Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Lofty Heights Of Disappointment

I am a child born on the cusp of the Boomer Generation. Birthed in the final year of the '40s, my decade saw the sacrifice of the Depression, unselfish commitment of WWII and the birthing of suburbia. Though eclipsed in later years by moon landings, supersonic flight and the fulfillment of Dick Tracy's wrist watch telephone, my generation has been all about success, productivity and achievement.

My generation spawned "Second place is first loser," Winning isn't the best thing, it's the only thing" and "He who dies with the most toys wins." I wonder if I am the only Boomer who is depressed because he is always exploring the lofty heights and rare air of the furtherist edges of mediocrity. When measuring my progress in life, I usually find myself heaped in the pile with the other "Might-Have-Beens."

While I have never taken inventory of my cohorts, I suspect there are more than many care to admit. In fact, I think there are more of us who were so far back at the beginning of the race that we were in danger of being declared out of the competition before the gun sounded.

Companies want leaders, producers and visionaries. Those that do the hiring look for people who look like the rest of the company. The companies believe they have already created a culture of leadership. They know a team that produces the best product with R&D departments perched on the brink of breakthroughs will cement their position for economic generations to come.

I doubt their culture assesment is accurate. I doubt it because the people who really fit those molds don't often fit company profiles. The current hires, from the people who occupy shipping and sales to I.T. cubicles and Executive Wash Room, are pretty much like me.

What is worse, I suspect they are afraid someone will find out their dirty little secret. They are fearful they will be outed and their paper mache world will disolve into a mushy heap - formless, worthless and useless.

I want to give hope to the rest of us. Mediocrity isn't the curse that the Zig Ziglars and Tony Robbinses of the world want us to think it is. Mediocrity is more about being functional, dependable and trouble-free. Mediocrity isn't about failure to excel. It is about being average. It is also about the failure to quit, even when the end results would seem less than satisfying.

It is rather like the boy who sits on the bench for four years of high school football and finally gets to play in the last 30 seconds of Senior Night while his parents spent those years sitting in the stands warming their hands with a hot styrofoam cup of steaming instant coffee.

There are times that it simply makes sense to do the job, pressing to the end, because we own the job, not because we are better at it than anyone else.

My employer requires daily progress from me in completing my tasks. If I excel triumphantly on one file but fail to complete my tasks on 10 others, I am not a hero. I have failed. If, on the other hand, I complete the eleven files on time and the customers reasonably satisfied they were heard, I am successful.

So self-help books not withstanding, modern-day Davy Crocketts exploring the motivational world of the cerebral traveler simply can not replace the person willing to tackle a job that appears to be do-able, but just barely. The John Glenns and Scott Carpenters of excellence don't really fit in to our world of "I did my best."

Sometimes "my best" is not good enough. I guess I am saying to the rare few that always seem to get elected, promoted or designated "Salesman of the Week," you are going to have to move over and let the rest of us do our job.

You see, you aren't an example of excellence. You are more a freak of productivity planning.

I accept my mediocrity. It may not be pretty, but it is vital. It may not swell the breast with pride, but it doesn't confuse a parade marshall who lines up the floats with a drum major who happens to be marching in front of the band.

I not only accept it, I embrace it as a neccesary step in the evolution of the man who beat on a hollow log and called it a drum. It may not have much of a melody, but it still has a beat and Dick Clark's kids think you can dance to it.