I was chatting with my brother the other day and telling him how one of the toughest parts of freelancing is that it’s so easy to do nothing. Not the “sit at the wall in clinical depression nothing”, but the “watch eight episodes of your favorite new show while ordering food on your favorite app” nothing.
With a trivial gym break in the middle, of course.
Depending on where you live (I’m currently living in India although writing this in LA) a lot of professions allow you to make enough money to be good but complacent enough to skip the great.
And that’s a big problem.
I mean maybe not that big.
Whether you’re in the corporate hustle, the creative space or a small business owner in some hybrid of the two, you are always going to be fighting self inflicted mediocrity. When you’re making six figures but web surf 4 hours a day, you’re doing it. When you’re earning your rent in a single night by being a musician/artist/comedian/video maker and then getting stoned for the next three days, you’re doing it. And when you’re simply wondering at 35 how did I get all these things and still find myself a bit uneasy or unhappy…you’re doing it.
The obvious reason is income (e.g. If you’re not starving you won’t stretch yourself) and obvious answer that you’ve read a 1000 times is to find your passion and do what you love. But I’m letting you know that I do what I love and sometimes…I’m still a lazy piece of shit.
So my real question is, what (or who) enables your mediocrity? Why do you continue to do just enough when you know deep in your heart of hearts that you are capable of doing so much more?
Ok, I’ll go first. And I don’t mean this in a mean way at all because I cherish her with all my heart…but for me it’s my mom. My mother saw me working in high school/college and then the 80 hour weeks to pay off my student loans, and then sort of just observed as I matured through my professional milestones and always acted busier than I was. (Side Note: Make it a point to entertain your parents for 5 minutes a day on the phone, Facebook isn’t gonna go anywhere and you can always check it while they’re on speaker). In her eyes, I need to relax a bit more, not get so stressed out and if I miss my 8AM alarm…I deserved the sleep and my body needs time to recover (From you know, all that drinking and slogging I was doing at the open-mic). She’s the same type of lady who would call me “healthy” instead of fat when I really need my friends to kick my ass into high-gear. I’m the quintessential Indian mama’s boy, and I can smile about it now because I’m fully aware of it and take steps to mitigate it. Am I going to stop talking to my mom? Of course not. But recognizing her well intentioned attitude towards me and the fact that I’m growing up in a different time albeit with many similarities, allows me to stay focused and stay hungry without compromising our relationship and without letting me get fully dependent on her to do things I can easily do for myself. She doesn’t want me to be mediocre, but doesn’t fully understand this is the age to hustle and “I gotta do me baby”.
So who or what enables you to be mediocre? Is it the job that allows you to coast while keeping your lifestyle as comfy as you want it? Because the charm fading away from this will one day hit you like a ton of bricks. All the miles, hotel points, and cash/perks/houses aren’t going to motivate you any better when you’re still staring at your screen with no purpose or motivation.
Or is it your friends who are obsessed with girls and travel and could care less about what you do as long as the tinder matches still come in? I’m talking to you twenty year old dudes who grew up with Ted and Barney (or 30 year old dudes with Chandler and Joey).
Or is it something as simple as alcohol and drugs?
Maybe it’s a partner you spend more time arguing with instead of having as an actual “partner” who helps you complement each other to be better people.
And most importantly, it’s obviously a huge chunk of you.
Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with the house on the hill, the two kids, the cars and the whole deal. But have you noticed how most of the typical case studies on success….Zuckerberg, Musk, Gates, Bezos… all did amazing things well beyond the years they had no financial incentive to? Or in simpler words, they were rich as hell before really impacting upon their life’s work (and more importantly, some had families before the real grind began). They could have bought the private island or huge apartment in New York, partied with celebrities and danced/laughed/screwed their way into obscurity. But they didn’t do that. In fact Elon Musk once said the idea of sitting on some beach “sounds horrible.” And eventually, after 1000 Instagram selfies and packaged holiday after packaged holiday, you’ll start to agree. There is nothing wrong with being average, but there is something wrong in treating yourself averagely. (I really hope that makes sense).
I don’t have the answers on how to stop being mediocre or on how to accomplish greatness. But I do know that 99% of us, (a stat I just pulled out of my ass) know that we can so easily do much, much more. When you finish college the real challenge begins, but everybody acts like the hard part is over. In school you had that friend who you always wanted to do better than but rarely did. You had the coach who pushed you to run another mile when you thought “OMG I’ve never ran more than 3 miles ever.” So what’s the reason you stopped doing that?