Don’t Want No Mediocre

The One You Feed.tjpg

A friend and I were talking the other day, catching up and somehow I got on the topic of productivity. I was explaining to her that sometimes I feel guilty about reading…because I love to read novels and they don’t seem to offer much productive value in the practical application of life. I know this isn’t true and I strongly believe in the enormous value of literature, but sometimes when I read my beloved stories, I feel guilty because I think I should be spending my time doing more “traditionally” productive things. Like things for work – things that will advance my career as opposed to just enrich my mind for the sake of enrichment.

She told me about a podcast she’d been listening to and recommended a specific episode about being productive rather than stagnant. Processing the information we absorb as opposed to just taking it in and letting it eventually slip away. This is my processing of the episode – what I learned from it and how it applies to my life (these are just my notes and in no way an authoritative summary of the episode). Listen to the actual episode here:

The One You Feed: Todd Henry (Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Everday)

Each episode is an interview and starts off with this parable about the bad and good wolf and what it means to the interviewee.

The parable: An old grandfather told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment. The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and bravery.”

The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

His interpretation:
Desire (to create value) v. Comfort
Are you going to live a life of creating value or an easy life that stays stagnant?
Are you going to live a life by design or by default?

Oh, how I struggle with this everyday. The desire to create something valuable versus the desire to just lay down, turn on the TV and be mindlessly entertained. The daily commitments I make to myself that go unfulfilled because I’m lazy or really just too scared to try…because what happens if I try and fail? No, no, it’s much easier to just put it off and keep it as a possibility for tomorrow than to actually try and discover that what I have to offer really isn’t that valuable.

The roots of the word mediocre come from the Latin medial, “middle,” and ocris, “mountain.” The middle of the mountain is just that – the middle, halfway up from the highest point of excellence. Or you can also think of it as stopping halfway up the mountain.

7 Deadly Sins of Mediocrity:

Being mediocre is something that repulses me, yet I find myself climbing only halfway up most mountains. I am a competitive, overambitious perfectionist so the thought of being mediocre, or even considered mediocre by others, just doesn’t sit well with me. But, regardless of how much I dislike mediocrity, I cannot stand failure and my fear of failure keeps me from getting to the top of the mountain. This is something I struggle with a lot. It is most likely the biggest obstacle in my life and the desire to overcome it is the driving force behind every action I take towards self-improvement. Mindfulness, therapy, self-help books and lectures, spirituality…all of it is in the pursuit of shedding my fears and becoming my true self – someone who is fearless and free from the cage of my limited sense of self, or ego. I know that the best way to do this is by just doing, but most times I just avoid…and then feel really shitty about it.

Time               determines fate.

What is important is what you do TODAY…what you do in the everyday little increments of time.

Doing a LITTLE of something is better than thinking a lot about something GRAND.

So…this is what I do (or actually don’t do) all the time. Instead of just getting to it and doing just the tiniest of something, I’ll just sit around thinking. Thinking grand thoughts about my future. What I want it to look like and all the things I wish for. But, instead of taking the step to lay down that first building block, I’ll just sit there…watching TV, reading a book, scrolling endlessly through Instagram. It’s so much easier to think than do. Then, there’s also the trouble of what it is that I actually want to do. I guess it all boils down to his next point:

What do we want out of life?           V          What does life want out of us?

The word passion comes from the latin root pati, “suffering” or “enduring.”

What work are you willing to suffer for?

Work is not just your job. Your body of work includes anything that you do that has value – your family, your free time, the way you treat people…

Differentiate between tasks and outcome. You don’t need to love all the tasks, but you need to love the outcome – be committed to an outcome that transcends the day to day tasks.

What is the outcome I am committed to?

I guess what I really want is to create something meaningful that people can get something from. Getting the feelings I have inside of me outside to the world. Although I’m not really sure how I want to do that or what the medium will be, I know I want to create something that people can connect with. For me, connection has always been strongest through words, which is why I love reading so much. When I read something that describes a thought, feeling, or sentiment I’ve had, I feel a connection that makes the world seem like a less lonely place. In that moment, I have proof that someone else has felt the same way as me, and in this life where we essentially exist alone when it comes to our thoughts, it feels wildly comforting to know that at some point, someone else occupied the same mental space as me.

There are three kinds of work we engage in and our ability to effectively engage in each of them can give rise to different “productivity profiles.” Clearer explanation here:

Buckets of Work

  1. Mapping
    -Planning, strategizing
  1. Making
    -Checking off tasks, actual doing
  1. Meshing
    -Thematic thread that ties the work together
    -Understanding the outcome – where is this taking me?
    -Developing relationships

Productivity Profiles

Driver (Mapping + Making – Meshing)
Keeps head down and does the tasks, but isn’t doing the little things that bring it all together

Dreamer (Mapping + Meshing – Making)
Makes big plans and is great at developing and understanding, but doesn’t get around to the doing

Drifter (Making + Meshing – Mapping)
Lacks conviction of strategic plans…often winds up in “Project Plateau” – always onto the next new project, leaving a bunch of half finished projects in the wake

Developer (Mapping + Making + Meshing)
Do all three effectively

I’m most often a Dreamer and sometimes a Drifter. Once in a blue moon, I can be a Developer, but that doing part really trips me up. I don’t know what it is about just getting down to it and doing the tasks, but it really turns me off sometimes. The tasks may not even be that bad, they might even be things I actually enjoy doing! But once it’s wrapped up in productivity and the possibility of failure is involved…I avoid, avoid, avoid. My rationale goes something like this: if you don’t put your all into something, then you can’t really fail because you never really tried.

Regular practice you can apply that will change your life:

Build time to stop, read, study AND process that information. We often consume information without ever really digesting it. Take time to process what you’ve taken in. If you read for half an hour, spend half an hour writing about what you’ve read and how you can apply it to your life.

Most Valuable Land in the World?
The graveyard because it’s filled with all the great works, novels, art, and business ideas that never came to fruition.

We have a responsibility to bring whatever is inside of us to the world so that others can share in that value.

Putting things off until tomorrow is akin to feeding the bad wolf. Stop pushing things into the future. Be purposeful TODAY.

I don’t want to die with all of my greatest ideas and possibilities trapped inside of me. And I definitely don’t want them to stay trapped inside of me because I was too scared to let them out for someone to see. I want to stop letting my fear of mediocrity keep me stuck living a mediocre life.


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