I was jolted into action this morning by Kayla Cruz, talking on her blog about mediocrity or, more specifically, why we should study the superb if we want to avoid it. Cruz is one of those rare writers who manages to articulate her dissatisfaction with the status quo in a way that leaves me feeling energised and enthused.
“Think about it. If we only study the mediocre, what do we really learn? How to be mediocre? How lovely.” Listening to her rant about the challenges faced by Gen Y workers, the stultifying inertia of authority or her unwillingness to be pigeonholed as ‘young and inexperienced‘ is always a breath of fresh air, because whilst she does it in a direct and unforgiving way, it’s always couched as a call to arms, a positive force.
Cruz is someone dissatisfied with the mediocre and willing to stick her head above the parapet to do something about it.
Different factors come into play when we consider motivation, inspiration and how we move from the mediocre to superb. It’s more than just studying excellence, although that’s a great foundation: it’s about how we recognise and diagnose what makes something excellent, how we distil something from that into our everyday actions and how it changes us as a result. In other words, where does the disturbance come from and how do we channel it, to what ends?
It’s all very well being dissatisfied with the status quo, but it’s a big step from there to actually doing something about it. Recognising that something is wrong is the first step of the journey: working out what to do about it is the hard part. There is nothing new in the notion that we need to study excellence in order to achieve excellence. It’s what’s done everyday in schools around the world as children study great literature or poetry, great historical works or science textbooks. Within a work environment though, this can be distilled or even lost altogether. Somewhere along the way it become uncool to aspire to be excellent.