I am a firm believer that all human beings are born talented but circumstances and self-sabotaging traits make the best of people slip into mediocrity at some stage in their life. So, like it or not, the word "mediocre" describes a large chunk of the workforce. While many of us harbour dreams of "following our passion" and "listening to the heart", the truth is that being mediocre at what we do places us in a pretty cosy little comfort zone/rut. But not all mediocre people are the same. Over years of observing and interacting with them, I have identified seven distinct types of mediocre workers. If you recognise any of these in yourself, it might be time to make a change.
1. Mr/Ms Perfect
I think we all know someone who fits this description: someone who talks as if he or she is the greatest gift to the universe and is doing the rest of us a favour just by existing. Such people invariably tend to slip into mediocrity as they think they have achieved excellence even if the whole world thinks otherwise. To excel in life, one needs to constantly hone one's skills, accept one's weaknesses and work on them. But they have no time and inclination to do that as they are already "perfect".
2. The Hard Worker
Sure, this person will toil hard. Give him a task and he meets the deadline five minutes before the stipulated time. Define a list of chores for these people (and they are present in the personal sphere as well) and they will happily check them off while you chase your dreams. And here's where their mediocrity kicks in: they are averse to thinking big, taking risks and embracing new challenges. They're happy to function - albeit adeptly - in a very narrow comfort zone.
3. The Burn-Out
Well, now this one's problematic. These are people who are thoroughly bored and fatigued with life -- be it their mundane jobs or with their equally monotonous personal responsibilities. In my view this combination couldn't be deadlier. They often ask this question to themselves: "Why does life suck so much?" They live in such a disillusioned world that they often want their, friends and even their partners to sink to a lower level of functioning so that they feel better not delivering to their promise. It's a source of solace for them to be around others who are as useless as they are. They are invested in dragging others down with them. My advice: Stay away from them.
4. The Sycophant
Now, this is a rather common category as I am sure you have plenty on your list! They know they aren't up to much so they seek to attract reflected glory by attaching themselves to their more accomplished counterparts or seniors. They'll devote all their attention to pleasing others so that they can stay in the charmed circle and perhaps wield power by association. Take a closer look at all the successful people around you and you will notice that they are immersed in things and processes -- numbers, headcount, budgets, charts - rather than in other people. If the chamchas want to foray into a brighter zone, it's high time that they live life on their own terms and conditions rather than hoping that they'll be swept along on someone else's upward trajectory.
5. The Blessed One
Aah, this is an offshoot of the Sycophant category. Such people don't know much, they are not too adept at work (there are others who are actually far better than them), yet they are achievers in their own right, thanks to their godfathers. Who cares what the world thinks of them as long as their gurus are in the hot seat calling the shots. Although they could have done much better had they moved out of their comfort zone and given their best, they tend to stay put in their positions close to where the actual power lies. And truth be told, some have their benefactors wrapped around their little finger.
6. The Shortcut Expert
Lots of ambitions but no patience define people in this category. They may be intelligent and smart, but they're too busy scouting for shortcut solutions rather than looking for the best ones. They use all their intelligence and smartness in devising new shortcut techniques for any and every job. They know they can achieve more, but they "strategically" prefer to keep their targets a little lower than the best. They are happy to meet people's expectations and have no qualms about not exceeding them.
7. The Misfit
Now, here you have people that are actually qualified to feel sorry for themselves. They may be hardworking and even have some talents, but these are not being put to use where they are working and they are unable to make progress. In my view, if they are stuck with a situation like this, they should be honest to themselves first, and face the fact that it is time to move on. A lot of times, people stuck in this situation may dread the chaos of change or they may fear restructuring a big part of their lives. Yet they must do it. They need to mull over the things that they enjoy doing the most and carve out a niche that helps them reach their full potential. After all, no one in this world should spend time doing things they are not good at or live in situations that are not meant for them.
All in all, if you want to overtake your competition, make sure you battle your own tendencies to lapse into mediocrity. DO not let routine and habit dictate your choices. Get away from the comfort zone, try out new things in life, move beyond incremental achievements and grab the success that is waiting for you. Don't underestimate yourself.
A version of this article was published in Times Ascent.