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I’m sick of your mediocrity.


Everywhere I look I see mediocrity. I see people settling because they think the minimum amount of effort is sufficient.

All day long, as I work, I have clients who are some of the most highly educated people entrusted with the responsibilities of thousands of lives, and yet they have the attention spans of children. I provide them with information that the simplest of minds could read and understand and I receive blank looks and silences pregnant with ignorance in return.

When I go out to restaurants or stores I see people who take absolutely no pride in what they do. I see professional companies with obvious misspellings in their advertising materials. There are customers who take casual to mean “clothes that a homeless person would turn down”. There is error heaped upon error with only the slightest shrug of the shoulders provided as an apology.

At night, I witness comics who are in their early twenties who can’t spell or even seem to understand the most basic levels of grammar, but think that’s going to serve them well in the long run as they attempt to launch a career that has its focus in writing. Left and right, people demonstrate their sheer lack of intelligence and aptitude, or maybe it’s their complete acceptance of mediocrity. In my mind, it’s almost the same thing.

The dating pool and dating websites are full of examples of people who should probably stay single and never procreate. In an environment that is geared towards selling oneself to a potential date, it would seem obvious to use punctuation, capitalization, and spell-check. To use photos that aren’t blurry or dark or pixelated. At least, it seems obvious to me, but apparently not to the legions of desperate single morons out there.

It’s not all pathetic. In every corner of my life I do encounter shining examples of drive and motivation. I see people who strive to be better, who embrace responsibility, who take pride in what they do, no matter how simple the task. Those people are out there, but we are outnumbered by the brain-dead hordes, the drooling masses.

Whatever you do in life, do your best. Not for your boss or spouse or family or anyone else. For you. Take pride in accomplishing something that stretches your ability to the limit. Be the best cog in the gears, the strongest link in the chain. Smile and take comfort in knowing that regardless of anything else, you have made an effort.

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69 Replies to “I’m sick of your mediocrity.”

  1. Trish Smith

    One of my favorite quotes is, in part: “I am an elitist, and I feel that my responsibility is to drag the human race along with me.”

    I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told, after noting the same sort of mediocrity you blog about, that I’m being “too harsh”. That I should “just relax”. That it “just doesn’t matter”. Sorry, but no. As my dad likes to say, “Have some fucking pride.” (Well, he doesn’t say “fucking”. But I bet he would if he were angry enough.)

  2. Moon HalloranLeady

    As a Perfectionist, I hear you about the grammar and such and everything. But I would have to call you out on Gifted Kid Syndrome ~ trust me ~ we all have it…which is what makes us fabulous and yet unapproachable. Nobody likes a person who constantly insists they are not good enough. It comes with the territory of the Over 150 Club.

    But give the Children of a Lesser Mind a break (and yourself too) ~ This post smacks of pettiness. Sorry. I loves ya man…but still. Not nice.

    That said? And shhhh? I happen to agree with you.

    • Avitable

      @Moon HalloranLeady, how is it petty? I just don’t think people should be satisfied with the bare minimum. They don’t have to be geniuses or doctors or lawyers. If you’re a trash man, be the best trash man you can be.

      • Moon HalloranLeady

        @Avitable, You know what? You are correct. I think somebody must have peed in my Cheerios when I wrote that comment. I take it all back. You’re right that people should strive for more than the bare minimum. I see folks at my job who have been at the same exact job for 15 years ~ they bitch about it all but never apply for different jobs or attempt to learn new skills so they can move up…or even be a “better data entry clerk”. I hear ya. If I’m at the same job I’m in now, just shoot me in the face, mkay? Just do it.

  3. Superjules

    I’m a pretty hardworking and persnickety. So, okay fine Avitable, I’ll try to do better. Sheesh. You and your high standards.

    But I reserve the right to half ass things here and there. I’m an AMERICAN, dammit.

  4. B.E. Earl

    The “best cog in the gears” comment made me remember something from my youth.

    Back in college, I headed a senior software engineering group that was working on a project for the Accounting/Finance department of the school. In a meeting with the other team leaders, we discussed a friend of mine who was putting in zero effort. I was so mad because he clearly was taking advantage of our friendship, banking on the fact that we would do his work for him. A real dick move on his part. In my rant to the other team leaders, I called him a “useless cog”. My audience looked at me all confused-like, and I had to explain “you know, like in a machine…with gears…spinning uselessly? Anyone?” There was silence for a moment, then one guy started to laugh, then another, then another, finally everyone was howling with laughter at my pitiful excuse for an insult. I don’t think we ever got together after that without someone calling someone else a useless cog. At my expense.

