The employees there are nice and they excel as bakers, but why haven’t they figured out this coffee thing? The first time it happened I informed them and instead of having another pot ready to go, I had to wait for it to be brewed. Anomaly, I thought. No, each of the three times they had no coffee ready when their urn became empty.
I thought to myself, “should I tell them that they need a plan to keep coffee available for their customers”? I haven’t yet. I didn’t want to seem like an old grouch even though I would have been as pleasant as possible. It would actually be excellent feedback for them to act upon. But no, I have accepted mediocrity.
Can we be trained for mediocrity?
Sometimes, I think we are being trained for mediocrity. It can happen when kids are given trophies for participation. They may be lazy, terrible, or not really interested, but they have a trophy for showing up. Showing up is a good thing, but isn’t that expected? I also saw the recognition of mediocrity in the military when ribbons/recognition were given out to participants in a successful military exercise. They were minor ribbons, but having been deeply involved in the exercise, I knew those who deserved the recognition, and others who did not.
Because I did not understand his reasoning, I fearfully voiced my confusion to my commander. I explained to him that, in my mind, those that knew they didn’t deserve recognition would not appreciate it; and secondly, those that did deserve recognition would see that others also received it who had done nothing to deserve it. He immediately threw me out of his office in anger! I thought my career might be over. He thought I was brash, but I hit had hit a nerve. I survived the incident and he later promoted me. I guess he realized I was being honest and straightforward, something that commanders don't always get.
I have previously talked about these incidents in my book, The Power of Dadhood.
Those that stand out in effort and achievement should be acknowledged
We should celebrate and appreciate achievement and not neutralize it by association with mediocrity. It can be done without putting anyone else down. Boasting is never a good quality, but we should certainly embrace our accomplishments.
Everyone has potential and when that potential is realized, it should be celebrated. Sometimes the greatest accomplishments are the most common of things, but achieved in a most uncommon way. In fact, a seemingly lesser performance by one individual can be much more impressive than a winning performance by another because their potentials are much different. For instance, running a mile in six minutes is mediocre for a trained runner, but a miracle for someone who has lost a leg and been through years of rehab. We are confused by the saying, “all men are created equal”, meaning all should have equal rights and opportunity. They should! But all men (and, of course, women) are clearly not equal in ability, talent, drive, passion, personalities, and more.
Sharing what you have earned should be taught, not a forced
Two siblings go out for Halloween. One is unenthusiastic and lazy while the other is an excited go-getter. The go-getter comes home with a sack full of goodies. The lazy sibling comes home with far fewer. Their parents suggests the go-getter share their bounty with their lazy sibling. The parents need to consider what lessons they may be teaching.
Are they teaching that sharing is good and unless you do, you are bad? Are they teaching the go-getter that working hard doesn’t pay off in the end? Are they teaching the lazy one that they will be taken care of, that there is no need be assertive? But if the go-getter decides he or she wants to share, that is a different situation. He or she is learning the joy of sharing and being an example to their sibling. If they don’t share, it’s something to note and to work on in the vein learning to be charitable.
Good enough is, sometimes, ‘good enough’, especially when more important tasks or people need attention. Other times it is a lazy way out and/or a cop-out. When a parent is tired and allows a child to get away with a half-hearted job on a chore or homework, we are accepting mediocrity. When a coach has a team member who doesn’t want to be coached but is allowed to play because he is a good athlete, that coach is ‘giving in’ to mediocrity--not in the talent on the field, but in the life-lessons being taught to his entire team.
We often teach mediocrity unknowingly
Parents allow mediocrity in their parenting to create mediocrity in their children through subliminal messages. "That's okay" or "never mind." Teachers, coaches, mentors, leaders, all, are often guilty of doing the same thing. It happens through exhaustion, unawareness, etc. What is nonsense to me is when mediocrity is rewarded purposely in the name of fairness (think participation trophies, ‘sharing’ what you but not others worked for, that rewards are expected--or come easily, etc.). Mediocrity is ingrained when one always expects their ‘fair’ share.
Teach humility, not mediocrity. Teach reward for real accomplishment, not half-hearted attempts or abject failure. Teach the love of accepting people as they are while helping them to better. Realize that children see through false praise, or are fooled by it. Be as consistently honest as your energy will allow you, for we are not perfect and should not expect ourselves, or our children, to be so. Raise children who act fairly, but don’t always expect fairness in return. Never praise mediocrity.