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The Difference Between Good and Mediocre

The problem with good is it’s always a leap of faith. It exists in stratified territory, where the new intersects with the enduring, and it is, by its nature, the unknown. Worse yet, the greater the ‘good’ is, the more it departs from convention, so the less likely people are to believe in it. And there’s not even a guarantee it will make you a dime. Not all things good succeed. Not all things that succeed are good.

But if good is bad, then the opposite is worse. When we refuse to budge or fail to move in the face of the empty unknown of the future, we are staring down a lifetime of mediocrity. This is the true opposite of good, and it is the worst of all options. At least bad requires nothing. It’s the alternative of least effort. It requires no dreams, it asks for no action. You can get on and off the train anytime you like, leaving your self-image intact.

Mediocrity is the painful choice.

Because if good is the combination of action and heart, and bad is inaction with no heart, then mediocre is inaction with heart, a truly toxic concoction. Put your dreams on the line, but never see them fulfilled. Think big, but achieve small. Mediocrity is salt on a wound that never heals. It takes all the work of good but achieves none of the results.

But if good seems too daunting, remember this: the difference between good and mediocre is a razor thin line. A simple switch in the mind. Good in isolation may be too much to handle. But in reality, it is nothing more than simple action. Using what you already have – time – the way it was meant to be used. So take comfort in the fact that you’ve been given everything you need – the mind, the heart, and the body – to get it all done. You just need to make it so. Here are some common misconceptions:

Good is vast
Good has nothing to do with scale. The greatest artists and business owners I know get things done. They move forward from day to day. It’s the whole process of moving forward that makes their work so good. They do something. They hit a wall. They find a way around it. They hit another wall. They find another way around. The reason the end result is so simple and elegant is that they solved problems time after time. And that’s because they found problems time after time. Movement does that. Too many people see good as perfection. A vast, monumental undertaking that requires completion at inception. It’s nothing of the sort. As they say of journeys, they start with a single step. So does every good thing.

Good is lots of work
Doing nothing is surprisingly hard. There’s enjoying your time and killing your time. The two are not the same. Enjoying time is having activities of value. Killing time is having nothing to do. The nature of inaction isn’t so much that we do nothing, so much as we focus our efforts on finding ways to spin our wheels to feel like we’re doing something without actually getting anything done. Either way, time passes just the same. In reality, the uncertainty of what to do is more often the problem than a lack of desire to do something. If so, give yourself the smallest tasks you can imagine. Write them out. Then do anything to make yourself feel the value of completing a task. As you do this, it will snowball until each thing you do has actual value.

Good requires brilliance
Brilliance is a series of a million minor tasks clumped together as one. Talent and vision are as much about work as they are about ability. While everyone may not be brilliant, no one must be mediocre. Underscoring brilliance is the notion that our actions don’t really matter. That some of us are pre-ordained for more and some for less. Don’t buy into it. It’s just another reason to doubt yourself. I know of many people who succeeded who were not geniuses. I know of few who didn’t put in the time. Putting in the time is the constant. Not capability. Capability will grow with you and take care of itself.

Good is risky
This is true. Good is risky. More aptly, good is scary. It’s scary because it’s uncertain. It’s scary, because it takes commitment. Not of time and effort, but of spirit. But that’s what makes the reward worth it. We live in a world of skepticism and doubt. Sadly, your worth needs to be proven instead of assumed, making it even harder to find the belief. The competition is vast, doubts are high, and barriers are substantial; so in this world, nothing is more important than your dreams. Mediocrity may be enough to get by, but if you live by it, be willing to give up your dreams. In my mind, that’s simply too high a price to pay.

About Spencer Lum

Spencer is a storyteller with an indelible belief in the raw humanity of weddings. 

With 10 years of experience running Brooklyn-based 5 West Studios, he has developed a style that combines influences from fine art and photojournalism. He has also enjoyed time as a designer, creative director, and filmmaker. 

Spencer is the founder of the industry blog, Ground Glass, as well as a doting husband and father of two beautiful children in Brooklyn, NY. 

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!