    Anyway…what was this all about again?

  5. alimartell

    I guess I don’t really understand a lot of people because I come from a family of four type-A, overachieving parents. I know I’m not perfect (I’m nowhere near it actually) but I try my fucking hardest to be the best I can…at everything I do, and I don’t really understand people who don’t.

  6. Lisa

    It bothers me most in the kids. Well, I call them kids because I’m an old lady, but really they’re in their 20s and they speak in text and have no idea of the difference between they’re, there and their let alone accept vs except. I see them in the masses of people who apply for jobs when I have a single opening. I see it in myself because I’m tired and sometimes I just don’t care anymore.

  7. Blondefabulous

    Yesterday, CNN had a story about a Midwestern High School who gave their 2011 graduating class diplomas with numerous spelling errors. They showed the kids and families expressing disbelief that their educational institution wouldn’t proof read the very diplomas they were giving to commemorate a completed education, or at least CHECK them, before handing them out at commencement. If the people who are teaching our youth can’t even be bothered to check something as miniscule as the spelling and grammar on a diploma, what do we actually expect those students to care about?

    PS- It was a student who pointed out the error to the principal right after the ceremony. Guess HE was paying attention!

  8. Hockeymandad

    Well said. I agree completely, in everything I do I give it all I’ve got or I don’t do it. I accept mistakes will happen or I may come up short, but if you don’t give something your all then why bother. Mindless idiots annoy me. People who don’t care about what they’re doing bother me. Pay attention, you might learn and/or enjoy something.

  9. Jen O.

    If I don’t think I can be the best, or at least really, really good at something, I usually don’t even try. Which is also not a good way to live. But it also means that if I have that thought of “I think I could do this better than most people,” I’m going to put every effort into achieving that and work my fucking ass off to not fail. It’s both a motivator and an inhibitor.

    • Avitable

      @Jen O., I wrestle with that, too. If I think I might fail at something, it’s hard for me to try it. But that’s why I’m taking singing lessons right now, actually. I decided to try to be good at something where I will probably fail miserably.

  10. whall

    Well, if people grow up with the safe and secure feeling that someone will always take care of them (feed them, house them, educate them, care for their health, pay them to not work), why would anyone bother to help themselves? Why improve? Why learn? What’s the point?

    I’d say most of the people you’re complaining about are victims of someone else removing consequences from their life. Put consequences back in, and all of a sudden people have an impetus to improve.

    • Avitable

      @whall, I disagree. I know the people that I’m talking about and many of them struggle to get by with the absolute minimum and then stop trying. These are people who have been living with consequences their entire lives but just don’t care.

  11. Issa

    I once had a conversation with a few friends about this. One friend made a comment that has stuck with me for years. She said: the majority of the populations IQ is on average, 100 points. Those of us who strive for more, who want more, who expect more? We tend to be over 120.

    What you are seeing on a day to day basis are a bunch of people who don’t have it in them to think about more. Or that’s the way I tend to think about it. The rest of us stick out like sore thumbs. We may always be disappointed in the people we encounter on a day to day basis.

  12. Becky

    My 7th grade science teacher had two signs in his classroom.

    “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you work with a bunch of turkeys.”


    “Nobody is completely worthless. They can always be used as a bad example.”

    ‘nough said.

  13. Krëg

    I totally know what you mean. Last week, while giving a Detroit Dumpling to a twelve-dollar hooker, I glanced into her eyes and could tell she really wasn’t into it. It’s almost like she was just doing it for the money, not because she liked her job. Maybe that wasn’t the vocation she dreamed about having when she grew up…

  14. SisterMerryHellish

    Like too many companies in corporate America, mine seems to reward the slackers. Which, in turn, breeds new slackers and less exemplary work. Or work at all.

    Seriously, these people read and sleep at their desks!

    This work thing. I’m doing it all wrong.

  15. Bright_eyes

    I have, before you use attempt to use that as an excuse, read and understand every word of your post.

