Opinion: Embrace mediocrity

Jacob Montgomery, Opinion Columnist

American society has wrongly shunned mediocrity as being a symptom of laziness or apathy. Students are expected to strive for A’s throughout college resulting in immense pressure and inevitably burnout.

Mediocrity has been abandoned by Americans in exchange for “grinding.” Grind culture can be defined as a promotion of the mentality that if one is not consistently working toward achievement or some larger ambition, they are unmotivated or lack personal pride.

To be clear, one is perfectly justified in pursuing large goals or endeavoring to bring about large change. Those who are working diligently to create cures for the various illnesses plaguing our time are not being lectured or talked down to as busybodies who should give up their pursuits, but one should ask whether or not a society that functions from the standpoint of consistently grinding is one that is benefiting the vast majority of people.

Most are not working toward curing cancer. Most are not pursuing anything of any large-scale importance, nor would they likely achieve it. There is nothing wrong with that.

Statistically, using the power law distribution model, most people lie somewhere along the right portion of the graph, usually below the mean for performance but occupying most of the population. On the left side of the curve we have someone like Steve Jobs. On the right, we have someone whose contribution is much lower. Both sides of the chart are extremes. These people are exceptions to the rule.

The vast majority, which could be called mediocre, lie within the middle, but below what would be called average. Using the Steve Jobs example, this person may be talented and tech savvy, but they are not necessarily going to create another Apple, Inc.

The idea that one must pursue excellence in all one does is foolish and ignores the many factors that restrict one’s actions.

The parent who works must still attend to their child’s needs but may be pulled away from their child because of the demands of their job. This does not make them a bad parent or a bad worker, they are simply choosing mediocrity in both aspects of their life for the sake of maintaining another.

To overwhelm people with ideas of needing to be grinding toward excellence, usually related to their job, severely limits their choices in life. Different people prioritize different aspects of their lives and this is natural and should be embraced.

Human beings retain many different identities, some of which come into conflict with one another. To adhere to grinding as being our default mode of operating is detrimental to our ability to manage our lives.

Mediocrity, does not denote pursuing mediocrity as the end goal, but in viewing mediocrity as a possible and valid result of one’s effort. This distinction gives a much more flexible approach to managing one’s life.

Doing one’s best is no longer a means to an end with that end always being great achievement but is now an end in itself.

Borrowing from Black Feminist philosopher Audre Lorde, in her interview with Carla Hammond in 1981, one must learn to embrace our contradictions, that is, learn to embrace one’s decision to remain mediocre as a justifiable result of one’s choice to prioritize another aspect of their lives.

-Jacob Montgomery is a philosophy senior

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