People rise to the top through excellence or sink to the bottom because of mediocrity. Being mediocre might feel safe and comfortable, but it is seriously dangerous.

The bottom of the barrel can be referred to as the crowd, the herd, the average, the “typical user/customer/employee”, etc.

Why the bottom of the barrel exists

The main reason why the bottom of the barrel exists is because of mediocrity.

The signs and symptoms of mediocrity are obvious:

  • just doing what is enough
  • just doing what I’m paid for
  • just going through the motions
  • clock in at 9, clock out at 5
  • living for the weekends
  • just getting by
  • playing it safe
  • not trying to shake things up and creating a scene
  • just follow the rules
  • hoping for the best
  • waiting for things to happen

A mediocre waiter would be one who greets you without a smile, drones away at reading out the menu recommendations to you and serves your dishes without expression.

A mediocre employee is one who just counts his way down to the weekends and waits for the paycheck. He only contributes when needed to and does the bare minimum. He might argue that he’s being underpaid and wishes to be promoted or to get a raise, both which are very unlikely to happen.

A mediocre student is one who goes into the lecture hall and doesn’t even bother listening to what’s happening and is in his own world. He leaves his studies and work to the last minute. He just hopes to scrape by for his grades and hopes that after graduation things would be much better and easier. Fat hope.

Have you been operating on a mediocre level recently?

Why the bottom of the barrel is dangerous

Being mediocre is dangerous because it is socially acceptable to be average, which is why average exists in the first place.

There’s nothing wrong or criminal in doing just what you need to do, as long as no one gets hurt.

The second reason why being mediocre or operating at the bottom of the barrel is dangerous is because there is little value and differentiation.

What extra value does the mediocre waiter provide to the brand reputation of the restaurant? Do you think he is going to help garner 5-star reviews and raving fans for the restaurant?

What makes the mediocre employee special? Why should the boss even bother to promote him when at least 5 of his other counterparts are working twice as hard and going the extra mile for their clients? And who do you think the boss would let go off first during a time of economic contraction or corporate restructuring?

What makes the mediocre student stand out? What’s so unique about him? The way he acts, behaves and performs is just like any other. Anyone who is willing to work just a little harder than him would easily surpass him.

How to rise to the top

From this we can easily see that being mediocre and playing it safe can actually be very dangerous.

The irony of life is that the safety of our comfort zone can be the most dangerous place on earth.

The way to overcome mediocrity is to pursue greatness and excellence.

Be relentless in pushing yourself past your acceptable and preconceived limits. Challenge the way you are doing things currently. Up your game and intensify your efforts.

Redefine your standards.

Your job is not just to do what is required of you – that’s a mediocre standard. Your new job is to go above and beyond. Average is no longer good enough. Excellence should be your new average.

If you want to be a great waiter, give your customers your best smile when they walk in. It doesn’t matter whether they smile back or not, or whether you are having a bad day or not. Remember greatness and excellence. Greet them and be interested in finding out what they want to eat and give them your best recommendations on food. Serve them wholeheartedly and make sure that their needs are met to the best extent. Smile widely when processing their payment and handing the change and receipt back to them. Wish them a great day as they leave. Make it your mission to ensure that coming to your restaurant is the best thing that would happen to your customers that day.

If you want to be a great employee, don’t just ask what the company can do for you – ask what you can give or offer (more) to the company. Invest in yourself and in others. Always keep adding value. Stretch and challenge your mind. Offer new suggestions. Most people are good at identifying problems. Make sure you strive to be great at providing solutions. Help others out and don’t waste time in gossip or rumours. You have bigger and better things to do. Take on new tasks and projects even if they are not within your job scope. Go all in, all the time. Look forward to work each day because that is your opportunity to give, shine and add value.

If you want to be a great student, do well in your studies, be timely in your assignments and study well for your exams. Pay attention and contribute in class. Let your other classmates sit around with arms folded and whiling their time away. Not for you. Be enthusiastic in your group projects. Be involved in other activities outside school. Volunteer. Work part-time. Help other students out. Reach out to your teachers and professors. Pick their brains. Even challenge their thinking by suggesting your perspective. Stay sharp, stay active.

Are you playing a bigger game?

Seriously, life is short.

You can choose to sit around waiting for things to happen and twiddling your thumbs.

Or you get off your ass and get sh*t done. Get out of your comfort zone. Put yourself out there. Be wholehearted in what you do. Think bigger and dream bigger.

It’s up to you.

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