When Being Mediocre is Okay

There is a pendulum between being excellence and mediocrity, in which we all are swinging. Our films (remember Three Idiots), our leaders, our entrepreneurs- inspire us to run towards ‘excellence’, and very rightly so. We must strive towards excellence. But what until then? ‘Being Mediocre’ or ‘Mediocrity’ is shameful.

In our aspirational (and imaginary) race, we forget that mediocrity is very subjective. For most of us, mediocrity is a third party perspective. “Do people consider me mediocre?”  “A mediocre student became a doctor and now works in his village.” He could be a student who cleared MBBS from the city but decided to go back to his roots, to serve his people. (I actually know someone like that.)

For example: “A mediocre student became a doctor and now works in his village.” In reality, he could be an average student who cleared MBBS from the city but decided to go back to his roots, to serve his people. Someone who wanted to study further, could not, and had to manage his father’s business or someone who wanted to run away from home but could not because there was a house to manage. Someone, who could write the ‘commercial’ kind of writing but lived their writing style. Someone who did good design work but did not get the credit.

For a comedian, a ‘9 to 9 job person’ from an ‘average’ company would look like a ‘mediocre’. To a popular comedian, the struggling comedian might look like a  mediocre. A commercial actor might think of a struggling theatre actor as mediocre (and vice versa). To an entrepreneur, an employee in an MNC might look like a ‘corporate slave’. A corporate employee might see an entrepreneur as ‘wasting time’.

How are we to make a truce with these two things? The truth is, there’s no right or wrong because:

“Do people consider me mediocre?”  is very different from “Am I mediocre?” If the person is fulfilling their primary motivation in the current situation, whether it is livelihood to take care of their families or pursuing their passion; it is in its own sense extraordinary. There is nothing mediocre in doing what you are supposed to do.

Van Gogh was called “mediocre” all his life— until his mid-thirties, he didn’t even know that he wanted to paint. Harper Lee wrote only two books in her entire life and stayed out of the glamour. Rosa Parks never took the “front face” in the freedom movement for the blacks but her brave step pushed people like Martin Luther King to stand up. Galileo was killed for saying simple science. Scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide saying he thought his birth was a mistake.

It is okay to be a nobody too. The pressure to become “somebody” is so much on the kids these days, that they fail to achieve even the basics. There are kids from complex families, kids going through complex mind frames, kids with learning disabilities and other disabilities too— they need to know that it’s okay to be a nobody too. And that we love them the way they are. And that they should try.

Nevertheless, please strive towards excellence. Wherever you are, you can find excellence. But remember, “excellence” could be a luxury too. And being mediocre could be a phase too. It takes a second for mediocrity to transform into excellence. Wait for that second, dream of that second and do it when the time comes.

I always had a set of very intelligent friends in school. People who scored more than me, remembered more than me; and in Math and Science, they even understood more than me. These were the most amazing people and they never made me or anyone, feel like we were any less, especially because of the marks. Still, I had decided to take up Science after the tenth boards. When I got the 10th results, I saw I had 78%, 72 in Math and 74 in Science. The result made me contemplate my experience in school. I had never seemed to enjoy math or science, apart from a few concepts. In a snap judgment, I filled out the Commerce form. Even if that meant parting with most of my friends, I made that choice. Today, I feel like I made the best decision for myself. Perhaps in comparative terms, as a school student, I may have been mediocre. And then I outperformed as a college student and then as an entrepreneur. And again I may have been mediocre somewhere in the same phase too.

In conclusion: You need to measure your situation right now and what you can do right now without judging yourself. Whether it is taking a plunge or holding yourself, there is no requirement of judgment on self.


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