By John Nicola, Chairman and CEO
For some inexplicable reason, I woke up this morning wanting to be a little philosophical. Last night I watched two videos on excellence and achievement, then this morning stumbled upon a poignant article in the National Post by a young woman named Sadaf Ahsan– Why it’s OK to pursue mediocrity. Needless to say, her message was quite different than the two videos I had watched.
The first video featured a motivational speech on achieving excellence delivered by Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology, clinical psychologist, YouTube personality and author. Peterson is a prolific writer who is quite controversial. However, in my opinion, he is a clear thinker with very few filters.
The second video featured a speech from Denzel Washington on exactly the same topic as Peterson with, more or less, the same message. These two individuals are different in so many ways, but they are consistent with their views about achieving excellence.
Ms. Ahsan’s point is that, because these two men are older (yet younger than I) and extremely accomplished, they represent the problem for young people who want to live ordinary, or in her words, “mediocre” lives.
I’d like to share the message I wrote to her on LinkedIn so you can get an idea of the message I wanted to share with her, and now all of you.
If you base your benchmarks on internal measurements like personal goals and passions, you will never have to choose between excellence and mediocrity.
All the best,
I read your article in the National Post today with great interest. I was just about to send out a note to a number of people with two YouTube videos regarding the rewards and benefits of excellence and effort. Needless to say, your comments draw different observations and conclusions than mine.
Let me first admit I am much older than you. I am 70, white, male, and by most definitions successful in business and my personal life. I came from humble beginnings and therefore strived for improvement in many areas of my life.
One of my favourite quotes is from a great business writer named Jim Collins. He writes about the “Tyranny of the OR” vs. the “Genius of the AND”. Collins asks why can one not enjoy the benefits of being persistent in making a great effort and at the same time not achieve extraordinary results? For example, 95 percent of people who have ever completed a marathon will never place, yet they have proven something to themselves. Their benchmark was not external, but internal.
At one point you state that trying to become an Olympian or CEO is not for everyone and is exhausting. I agree with your first point but the second one is wrong. If you have the skills, interest, or both, to be a CEO or Olympian, it is not exhausting. It is exhilarating.
All of us can improve at something we find meaningful and all of us can learn for a lifetime. I hope you do not accept mediocrity because you have not yet found something you can be truly passionate about and committed to.
Wishing you the best in avoiding mediocrity,