June 28, 2018

Who Enables your Mediocrity?

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.
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’ve done 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?  You probably dabble with thoughts of hating your life, or your boss, or not knowing what to do with yourself…but in reality, you may just be on a long drive with the gas pedal only pressed halfway down.

Or in simpler words:

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?

Again…who or what enables your mediocrity?

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.  

motivational images sanjay manaktala

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.

Up in the Hair

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?

Meme-ception FTW

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.

If your first reaction when your girl calls you is "Fu*K", it's not love.

And most importantly, it’s obviously a huge chunk of you.

That would be so trippy.

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.

Sanjay-San from Kyoto

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.”  

Somewhere along the way…you stopped doing all of that.


Additional productivity tips from the Birdy Num Num podcast.

15 Comments on “Who Enables your Mediocrity?

January 28, 2016 at 5:29 pm

You are just brilliant man!! That is some real deep content explained in such a lucid manner that I think everyone can understand/relate to it. It takes some real talent to express like that:).
Not giving your best is not wrong at all but that doesn’t make it right as well. There is truly a difference between the two 🙂

January 29, 2016 at 5:43 am

thanks for the kind words and feedback 🙂 Glad it’s hitting chord!

January 29, 2016 at 5:36 am

I needed this! Thankyou

January 29, 2016 at 5:42 am

you’re very welcome 🙂

February 13, 2016 at 2:13 am

I myself have stopped striving to be always safe and not to disappoint anyone(family). When i was a kid i used to cry, when i did not score better than my peers. I got this thing into my mind that playing as a mediocre is always comfortably safe.

You are turning out #JamesAltucher of India.

February 19, 2016 at 4:05 am

Awesome write up…The IT is because of mediocre ppl

June 27, 2016 at 11:44 am

It’s amazing how profound this is while keeping it as light as only you can keep. Thank you.

June 27, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Thanks, I try never to get way too serious. 🙂 🙂

Subash baliga
June 27, 2016 at 10:04 pm

This is something which made me get out of the IT rat race and give time to be mediocre without the greatness hype tag.

June 30, 2016 at 3:58 am

Wow Sanjay, the profundity in doing beyond the mediocre couldn’t be put in simpler words. You inspire with your words. I really needed this!

July 4, 2019 at 5:21 am

Everything is just so on point .what one needs to hear at any stage of their life .I am 24 and already started struggling with this to do something great issue. But this has turned up to be so much helpful. Thankyou so much .

July 4, 2019 at 7:49 am

Hey you’re very welcome I’m glad it made an impact. It will continue to happen but be aware and you’ll be fine 🙂

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