Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Accepting Mediocrity?

Is our society now just going to accept mediocrity? Not even accept it, but reinforce it, encouraging people not to work harder than need be?

The other day I was watching the Olympics coverage and the reporter said that he didn't know why Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was swimming so fast, pushing himself so hard, when it was only a qualifying round. He could qualify without breaking records. I was SHOCKED by this!! Yes, Phelps could just swim hard enough to win. But he needs to push himself - winning isn't enough for him, he needs to break records. He wants to do his best in every race, not just enough simply to qualify or to win.

At work I see, as I'm sure many of you do, people doing the bare minimum to keep their job or do the assigned task. They don't deliver anything extra. They don't try to do their best, just enough to get by. And those people are often treated the same by the company (& it's management) as those of us that try to do a little better, who want to go above and beyond.

I've heard "who cares, as long as it gets done," and "well, it's finished" come out of the mouths of people on the street. I have heard people on the bus say, "I'm not going to work any harder than I have to." I have heard people complain about prices, politics, employment, their back yard even, and just say that it bothers them but they're not going to do anything about it.

Part of me really gets aggravated with this mentality. Is it new--are we getting lazier. Or has this mentality been around forever and I've just not noticed it until recently? Are we going to just accept "getting by?" Should I not work so hard and get by like the rest? Does it even pay/benefit someone who goes above and beyond any more? Do I feel better about myself because I did the best job I could, or do I take the time to relax and not work so hard? What are we going to ask for as a society? What do we reward? The average or the overachiever?


Sea_of_Green said...

I think it's just something that I've noticed more as I've gotten older -- and encountered more people who aren't doing things that they absolutely love to do. Really, I think it comes down to, how many people are doing what they enjoy? I know that when I'm engaged in work or a project that I really enjoy, I work as hard at it as I possibly can -- not so much for things I don't enjoy.

People tend to really excel when they enjoy what they do -- but all too often they're caught in situations where they're required to do things for which they have no passion. It's hard to maintain a strong, consistent work ethic when you go too long doing something you don't like -- that's why people experience "burout."

I think Phelps is the classic example of a man who absolutely loves what he's doing, and that's why he pushes himself and succeeds where others fail -- because more than anything else in the world, he LOVES to swim. :-) The commentator, on the other hand, sounds like he really isn't enjoying his job.

Sea_of_Green said...

Oops, that's "burnout," not "burout." Geez, I'm a sloppy typist ...

Lisa said...

Excellent point, Green. You might just be right.

Julia said...

This issue has come up in watching baseball too. Don Sutton, a Hall of Fame pitcher, was lamenting the fact that starting pitchers these days are perfectly okay with just doing their six or seven innings and then turning it over to the bullpen. As one of his managers said "We still play *nine* innings, don't we?"

Personally I was more worried about another American swimmer who after a mediocre heat/semi said he didn't want to show all his cards. But you still have to swim well enough to make the final. Especially the way the records are disappearing at these Games.