was flying."

    Keep plugging away and concentrate on what you can do, not what you can't, because the world will appreciate those things which have beauty and integrity. You don't have to be great to create those things, just passionate about what you are doing. Let it come from your heart where all the secrets and mysteries hide.

  7. #7


    I felt the same about myself as a teacher. I drove myself out a career I was good at for a couple of reasons and one was that I couldn't be the best at it. Mainly because it's very hard to measure who's 'the best.' But I made the mistake of always comparing myself to the best and tearing myself apart trying to work at the same level with less experience. Instead, I should have compared myself to the average teacher and seen I was worthwhile. This was when I discovered being average is perfectly fine.

    Mediocrity - What's wrong with that? What's wrong with being average? The majority of the world is average. Very few people will be written about but everyone will be remembered by someone at their funeral.

    I have a big issue with western ideals and the need to be the best. My dad is an amazing man who never did anything of significance... But he's an amazing man.

    Western culture pushes people with comments such as "You are good at maths" or "You are good at music." What research has shown is saying to people "What a great effort" is actually more effective at getting them to do better. Children who are congratulated on their ability and not their effort are less likely to bounce back when they fail at something. For example, I taught a girl who, in 2009, went to the under 12s world Gymnastics championships or something like that. Either way, it was the world. She got in the top 10 for the entire world. She quit gymnastics because she wasn't the best in the world.

    I'm going to quote one of the best failures - Michael Jordan.

    "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

    "If you're trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I've had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it."

    Since you're a musician, here's a musician link for you. One of my favourite comedians who studied music. His first point is very good. (I'm putting up too many videos)

  8. #8


    There's something I should add to this, given its significance to the position I'm in right now.

    Last year, which is last school year, I thought I'd take a year off to explore myself, do things to improve myself, doing the things I want to do before going back to school. Sounds like a decent plan, right? I did absolutely nothing for a year. I spent my time watching youtube videos from 9 till 11 before going to bed and repeating that same process. I think it made me lose myself a bit. I'm a passionless person now, who can't focus on the things he wants to do, if I can even bring myself to pick up the thing I liked in the past but which I'm now meh about. Examples of which are making music, watching movies, photography, you know the deal. Nothing truly captivates me anymore other than my victimhood complex, which is basically what this is. I'm thinking about seeing a psychologist to see if they can bring that spark back. Haven't produced anything and have not improved since... I don't even remember.

    I honestly don't know why I want to matter. I think the main reason would be that I don't wanna be a number. I wanna mean something. I can't stand the idea of being a grey, good for nothing office employee for the rest of my life. I wanna know what it's like to achieve something and do something that makes me feel fulfilled. Just having a craft I can be proud of and being influential, being someone who people look up to is a side effect. Seemingly very superficial things that shouldn't be a goal, but why settle for less? You've only got one shot at it anyway. Life is too short for me to not care about my inability. I need to fix this lack.

  9. #9


    It sounds to me like you are definitely doing something about it. All this reflecting is getting you back on track. It's actually a really positive step forward.

    Back before your big holiday, what sorts of things were working for you?

  10. #10


    I was busy with school before my break. That was my life. School. Nothing else. Always busy. Never hung out with friends, never made time to focus on things I wanted to do, becaue I barely had any time for myself. Lack of discipline and focus didn't help. Ended up failing finals the first time, so I had to redo two classes I already knew everything about, so I got away with doing close to nothing last year, which is why it was basically a year off.

    I haven't lived until now it seems. I've just existed, let life go past me. Now I'm already seeing that school isn't working out (try reading jargon-filled academic folly with no concentration and short term memory), being hopelessly behind schedule, being worse than my peers. I just can't seem to be productive, nor can I perform to the extent I want to. It's just empty desires. I have no backbone. I need to learn to work. I need my life to work out.

    There's probably amazing lyrics hidden in these desperate messages. I'll look at that later.

    Edit: I read it as what I was working ON. Just another example of me not being able to read things properly

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