Settling for Mediocrity

“It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.” — Isaac Disraeli

 Keep your head down. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t make waves. There is pressure in our society to live the status quo and thus settle for mediocrity.

But what does it mean to live the status quo? It means a life of stability, normalcy and social acceptance. For some, it could mean a steady 9-to-5 job, a lifetime working for someone else, and washing your car on Sundays. Of course, any and all of these things could be just great. Settling for mediocrity means different things to different people.

To Hollywood, settling for mediocrity means living a life in the suburbs. I recently watched Revolutionary Road, and I would say this film strongly implies that suburban life means selling out and giving up on your dreams.

To someone who has lived in the suburbs, I find this generalization judgemental and untrue. What of the person who always dreamed of being a dentist, but chooses to live in the suburbs for the trees and yard? What of the person whose dream it is to raise a family in a quiet, family-oriented neighbourhood? Neither of these people is settling for mediocrity.

To me, settling for mediocrity means choosing social acceptance over dreams and passions, and living a life you believe someone else wants or expects of you. It could mean sticking it out at a job you dislike for 20, 30 or 40 years just to secure the pension because that’s what’s reasonable in our society. It could mean giving up on dreams because they’re seemingly too difficult or unrealistic or unusual, and thus becoming very small and unremarkable in the process — not to mention resentful and regretful.

I admire people who challenge the status quo. These people are true to themselves even when it means being different.

At the end of the day, you have to like yourself. A life well lived is not one that meets with everyone else’s expectations. It’s one that meets with yours.

“The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself.” — Rita Mae Brown.

 

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The Fame Factor in Career Choice

As part of my job I respond to e-mails from students with career-related questions. I am amazed by the number of young people who want to become singers.
 
I will venture a guess that the popularity of the career choice has been fueled by hit TV shows American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent, America’s Got Talent and the like.
 
I’m all for pursuing one’s dreams. The most fulfilled and successful people are those who do what they love and love what they do.
 
However, I can’t help but wonder whether some of these dreams aren’t just a little artificial. Is a career that puts you in the limelight about your deepest dreams and passions? For some, it truly is about the love of singing and performing. But for others, is fame the greater factor? Being famous has become the new ideal, after all — the new stamp of approval. When you’re famous, you’ve arrived — and half the time it hardly matters how dishevelled and disorderly you do arrive.
 
 Fifty-one per cent of 18-to-25-year-olds surveyed said that being famous was their generation’s most important or second most important life goal, according to a Pew Research Center poll from 2006.
 
Has our society bought into the media’s pitch that fame is the ultimate achievement? Even the porn star profession has gained greater mainstream acceptance thanks to fame’s ever-rising significance. Reality shows audition people who want to break into the adult film business. In other reality shows, cameras simply follow around porn stars in their everyday lives.
 
With the rise of reality television, talent shows, YouTube and social networking sites, fame seems more achievable than ever – and all without a lifetime of hard work and commitment. It seems that people can become celebrities overnight. Dancing, singing, modelling and acting are a few of the commodities that fuel the fame-making machines. The other careers don’t receive the attention and promotion. At the grocery store check-out, it’s not the faces of scientists, intellectuals or health-care workers that plaster the magazine covers.
 
Yet, is fame really achievable for everyone who wants it? Even if it were, how long could it possibly last? To be truly successful at something, you have to persevere. To persevere, you have to really, really want it.
 
To find your true calling in a celebrity-crazed culture, maybe you have to dig a little deeper. Ask yourself — what are you working on when you lose all sense of time? What did you want to be when you were really young – when you still believed anything was possible? If time, money and fear were no object, what could you see yourself doing?
 
Then go and pursue the dream that makes your heart sing.