Inspiration from Mediocrity

I started this blog writing about things which inspired me. The inspiration has come in so many different ways. Seeing someone trying to get somewhere is always inspiring. When I see an honest effort to get something done it just makes me feel good. When I can see this effort being made it inspires me to want to put anything I can into supporting their effort.

I work with a lot of different students, and I see every level of dedication and commitment. I have a student who I never need to prepare for because she never practices. She can make excuses for anything and everything and believe me she does. I could teach her the same stuff every lesson and I swear sometimes I do because she puts no effort into growing.

At the other end of the spectrum is a student who devours everything she comes near. She worked on learning the chords to a song so she could play and sing it. I wasn't sure what to expect. She returned a couple days later able to play and sing the song almost all the way through. Let me explain, to the non instrument players- playing and singing anything at the same time is not the same as playing or singing. It typically is something most people really have to work at to synchronize and get right. She pulled this off in couple days. She admitted that when she got home she was so excited she played it over and over until she got it right. Talk about self motivation.

So what does this have to do with anything? I was considering asking the same question. In the course of my exhaustive research for something I was working on yesterday  I came upon a video entitled something like, why you suck at guitar. The gist of the video was what kind of guitar player do you want to be? He drew up this great analogy about being alright with and accepting mediocrity. He explained more about the amount of effort and preparation it would take to get there which is not much. He also went on to explain how much effort and essentially practice it would take to become a really good guitar player. It is an entirely different level of commitment and a completely different mindset as well. Have I answered the question what does this have to do with anything yet? No. Not really but it's getting closer.

What does the whole mindset aspect have to do with anything? Enough that it deserves a volume on its own. A champion in any field cannot have the mindset of a failure. A champion cannot even have an average mindset. Most of the champions I admire are humble so we are not talking about braggadocio.  I am talking about confidence and vision.There are a few things I would like to be much better at. One of them ironically is playing guitar and singing. But I really desire to become a better writer. In  a sea overflowing with writers, what could possibly separate my writing from anyone else's? I don't know that it could. But I can tell you for certain bad writing is not the path. Writing worse or accepting mediocrity is not on the path. Becoming a less interesting storyteller certainly won't separate me from averageness. (I realize it may not be a real word but it so fits in with the point I am making.) Mediocrity. Being OK with mediocrity. Think about that one for a minute. This is where the whole playing guitar blends in with being a writer and as far as I am concerned being a person.

I can choose to not practice. I can choose to not learn. I can choose to be petty and small. I can choose to hold onto a self destructive grudge. I can choose to substitute judgement for understanding. I could fill my days with excuses for not accomplishing any given thing. When I get done I could ask someone to tell me what it looks like from where they stand. My guess is it would look just like it did before I made all my excuses. Why wouldn't it? Nothing changed.  I didn't really look at the things that make my writing less than interesting. I didn't really practice that part I am having a hard time with. I made excuses and got nothing done.

The bottom line is this. The phrase "being alright with mediocrity" is offensive. It makes me cringe. I know the sea of writers is overflowing, as is the sea of entrepreneurs, singers, songwriters and about any other group I could list. Do I think the ones who have risen to the top of their field were the ones who were alright with their own mediocrity? Absolutely not.

What is inspiring about any of this? Everything. Look I know I will never be John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway nor will I wait for an invitation to go on tour with the Stones. But I can make choices to take steps each day to separate myself from mediocrity. I can learn from these greats and the not so greats. I can practice at being a more patient person. I can make efforts to spend more time listening and less time talking or assuming. I can make decisions to improve that which is improvable. Working to move away from mediocrity is inspiring.


Bren Murphy said...

Choosing to do the work and be inspired and keep going no matter what - that is the secret.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

I couldnt agree more. It is a decision in the end. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

Thanasis Karavasilis said...

Great post. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
I rarely read blogs but this post was well worth it.
I struggle with mediocrity. We enter the ring every single day and it keeps punching until I run out of either bones, blood or both. I am stuck in that awful line of being better than most and worse than a lot.
And I am afraid of moving on. Afraid of the criticism, of my perfectionism, of actually improving.
Both my writing and my playing (guitar) are mediocre at best but I do not want to feel comfortable with that mediocrity.
Maybe I should choose to do the work.

Thanks again. Keep writing!


Gordon A. Wilson said...

Thanasis you made my month. So often its easy to give in, more often than not. Perfectionism, that voice which propels us and tears us down in the same breath. Did you come across the blog on Twitter or another way?

Thanasis Karavasilis said...

Yeah, it was twitter. :)

Will Singourd said...

A very good post. Read a couple of others, thought they wandered a bit & were (intentionally?) unfinished, half full. So, your views on effort & skill here are doubly interesting.

Many moons past, I used to be a furious perfectionist until I realized perfectionism was a false flower, pretty silk, but dead as a headless fish. And an awful waste of time. On the other hand as you say, having "mediocre" as a goal itself stinks to low heaven, and in any case is entirely unfun.

*Unless* you are a genius and you know it (and you are correct) aiming for some faultless ideal is an error.

Good is good enough. For most of us. That bastard Art is long, but life is short.

One of the most difficult things for me is reading a fine work and knowing, mostly, I could never approach that storytelling skill. Parade... meet flood. Yet...

If that work is truly fine, there is more inspiration than trepidation.

Also as with guitar, he said, reffing the link below. (Not me. I'd give my left hand to play that well!)

Will Singourd said...

Hmmm... Are links disabled?

Gordon A. Wilson said...

Will -I am not sure if links are disabled but I copy and pasted to see a fantastic guitar player. Thanks so much for investing your time in the blog and posting feedback. Your comments contain vivid prose and honesty reminiscent of sitting around the dinner table with my whole family as a kid where everyone was honest. I would love to continue the conversation.