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Why you should strive for mediocrity

The world is a strange place, made so by the perverse tendency of humans to focus on the exceptions rather than the rule.

We glorify the exceptional in life: the winner, the strongest the most beautiful. The richest. We are enamoured by the successes achieved by rare individuals. Branson, Gates and Jobs.

In business, consultants advise that we should look for the edge, that we should constantly innovate and embrace this daring new strategy. None of those things make any sense.

There is only one who can claim the title of the winner. There is only one Branson and his story is not replicable and there are no lessons for anyone who is not Branson, facing the same choices at the same time he did.

Everyone can benefit and everyone can suffer from amazing, one-of-a-kind inventions and achievements. And it is great that many of them occur. But to make that the focus of your life or your business is ridiculous.

Now, the resultant hero worship may be a strong motivator and may be a great reward and good on those who receive that. But, if you were truthful with yourself, then you would know that breakout success is a statistical anomaly, and it is no more going to happen to you and your business than winning the lotto. The odds, properly statistically speaking, are overwhelmingly against you.

This is the truth. Success lies in the middle. Success is raising the average marginally. Success is doing the same thing repeatedly, solving mundane problems over and over – and getting slightly better at it.

Success is showing up. Success is opening your shop every day, serving the same customers over and over and over and doing the same jobs day in, day out. Routine. Repetition. Consistency. Slight improvements at the margins of a few tasks and process are the best you can hope for. But that is all you can hope for to raise the bar ever so slightly.

Being the owner of one small shop may be the peak. And there is nothing wrong or shameful about that. There is only one McDonalds and maybe another half dozen reasonable copcats. There is only one spectacular success in every category and if you measure your success by the exception to the rule, then everyone is a failure.

Not everyone is capable, committed or fortuitous enough to experience the exceptional. In fact, very often, it is the perfectionist who never gets started because things are never good enough or ‘right’. The big dreamers never achieve anything, because having those grandiose goals gives the dreamer permission to fail without shame.

A marriage is not comprised of long walks on the beach and spontaneous weekend trips to Paris. A marriage is made by tolerating morning breath, saggy bottoms and over-cooked steak. To make it work requires words of endearment and biting your tongue in equal parts. And most importantly, doing it again tomorrow.

To be average means you are statistically speaking as well as everyone else. It is eminently reasonable to work towards that, and also to be well satisfied if that is your lot. To be sure, it is not about slacking off or lacking ambition. You do the best you can, where you are with what you’ve got. It is not about being fatalistic, it is about being realistic enough to find satisfaction in the ordinary.

‘Fall down seven times, get up eight’ is the Japanese proverb that comes to mind because it’s an accurate picture of life and business: it is a series of successes and failures that amount to a life lived, where the good and the bad averages out to glorious mediocrity. For mediocrity is not a sin or a curse, but simply life lived – just right.

Dennis Price is a co-founder at and This story was first published on Inside Retail Australia.

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