Busting the scourge of mediocrity

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Dick Fosbury
Dick Fosbury

Don’t lower the bar, raise your standards, says Geoff Kelly

All progress in our society has come about because someone has had the courage to advocate and implement better ideas despite the inevitable massive resistance hurled at them.

In science, Einstein and Madame Curie are popular examples, but opposition to every innovator has ensured only the toughest get through. In sport we see the same as exemplified by Dick Fosbury and his innovation in the high jump. And in social and political change Gandhi had strong early resistance to his courageous philosophies and actions. In business and government the common refrain is to be innovative, but when new ideas come forward they face demands as to where these ideas have worked before.

The problem is that it is easier to come up with 100 reasons why something new might not work than to come up with the new idea and enlist the support you need to implement it. Also, in most organisations and in society there is a prevailing culture of aversion to risk, any risk. To most it seems safer to stick with what we already know and do, ride with the herd, and not pop your head up where you could be knocked down for it.

So we see communication from government, businesses, politicians etc routinely fail because even professionals are mostly sticking to what everyone else is doing despite the wasteland of epic failures. We see boards intimidated by financial analysts at big funds and unwilling to back big ideas. And we see most people wasting their talent and opportunities by picking the safe and mediocre rather than striving for more than token improvements in what they do.

This culture of mediocrity is the scourge preventing the society as a whole, governments, businesses and individuals from attaining the benefits of their immense potential.

Earl Nightingale mid last century described this scourge as one of the greatest challenges we all face. And he made it clear what our real enemy is when he said the opposite of courage is not cowardice. It is conformity.

The people and organisations that break through this miasma of conformity gumming up everything around them first decided to make their own futures. They set unreasonable goals, they took massive action, and they persisted in the face of broad disapproval and opposition. As Henry Ford said, “If I listened to what people wanted, I would have built a faster horse.”

Time to get off that couch of conformity and mediocrity and do what we are capable of. Big goals. Unreasonable outcomes. What we can achieve with some effort and against strong headwinds—not what we feel comfortable doing.

The writer is a business consultant

 

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