Why Has Mediocrity Become the Accepted Norm?

Twenty-two years ago I had a conversation with the former principal of Buffalo Grove High School, Dr. Carter Burns.  I’d gone in to talk to Dr. Burns about the possibility of speaking to his students, to try to motivate them.  He was interested but told me it wasn’t just the students who needed motivating.  He said he had three groups of people he needed to pay attention to: the students, parents, and, last but not least, his teachers.  He went on to tell me that the teachers represented his greatest challenge—that 15% of them were incredibly effective, true-life examples of Mr. Chips, top professionals whom he revered; on the other end of the spectrum, 15% were so bad he’d do anything in his limited power to get rid of them, pry them loose with a chisel if he could; and the remaining 70% were doing an “adequate” job (I don’t remember him using the word “mediocre,” but that’s the impression I got), sort of going through the motions without overly taxing themselves, showing up every day and giving a fair day’s work for their pay, but certainly nothing to rave about, nothing inspirational.  If there was a way to turn that less-than-inspiring 70% into the top 15% column, he’d jump over the moon, because that would be the answer to his prayers.

In the ensuing years, I’ve come to realize Dr. Burns’s three-tier talent/work ethic breakdown applies to all fields, including sales.  I’ve spoken to so many of you who’ve admitted to me that you’re averaging less than five presentations a week, which doesn’t qualify you for the top 15% column, folks; it never will.  Since no company is going to keep a bottom-level 15%er very long, we’ll assume you’re in that 70% gray area of respectability.  So my question is, Why is this so-so level of performance permissible to you?  When did mediocrity become so acceptable?  Why are you so willing to wallow in the depths of this less-than-stellar area?  Why don’t you hunger for Greatness?  (It’s really hard for me to comprehend because I’ve spent my entire life climbing the tree of ambition, still climbing at 68, hungry as ever for Great Achievement.  See my March 5, 2012 blog: Being Fully Alive.

These are questions only you can answer.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Take stock of yourself; what is it that’s keeping you from your destiny with Greatness?  You have only one life to live; are you willing to live it in the 70% arena of mediocrity, or are you willing to get off your dead ass and quit screwing around, become one of the Great ones?  Life will give you whatever you demand of it, if you’ll only demand the best from yourself.  What say you?  Are you willing to demand the best from yourself?  One of these days, if you’re lucky, you’re going to wake up and find yourself 68; how high up the tree of ambition do you want to be positioned at 68?

Better start climbing!