When was the last time you caused outrage? When was the last time you received adoration from a fan? If the answer is ‘not recently’ then you got a serious problem. If the answer is ‘never’ then you’re screwed.
The outcome of everything falls into three distinct categories — win, fail, and mediocrity. ‘The outcome of everything?’ I hear you query. Yes, everything. Your sex life, your career, and your relationship with your boss. The business you run, the charity you fundraise for, and the sport that you play. The art that you make, your child’s academic performance, and the return on your stocks.
The controversial observation here is where to draw the line between mediocrity and failure.
Let’s say you’re the proud owner of your own business. Well done, and sorry for all the long hours. Remember that boundless optimism you had when you were coming up with the company name back in the day? Do you remember your biggest fear? It was failing. Or more specifically it was how you’d look to your family and friends if you failed. If you’re still your own boss then you’ll be pleased not to have failed, but would you measure your performance as a win?
The prevalent problem is we fear the wrong enemy. Mediocrity is far, far worse than failure. Failure provides an education, success provides achievement, but mediocrity steals opportunity. It’s the only subtractive outcome, but we’re programmed to prefer it to failure.
Loss aversion demonstrates this. It’s why people are far more likely to elect for a medical treatment that has a 80% chance of success, than when the same treatment is described as having a 20% chance of failure.
Clearly define the line between failure and mediocrity before you begin.
How do you address this in your life? As a brand manager, you might define a minimum 20% year on year growth as success, whereas a new employee you might define winning an industry award every year as success for them. Just make sure you draw the line closer to the winning end.
And it’s really important to document this and share it with someone else, or even better make it public knowledge. Post your brand’s objective large on the wall of your office, and tell your boss when you start that new job that you’ll be looking for work elsewhere if you don’t win those awards.
If you don’t document it you will let it slide. You’ll make excuses and give yourself more time, and before you know it you’ll be running a business that sort of does okay but in reality has just absorbed years of your life where you could have soared doing something different.
If you study the histories of very successful people you’ll see they tend to have one thing in common — failure. Every self-made millionaire I’ve met has first hand experience of bankruptcy, and most successful business owners have at least one failed enterprise in their past.
the secret of our success
At OneMethod we’re often asked for the secret of our success. Truth be told, the more relevant question would reveal the secret of our failures. Don’t be afraid to take risks, even if that means pissing someone off. Obviously we don’t condone any form aggression, passive or otherwise — bullying is simply unacceptable, but the work of both creatives and entrepreneurs requires a courage to be bold in flavour. Being meh to everyone, is a one way road to mediocrity.
I distinctly remember taking a potential new client out for dinner to Home of the Brave. Those of you that are paying attention will be aware that OneMethod and Home of the Brave are somewhat connected, providing us with an opportunity to impress the hell out of these guys.
Much to the chagrin of his colleagues, the big-boss-man we were trying to impress asked for his steak to be cooked well done. This travesty was avoided when it was explained to him that they would not ruin such a great cut of beef by overcooking it — the steak would be cooked a perfect medium-rare. More used to the sycophantic service of The Keg, the refusal to do the wrong thing came as a surprise to our guests, but sometimes you just have to take a stand.
And that right there is the secret of our success (and failures) — never settle. Fight to do the right thing, even if it means upsetting someone along the way. If you try to be everything to everyone, the resulting mediocrity will make you nothing to anyone.