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S&M: Mediocre no more

Why is mediocrity overly sensationalised to such a high degree?

Why is the average and the ordinary glamourised so spuriously?

I don’t think people place much stock or understand how dangerous it is to commemorate and honour mediocrity as a celebratory constituent in society.

How it paves a bar far too low where a poor, shoddy precedence is set. Where the mediocre becomes the benchmark for all aspirations, goals, and trajectories of growth and success.

There is a saying that if you throw peanuts at trees, you shouldn’t be surprised you get monkeys. This is true of our personal, professional, and social lives as well, no?

How often have we seen outdated processes, disparaging and damaging attitudes and habits, languid and lackadaisical behaviour, and lack of vision and purpose, all concealed under a slick smokescreen of acceptance because we’ve construed that the standard is one so low, anyone can do it.

Everyone cannot be above average. Think about it. In a world draped in disseminating the seeds of fecundity when it comes to mediocrity, too many have shouted from behind their keyboards that everyone is equal in terms of skill sets, attributes, abilities, capabilities, competencies, and talents.

 

Equality of opportunity

Don’t get me wrong. Equality of opportunity is important. The notion that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and justly without discrimination on the grounds of one’s gender, race, beliefs, and age is a quintessential narrative and ideology that needs to be embedded into the DNA strains of collective conscious thought and the vein of existence. We have a right to be unhampered by man-made barriers, prejudices, and preferences even in instances where particular distinctions can be explicitly justified.

However, the caveat here is that we need to consider the reality of things.

Not everyone is born with the same levels of intelligence or intellect. Nor are we all born with the same natural proclivity and propensity to excel in specific areas of vocation, sports, and creative endeavours.

There are people who are brilliant, more so than others. There are those who have a natural gift and inclination to perform, shine, and be outstanding and to achieve levels of greatness that are often unmatched.

Is this not true of leadership? Of nearly any vocation, or else everyone will excel at every profession.

 

We are not the same

No, I tell you. NO.

Not everyone is equally adept, masterly, clever, revolutionary, and brilliant.

Our skills vary. Our talents differ from one another. Our capabilities and abilities are shaped by as much of our upbringing, early education, and conditioning as it is our natural cognitive and cerebral potentiality and aptitude.

Raw talent is an actual thing. Natural ingenuity isn’t a myth. It’s evident throughout history.

Not everyone is equally creative. If that were true, everyone would be a Da Vinci, Bach, Beethoven, Hendrix, Warrel Dane, Walt Whitman, George Carlin, Dave Chappelle, Stephen King, Geoffrey MannTarantin, or Quentin Tarantino.

Not everyone has the same capacity and inherent skill set to be inventive and intuitive towards entrepreneurial alacrity and acuity.

If that were true, everyone would be a Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Cindy Mi, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Daniel Ek.

Aspiring to be like someone is a world apart from actually becoming equally adept, able, and excelling with the exact fervour, finish, and finesse as that someone.

This is why Michael Jordan, Ayrton Senna, Muhammad Ali, Brian Lara, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Malala Yousafzai are all rare and an exception to the conventional rule of being like everyone else. They are above average, and yes, perhaps they optimised and utilised their opportunities and had access to certain tools to enhance their skill sets and vocational attributes; perhaps they had environments that encouraged and nurtured their growth. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that many of the above-mentioned were born with a higher degree of ability, avidity, acumen, and raw talent which makes them cut above the rest.

A person’s position of privilege and opportunity does give a push towards the right direction. Yet, many of the people mentioned above have varying success stories and tales of their genesis that may surprise you.

Think about it for a moment.

Not everyone can be a surgeon, doctor, architect, engineer, lawyer, business strategist, software developer, anaesthesiologist, entrepreneur, etc.

There is a distribution of talent and vocational aptitude, and rightfully so, or else everyone will play House MD at home using Google or YouTube.

There is a difference also between achieving your goal and riding to greatness in your chosen field or vocation.

 

You win again

Mediocrity sensationalised obfuscates these lines where those above average are forced to step down and play down the gamut of their abilities to fit into the grid of the accepted norm. It stunts their ability to grow and the opportunity others have to be inspired and learn from them.

