Being amazing isn’t enough.
The other half of the equation is the willingness to wage a war against mediocrity.
THE CHALLENGE IS: Mediocrity is a form of resistance, and it will pursue you like a hungry Jaguar you see on the Discovery Channel.
It’s time to assemble your armor.
Today I’m going to help you devise a battle plan to banish the bland, nuke the normal and annihilate the average in your personal and professional life:
1. Develop a mediocrity filter. Before publishing, displaying, performing, sharing or shipping your work with the world, ask yourself one simple question:
"Is there any part of this that might be considered normal, boring, average or mediocre?"
If so, rework it. If not, let that baby rip. By virtue of asking the question on a daily basis, you’ll hone the accuracy of your mediocrity radar. Soon, averageness will be a thing of the past. Like phonebooks and Jennifer Aniston. What system could you develop – right now – to prevent mediocrity from surfacing its ugly mug in the future?
2. Violently refuse to become a follower of the common ways of the mediocre masses. Five minutes before taking the stage in front of 4000 people, the speaker scheduled to follow me actually said: “Hey Scott, don’t be too good, OK?” Bewildered, I replied with, “Angela, I’m going to be better than I’ve ever been in my life. Deal with it.”
Lesson learned: Mediocre people will try to bring your average down. Don’t let them. If you allow yourself to get sucked into their vortex of normalcy, you lose. Instead, let your amazingness bring their average up. They’ll thank you. Are you resisting the pervasive pressure to be normal?
3. Mediocrity isn’t an accident. “The only way to get mediocre is one step at a time,” says Seth Godin, “But you don’t have to settle. It’s a choice you get to make every day.”
My question is: Are you still waiting for permission to be remarkable? Or have you make the conscious choice to become a living brochure of your own awesomeness?
That’s the mistake too many people make: Assuming their averageness is an unchangeable default setting. It’s not. You have the choice make the mundane memorable at least fifty times a day. Will you make it?
4. Create a reason for people to remember you. Differentiate even minimally. You’ll find that making the mundane memorable goes a surprisingly long way. Whether it’s the way you answer the phone, the answers your offer to generic questions, or the style of signage outside your office, remarkability isn’t hard – it just requires risk. Which is exactly why most people shrink at the mere thought of it.
The cool part is, it doesn’t matter how remarkable you are – only that you’re remarkable in the first place. And the best part is, those who leave evidence everywhere they go, leave an impression on the world. What kind of breadcrumbs do you leave behind?
5. Run daily audits of your artistic risk paradigm. As a writer, one of the questions I ask myself every day is, “What do I risk is presenting this material?” If the answer is “not much” or “nothing,” I don’t publish it.
Risk and mediocrity are inversely related. Your challenge is to create a similar filter to keep your creative stream free of sludge. What question could you ask yourself – every day – to assure that your work stays risky, but not reckless?
6. Stop tolerating third-rate inconsequentialities. Mediocre people burn their days agonizing over the urgent and irrelevant. Remarkable leaders invest their days cleaving to the vital and important.
Can you guess which of those two people makes real meaning in the universe? Which one are you? If you’re not happy your response, try this: End your pursuit of the trivial. Keep yourself on task to change the world by setting an alarm on your computer that goes off every hour with this message:
“Does the activity you’re spending your time on – right now – matter?"
That should help put boot to ass immediately. What consumes your time that isn’t making you any money?
7. Greet tough times with a welcoming heart. Be thankful when the economic shit hits the fan – that’s when mediocrity is exposed. What’s more, if you view that situation as an example of natural selection, you’ll discover that the purpose of a crisis is to test whether or not you deserve to be in business.
That’s why I love recessions: They renew the resourcefulness of the remarkable while simultaneously allowing the weak to weed themselves out. How’s YOUR economy?
8. Damn the torpedoes! During a political debate I attended in Chicago a few years back, Bill Maher said that while his positions differed from opponent Ann Coulter’s, he still admired her.
“I admire anyone who isn’t afraid of being booed,” Bill told the audience. Then, about half the crowd booed Coulter when she walked on stage. Which I appreciated, since that meant she was far from being mediocre.
Now, while I don’t agree with Coulter’s politics either – I say, good for her for inviting the haters. Are you prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous remarkability AND take arms against a sea of normalcy?
9. Beware of the rising tide of complacency. Not to mention, the wicked undertow that accompanies it. Because if you’re not careful, you may look up from your raft one day and think, “Oh crap! How did I get this far away from shore?”
But by then, it’ll be tool late: Sharks patrol these waters, and they’re hungry. Sure hope you can swim, Michael Phelps. Otherwise complacency – the gateway drug to mediocrity – will enter your bloodstream quicker than you can say, “Mayday!”
Don’t get cocky. Be not self-satisfied with past glory. View the past as prologue, inasmuch as it brought you here – and that’s it. What invisible forces threaten your peace?
10. Refuse to occupy the middle. There’s a great book by Jim Hightower called There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos. That title is so good; you don’t even have to read the book. Instead, try asking the following question I ask myself at least ten times daily:
“What could I do – in this moment – that would be the exact opposite of everyone else?”
Soon, you’ll be so far away from the middle that when you look back, it’ll look like a speck of dust. Are you willing to take a side and stand out loudly?
11. Demand perpetual originality. Not newness. Not novelty. And not clever marketing that camouflages lack of substance. Originality. That means being The One. The Answer. The origin, not echo.
Otherwise, if you’re a copy of a copy of a copy, you lose. And you become just another non-entity in the infinite grey mass of blah-blah-blah. Have you decided to make originality habitual?
REMEMBER: Waging a war against mediocrity is all part of being amazing.
Burn the beige.
Void the vanilla.
Banish the bland.
Nuke the normal.
Annihilate the average.
Those are your marching orders.
Get to work, soldier.
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How much money is being average costing you?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Being amazing isn’t enough.