I recently came across a quote by Ayodeji Awosika that really spoke to me. He said,
“Society is set up for the individual to be mediocre. On the other hand, though, the machine doesn’t mind if a few cogs are missing because the vast majority of people will remain cogs.”
While I have long been aware of this, I’d never quantified it in quite this way. Society DOES encourage mediocrity.
All you have to do is look at the school system. With the never-ending testing cycles employed to measure up to a “standard,” teachers are increasingly unable to — ya know — teach. Most of my teacher friends have commented about this along the way.
Critical thinking is certainly not being taught. Don’t believe me? How else do you explain so many people buying into ludicrous conspiracy theories about the global pandemic and politics? Apply reason and logic and you will see that nobody stands to gain from such a conspiracy. COVID-19 is real and dangerous — it’s not being overly-hyped to make Trump look bad. Yet, many are unable to see this.
What’s more, it’s expected that you will join the masses.
What is the standard expected of most people? Go to school, get a job, earn a living, relax on weekends, raise a family, retire.
In other words — be mediocre.
Anyone who steps out tends to be looked upon askance. Do something to not be mediocre and many will “vote you off the island.”
This is why mediocrity is a choice.
Mediocrity takes minimal effort
It is very easy to be mediocre. All you have to do is go with the flow and live up to the expectations of society.
I have tried to follow this. After high school, I went to college. After my 4 years I got a degree I only actually employ in my hobby. After that, I bounced from mediocre job to mediocre job.
Hence why I have a ton of standard, advanced, administrative experience. I’m highly adept at performing all the necessary functions to run an office.
Also, I have worked in tech support, sales, benefits administration, marketing, and spent a year as a paralegal.
All of these were your garden-variety mediocre jobs. From somewhere between 9am and 5pm, I went to an office, wore business casual, and did the thing. Pay tended towards barely adequate, but enough to allow me to get some credit cards so I could go into debt while living slightly above my actual means. Advancement opportunities were minimal.
My impact was hardly a raindrop on the ocean. Like everyone else, I was a cog in a machine that produces — when all is said and done — nothing. I worked as a cog in that machine and spent half my waking hours in mediocrity.
I began to question this. Why should I spend so much of my time living a mediocre life? Why can’t I like what I do for work? Why is this way the expected way?
In January 2012 I began Pathwalking — writing a weekly article about seeking my own path in life. I determined I would rather work to consciously create my reality than accept and live in mediocrity. Though it’s been a struggle to make this work — rejecting mediocrity and striving for something better has been utterly satisfying.
Leaving the machine
I can’t say this choice has always been perfect. It hasn’t. There have been problems, difficulties, challenges, and issues along the way. However, overall, I have been more centered and happier with my life than I was trying to live up to mediocrity.
Frankly, I am a terrible cog in the machine. I once had a job where they told us that they (upper management) wanted to hear from us if we had ideas to be more efficient and better and such.
Of course, this was bullshit.
Expressing my ideas to upper management to improve things put me on the radar as a troublemaker. Too much free thinking. Didn’t take long after that for me to get fired.
Score: Corporate American Mediocrity — 1. MJ Blehart — 0.
I found that for this kind of work I was a lot happier in small companies. However — mediocrity is mediocre. That sort of work made me no happier. Especially when my coworkers reveled in their mediocrity.
Score: Small business American Mediocrity — 1. MJ Blehart — 0.
I found a job I liked — but it was too limited. There was only so far I could go — and though I can argue it wasn’t mediocre, it pretty much was. Suffice it to say, I still had a score of 0.
Several opportunities arose for me to do things that I desired to do. I focused on my writing and editing, and also got some writing and editing jobs with other businesses. As such, I started to leave the machine and to actively choose not to be mediocre.
Mindfulness of mediocrity
I can’t say I am making all the money I would desire to be — but I am working on that. There are times this is not entirely satisfactory — but overall, it’s far better than where I was. The mediocre life experience was not for me.
I can’t deny I have had a degree of privilege and opportunity that allowed me to make these choices and decisions I have made. While everyone can make such choices — not everyone can do so with quite as much impunity. But that’s why it’s a good idea to start small.
How do you start small? By practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is being conscious in the here-and-now, aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. In other words, getting inside your head and knowing what is going on in there.
Mindfulness gives you control to make choices and decisions based on what you are thinking, what and how you are feeling, and in the ways and directions you would prefer to go. That will open you up to finding options, opportunities, as well as ways and means to live a life that is not mediocre.
Mindfulness lets you choose better for yourself. It can be small things — like daily dietary and exercise choices. It can be larger things — like jobs, where to live, who to call friend, and so on.
The key to leaving mediocrity behind is choice. Because being mediocre is a choice in-and-of-itself.
Life is choices and decisions
There is not a day that goes by in your life where you do not make choices and decisions. That is how you get anywhere or do anything along the way.
Some are huge — but the vast majority are small. Yet they are not as insignificant as we tend to make them.
Getting out of bed in the morning is a choice. What you eat during the day is a choice. How you spend unscheduled time doing is a choice. Each of these can have a broader impact on your overall life experience than you might realize.
Don’t get out of bed — you might lose your job — or get more needed rest and recovery. If you choose to eat nothing but fast food and processed food — you will negatively impact your overall health. If you spend unscheduled time with diversions versus working on a project that has intent — it will impact your life.
Every choice has consequences — intended or otherwise.
This is why you choose to be mediocre — or not. You can decide not to excel just as much as you can choose to excel in life. It will take work and effort — and you will stand apart from the crowd. But you, and you alone, know if being a cog in the machine is for you.
Or maybe, as Ayo said, “the machine doesn’t mind if a few cogs are missing because the vast majority of people will remain cogs.”
Is mediocrity the right choice for you?
Know that you are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done our thoughts, feelings, and actions matter, as does choosing to be mediocre — or something more.