    Now onto my real comment. I find your self entitlement, overtly egotistical attitude, ‘us smart vs the brick dumb them’ themes, and condenseding judgment sickening. You judge in a way such as to use ‘you just aren’t smart enough,’to dismiss people whom can think beyond themselves. You are immature to the point where a person’s clothing or dating site photo will send you onto a rant. If these things are such a bother for a poor, misunderstood genius like yourself, then why not not go to such sites? Are their clothes or pictures physically harming you? No? Then just let. It. Go.

    • Avitable

      @Bright_eyes, well, you misspelled “condescending” and posted your comment twice, but I’m not even going to mention that.

      Where was I self-entitled in any way? I try my hardest to do my best at everything I do, and I expect that from my fellow humans. That’s neither egotistical nor condescending. We as a species have come as far as we have in spite of apathy, and seeing it in all of its forms is very frustrating. How can we advance as a people if so much of the population is perfectly content with never trying?

      If someone is trying to date, why settle for putting a terrible photo of yourself and sounding like a moron in your ad? Put some fucking effort in.

      Not everyone needs to be a professional. If you clean toilets for a living, I respect you for it. Just be the best toilet-cleaner you can be.

      I’m not going to fucking let it go, you brain-dead reprobate. The entire point of this post, which you obviously did not understand, is that APATHY IS BAD. Just settling because we’re settling into a rhythm of mediocrity is sad and pathetic, and I refuse to do so.

      You can go be happy with mediocrity. I’m going to strive to be the best and maintain those same expectations for every person I meet, because to do otherwise would mean that I consider them to be less capable than I am, which is not true.

  16. Bright_eyes

    I have, before you use attempt to use that as an excuse, read and understand every word of your post.

    Now onto my real comment. I find your self entitlement, overtly egotistical attitude, ‘us smart vs the brick dumb them’ themes, and condenseding judgment sickening. You judge in a way such as to use ‘you just aren’t smart enough,’to dismiss people whom can think beyond themselves. You are immature to the point where a person’s clothing or dating site photo will send you onto a rant. If these things are such a bother for a poor, misunderstood genius like yourself, then why not not go to such sites? Are their clothes or pictures physically harming you? No? Then just let. It. Go.

  17. RC

    Honestly, I used to think this way. However, I’ve been a lot happier — and more successful in my business — since I’ve started to realize that *my* priorities aren’t everyone else’s. Some business owners simply satisfy customers, produce cutting-edge products, operate with charisma, and innovate continuously. They may have typos on their advertising — but they also do more business at higher levels and better nets than I do. Besides, I need those people to retain their shortcomings enough to hire me for the part that comes less naturally or is absent internally.

    You can see a mediocre crowd who cares not what they wear. You could choose to widen your definition of exceptional performance, too. Learn in the areas you might be weak. (We all have them.) Revise a proposal that, though simple, doesn’t keep someone’s attention. Reassess your job or clientele if you’re perpetually frustrated. Make something happen. Ongoing irritation might be a sign something needs to change for you. There’s something exceptional about everything, everywhere. The fact that we breathe, see, and live is exceptional. It’s truly all in the color of the glass you’re looking through.

    • Avitable

      @RC, by widen my definition of exceptional performance, you mean lower my standards. I have plenty of areas that I’m weak, and when I fail in those areas, I’m not happy with it nor am I apathetic. I will try harder, or I will find another way.

      I do believe that you can learn something from everyone. But I also believe that every person has the ability to be the best whatever they want. If you’re not going to put effort in to be the best, you shouldn’t bother being at all.

  18. Jen the Trephinist

    I can sympathize with this wholeheartedly, but I’m not sure I share your exuded confidence that we are in the right on this one.

    They call it mediocrity because it’s the median–the average. I’m sure your average mediocre person these days would seem incredibly civilized, intelligent, and genteel next to your average caveman. If we all strove to be more amazing, wouldn’t it just be mediocrity all over again?

    I definitely struggle with disappointment in regard to other people. But I think it’s important to recognize that these are my expectations and my issues at play. If such expectations make me unhappy with the world, it’s my job to remedy that, because something tells me the world doesn’t give much of a shit.

    Example: Typos do not constitute failure if no one cares about typos. And lots of people don’t.

    • Allyson

      @Jen the Trephinist, I think Adam is encouraging us to raise the bar, not to settle in and accept our “average.” Typos SHOULD matter because it is a sign of giving a shit. How quickly do we go from not worrying about typos to not worrying about meeting safety codes, or exemplary customer service, or civilized behavior? If mediocrity is the definition of average, then shouldn’t we strive to raise the average, skew the curve, call people out for being less than average?