We see this in schools, at abodes, and in offices where the less-than-remarkable and the ordinary are rewarded to validate and justify modern sentiments to let everyone feel like a winner and a victor.

This concept where even kids who partake in sports are awarded for coming last does more harm and long-term damage than good. We are conditioning and releasing recalcitrant prototypes to society who feel entitled and a need to be empowered to receive the same merits, compensation, and remuneration as everyone else without working relentlessly for it.

This colossal divide is apparent across society now, where the idea of healthy competition or competitiveness is shunned. The very concept of success is moot when you marginalise and stigmatise those who are above average so that everyone else can feel accepted and rewarded for simply existing.

Yet, aren’t we shielding people from learning to face challenges in life, to accept disappointment, and deal with failures later in life?

There are lessons to be learned in being on a losing side. When you cease to acknowledge that superior performance reaps greater praise, you are promulgating a dangerous notion that everyone’s a winner for merely showing up.

Are we not sidelining those who work tirelessly, making countless sacrifices and spilling blood, sweat, and tears to achieve something? Aren’t we being disingenuous and demoralising and demeaning the hard working ones from those who are simply content to cut corners, take short cuts, and just be a pawn in a pack rather than be responsible and accountable human beings?

 

Hero of the Day

Still the window burns, time so slowly turns
Someone there is sighing
Keepers of the flames
Do you feel your names?
Do you hear your babies crying?
Mama they try and break me
Still they try and break me
‘Scuse me while I tend to how I feel
These things return to me that still seem real 

– Metallica

We’ve been seeing a segment of individuals recently hailed as heroes.

This is another example of what happens when you over-sensationalise and glamourise the mediocre.

A person with enough money to make up for natural talent with a state-of-the-art computer and a good-enough software in their bedroom can loop together and create music digitally, without ever understanding the discipline, focus, and hard work it takes to hone yourself as a composer, musician, and performer on a live stage and in a studio as a recording artist. Yet, that person can be a success story today without ever playing one concert or learning a single scale on an instrument.

Anyone with a hundred thousand followers on social media, dubbed an influencer, is hailed a hero today.

A person with a decent phone, some funky apps, and top calibre filters taking selfies of philanthropic acts for public praise is a hero.

Any idiot with a keyboard jumping from one cause to another and bellowing about it online is a hero.

Then what of all the frontline workers? The unsung heroes of this wretched pandemic? Men and women who risk their own lives and that of their loved ones and families everyday to try and save lives and contain the new variants and strains of Covid?

The people who are so engaged in facing death everyday who don’t have time to put up bloody statuses and photos of their good deeds. They are fighting our battles behind the scenes so you and I can have food delivered to our homes, enjoy Netflix, and be safe at home.

What about the people who till the soil, wade in mud and muck, and bleed sweat for a living all over the country so that those of us in our cities and towns can have a reasonably balanced meal everyday?

What of the men and women in uniform, who put themselves in harm’s way so we can find a modicum of equilibrium in our lives – to work, socialise, enjoy recreational time, and live knowing we are safe?

Aren’t these the real heroes of the day?

Not someone who has documented with jocularity and lavish grandeur their self-indulgent accomplishments on social media for all and sundry to see and praise.

Mediocrity has blurred the very lines of definition. Of holding a spotlight to anyone on a public stage and forum who has followers batting their eyelashes and swooning over their idol’s new hair colour, luxury vehicle, and blog post.

It’s a pathetic state of affairs.

 

Where eagles dare

Perhaps it’s time to call a spade a spade, a deserved winner a victor, and a loser someone who has lost because life isn’t a pathway of rose petals, gourmet meals, and pish-posh pit stops to be pampered every time we fail.

It’s time to teach the generations after us that life is cruel, full of disappointments, and that we are flawed and are apt to fail, but that it’s okay, because that’s how we learn to get back on our feet and work harder to reach our goals, to fulfil our

dreams, and to accept that nothing in life worth achieving is ever easy.

 

Suresh de Silva is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.