4 Field-Tested Strategies That Will Help You Turn Mediocrity Into Excellence
Your life could be so much more.
Most of your dreams won’t shatter in a Hollywood-like scene with explosions, sirens, and heart-melting drama. Instead, your hopes and aspirations fall victim to a silent killer.
Mediocrity buries them before they even sprout. Why work your butt off for your dream job if your current one is just fine? Why sweat blood and tears for a beach body if everyone else flaunts their love handles? Why work on your relationship if watching Netflix and eating takeaway together does the job? Everything’s fine as it is — except it isn’t.
I’m not telling you how to live your life, but here’s a harsh truth.
If you accept mediocrity, you lack self-respect.
You settle for less than you could because you’re too lazy, afraid, or comfortable. Imagine what your life could look like if you pushed, persisted, and wanted just a little more. If this triggers you, ask yourself why.
I’m no high-roller — I’ll never have billions in my bank account, become a famous movie star, or get my oiled abs on the front of a fitness magazine. I’ve worked hard for my dreams and seen them fail over and over. But I refuse to give up on them and accept mediocrity.
If you want more from your life, here are four ways to achieve excellence.
Big Dreams Take Small Steps
Most people’s actions don’t line up with what they want.
They desire a high-paying job but don’t put in extra hours. They want cut abs and toned glutes but do the bare minimum at the gym. They aim for financial freedom but waste $5 on Starbucks every other day.
Achieving your dreams is pretty simple — get clear about what you want and work on it every day.
The emphasis is on every. You can’t achieve big goals overnight, but take a small step every day and you’ll get there soon enough. Little strokes fell big oaks.
Wayne Kusy is the living proof for this statement. The artsy 60-year old with the mysterious smirk has spent decades building models of famous ocean liners — using millions of toothpicks. Before he gets the glue, he collects old photos, plans, and drawings. Then, he gets to work, one toothpick at a time.
Think in decades, act in days.
What do you want your life to look like ten years from now? What does that imply for your actions this year? This month? This week? Today?
The French writer Jean de la Bruyère once said, “Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.” It’s tempting to push off things until tomorrow — after all, you’ve got 80 years to live, right? Sure, but that’s no reason to waste them.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.
If You Do It Right, Less Is More
We grow up under the impression that more is always better — a fateful fallacy.
When Steve Jobs went back to Apple in 1996, he slashed the struggling company’s product offering like an overweight American a rope in a knife commercial. Instead of producing a wide variety of appliances, the company focused on computers and the iPhone only. The rest is history.
Most people want it all. Their shiny-object syndrome makes them follow the latest trends and dive into every new opportunity. Start a second side-hustle, check out this new restaurant, go on the third Tinder date this week. But if you try to put everything into your oven at once, you end up with tons of half-baked shit instead of a proper meal.
Do you need to do more, or do you need more focus?
James Clear, author of the New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, runs one of the most popular newsletters on the internet. With over one million subscribers, his 3–2–1 Thursday causes more traffic than a Mexican drug cartel. His secret? Do one thing, but do it extremely well.
The emails are dead simple. Three ideas, two quotes, one question, repeat. Sure, he could’ve added enticing stories, mind-blowing facts, or lengthy sales pitches — but none of that would’ve made the emails any better.
Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Whether you build a side-hustle, chase your dream job, or look for someone to get old with — focus.
Follow one course until success.
How to Act Despite Your Fears
“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
— Tim Ferriss
Fear is a double-sided sword. It’s useful because it keeps you from jumping off a cliff and splattering on the ground like a spoonful of Guacamole on your kitchen floor. But in some cases, it paralyzes you.
Imagine how different your life could be right now if you talked to the hot woman or cute guy you met on the street, asked for a raise or looked for a new job, or took a few months to travel instead of grinding away year after year. But that’s what you’re afraid of, so you stay in your nice, comfortable, and mediocre place.
Fear is a great guide, but a terrible master.
It points you towards what you need to do, but then stands in your way and keeps you at the level of mediocrity. If you want excellence, you need a tool to overcome it.
3 steps to calm the jitters
Tim Ferriss, famous author of the New York Times bestseller The 4 Hour Workweek, uses a simple three-part exercise called fear setting to overcome his jitters.
Fears are only strong in imagination — that’s where they’ve got room to grow and become dark, scary nightmares. But write them down and you’ll keep your mind from going apeshit. You’re left with the cold, hard facts.
You aren’t at the mercy of your surroundings. Like buckling up in a car, you can often prevent the biggest clusterfucks with a few simple actions.
Life is unpredictable. Sometimes, things go south despite your preparations. But before that happens, you can already think about what to do when shit hits the fan. Knowing everything is fixable reduces the scariness of your plans like a good, old-fashioned Valium.
Last year, I thought about quitting my master’s program to become a writer and personal development coach.
I was afraid of failing, going broke, and living in the gutter, fighting stray dogs for food scraps while people pitied me for throwing away everything I had. However, I had saved up a decent amount of money and could connect with other writers and business owners to avoid the biggest mistakes. Even if things went south, I already had my bachelor’s, so I could go back to a 9-to-5 for a few years if I had to. Define, prevent, repair.
Sometimes, you have to feel the fear and act anyway.
This Is What It Takes to Be a Champion
If you do what everyone else does, you get what everyone else gets — mediocrity. But if you’re willing to go a step further… Well, you’re smart. You can do the math on your own.
But stepping out of line isn’t easy. Peer pressure, the fear of failure, and your comfort zone keep you where you are. But there’s a simple way to get all the cool things nobody else has.
Go the extra mile.
Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers to ever have lived, once said, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count. That’s what makes you a champion.”
Most people stop when the pain hits. Everyone can stick to their diet until they get hungry, work on their side-hustle when they see results, or love someone when they’re at their best. But champions take the extra step, even if it hurts.
Nobody likes discomfort. When you face it, you’re quick to complain, get upset, or find an excuse why today, you can skip whatever you’re supposed to do.
Next time you find yourself at the crossroads, ready to pack in and call it a day, remember this: The painful reps are the ones that count.
Wrap-up to Turn Mediocrity into Excellence
Mediocrity is a silent killer. It disguises itself in excuses, comfort, and fear. But do you really want to look back on your life one day and say “I wish I had?”
You don’t. You respect yourself too much for that. Replace mediocrity with excellence.
- Think in decades, act in days
- Do less, but do it right
- Act despite your fear — define, prevent, repair
- Do what no one else is willing to do
“Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better.”
— Gordon B. Hinckley
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