      Rather than getting used to the downward spiral of work ethic or changing our expectations to meet the failures of others with open arms, perhaps we should call out every idiot who fails to put his best foot forward. Even if we have no real power over them, perhaps their embarrassment over having their mediocrity (or worse) pointed out to them will create, in them, a change for the better.

      • Jen the Trephinist

        @Allyson, I don’t necessarily agree that things are getting worse, I guess is the point of contention. I would argue that they continue to get better (which is why I mentioned cavemen). It’s hard for us to be aware of that as we age, but yeah, a short time ago, your seat on the bus depended on which color you were and a woman’s place was in the home. So I don’t see the “downward spiral.” I do see the mediocrity, but I draw a distinction between the two.

        Typos in business, for instance–I bet they were far worse before editors, spellcheck, standardized style guides, and all the other arenas of effort more at play today than ever before.

        I just think the generalized Gifted Kid anger lacks perspective for two reasons: 1. Not everyone is going to value perfection–nor would it necessarily make them happier to do so (I mean, perfectionism hasn’t done much for most of our dispositions, I have to say). At times, perfectionism is actually LESS productive, like worrying about typos when no one in your target market cares about typos. 2. The progress has its dips and blips, but overall, it’s been continual. There was a time when almost no one aside from “elite society” could even read.

    • Avitable

      @Jen the Trephinist, I don’t expect everyone to be exceptional. But I also expect more from people than doing something half-ass and then shrugging their shoulders because they have no inner drive, no personal responsibility, and complete apathy. That’s the mediocrity that I see.

      I do have expectations of every person that I meet, and they are the same expectations I have for myself. To expect less from my fellow humans is to say that they’re not capable and a different class of person, which I don’t think is true.

      • Jen the Trephinist

        @Avitable, I understand having the same expectations for others as yourself. I’m the same way. But only recently have I realized how much of that comes from self-hatred and the idea that I won’t be a quality person if I don’t bend over backward to do a great job at everything. God forbid everyone not think I’m winning, and God forbid anyone look at me with the disdain with which I have looked at so many people who are half-assing it, as you put it. I don’t want people to think I’m one of THOSE! … except that fear simply reflects that I’m a judgmental blowhard who lives in fear of coming under the scrutiny of judgmental blowhards such as myself.

        I can’t speak for you, obviously. Maybe it’s different for you. But in my own life, I continue to see this sort of frustration as a trap that will make me less happy while the world carries merrily on either way, and I continue to see the frustration as a sign that I expect the world to be as I think it should be–and that I honestly believe I even know what I’m talking about, as if I really can say for sure what everyone should be doing and how they should be doing it.

        I am much happier now that I’ve managed to get away from some of that. I have also, interestingly enough, found myself in the right frame of mind to influence a lot more people to strive harder, now that I’m not so overinvested in the idea that I can only react to them with anger.

        • Avitable

          @Jen the Trephinist, I don’t need to do a great job at everything, but I take pride in what I do. And I know you take pride in what you do, as well.

          I don’t strive because I’m trying to impress someone else. I do it because it’s who I am. I will always take pride in my work, and I don’t see it as having anything to do with self-hatred. I don’t judge people who aren’t as good at something as I am. I just find it impossible to be okay with mediocrity and apathy.

          Typos are an easy example, but what about engineering? If an engineer decides that he did enough work on a bridge design and doesn’t take pride in what he does, that has consequences. Or a maintenance worker on a roller coaster.

          Maybe I’m not just at the point of enlightenment that you are, but I cannot for the life of me see any negative effects to having a philosophy of “I don’t care what it is that you do in life, but do the best that you can and take pride in what you do.”

          • Jen the Trephinist

            @Avitable, You’re right that the philosophy sounds innocent on its surface, but I think the negative effects are frustration, superiority, anger, and so on. The Internet is pretty much seething with “WTF is wrong with you?” and I just don’t think that’s productive. That said, me speaking up about it to the extent that I have is just more of that, so I shall leave you to it. 🙂

  19. Amy

    It’s just going to get worse with this damn, “I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok” touchy feely mentality people are raising their kids with these days. This no keeping score at sporting events, do giving real grades in schools because heaven forbid a kid feels bad these days. We’re raising kids to be mediocre these days. And it’s like no one can SEE that and it drives me crazy.

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