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Quotations for Motivation #62 -- Mediocrity

Updated on December 3, 2015

Guard Against Mediocrity

Oblivion is the tomb of mediocrity.

---F.T. Lynch, Oklahoma State Capital, Guthrie, Okla., Dec. 26, 1909.

If it's mediocrity you're seeking, you've probably already achieved it.

—Richard L. Evans, Improvement Era, Salt Lake City, Utah, October 1970.

Only a mediocre performer is always at his best.

---Jack Herbert, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Jan. 21, 1964.

Thousand fail in life because their ideal is mediocrity. Whenever any man’s work is monotonous he is not doing his best. Genius is an immense capacity for taking trouble. It has a passionate patience for mastering disagreeable details.

---W.G. Partridge, Houston Daily Post, Houston, Texas, Dec. 20, 1896.

The student who rests upon his oars, satisfied with past attainments, will never rise above mediocrity. Self-complacency has sapped his intellectual vigor and palsied all noble aspirations

---W.J. McKay, Keowee Courier, Pickens Court House, S.C., June 30, 1881.

If a man wishes to rise above mediocrity he must rid himself of conflicting ambitions.

---Orison Swett Marden, Success Magazine, New York, N.Y., January 1906.

The last argument of mediocrity consists in knocking a competitor.

---Robert Quillen, Spartanburg Herald, Spartanburg, S.C., Dec. 12, 1922.

If we create a loophole for escape into mediocrity, we are more likely to sustain a less than decent effort to do our best and readily excuse ourselves for being mediocre, rather than make an honest attempt to be creative.

—Royal L. Garff, Improvement Era, Salt Lake City, Utah, April 1966.

The only thing worse than mediocrity is rank inferiority. The only thing worse than rank inferiority is mock superiority.

---Liston Dickson Elkins, Waycross Journal-Herald, Waycross, Ga., June 2, 1934.

Those who are talentless themselves are the first to talk about the conceit of others, for mediocrity bears one flower—envy.

---Theophile Meerschaert, The Indian Advocate, Sacred Heart, Okla., May 1902.

Mediocrity requires aloofness to preserve its dignity.

—Charles Gates Dawes, New York Times, New York, N.Y., Jan. 22, 1928.

Do not worry overmuch if you cannot fit into the grooves carved out by men who have gone before. Greatness lies in making the grooves, not in fitting into them, which is the peculiar province of mediocrity. What passes for success may be attained by fitting yourself to conditions as you find them; real success lies in discovering exactly what conditions are and in applying them to your purposes or making them over until they suit.

---Lew B. Brown, Evening Independent, St. Petersburg, Fla., Jan. 18, 1912.

The supreme demand is for men who have demonstrated that they can do things. The call is for men capable of either hurdling or battling down obstacles. Employers rivet to themselves fellows who exhibit initiative, originality, men who are self-starters. …

For everything in life there’s a reason, even though the reason cannot always be unearthed.

I must say, however, that at least nine out of every 10 men who have risen to positions of conspicuous importance in this country rose because they deserved to, because they laid solid foundations, because they fitted themselves to climb.

As the world grows older, and as things are done on a larger and larger scale, the demand is to be, not for mediocrities, but for giants, for doers, for problem solvers, for obstacle-hurdlers, for men who have demonstrated that they possess initiative and originality, and possess, likewise, the energy, the determination, the stamina to transform their initiative and originality into achievement.

Don’t remain content to be a mediocrity.

Strive to become a real doer.

---B.C. Forbes, Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburg, Pa., Dec. 12, 1922.

Our mediocrity is rather a dismal thing to write about, but dismal or not, it is unfortunately true that most of us are cast in a very ordinary mold. Often we do not realize that until we are quite a way along the road of life, and then suddenly one morning we wake up to a realization that we have reached middle age without having got very far, and that the chances are we shan’t go much further. This makes some people very unhappy, but others just accept it with as good grace as they can muster and plod along in varying stages of resignation. Without taking an Olympian attitude in this matter, we venture to say that both these approaches to our mediocrity are wrong, the unhappiness is unnecessary and the resignation largely self-pity.

Perhaps in the realm of sport, more than in any other sphere, does this ordinariness show up. Only about one boy in a hundred gets anywhere playing hockey, yet without the other 99 there wouldn’t be any hockey to start with. Stars, if they are to be stars, have got to have a team around them, and that’s where our mediocrity comes into its own. In my own sporting days long ago, I indulged in three sports without ever getting anywhere in any of them. Although an alleged batsman, I never made a century at cricket. Although a supposed .300 hitter at baseball, I cannot recollect ever hitting a home run. At association football I never scored a goal, because owing to my height I was always cajoled or forced to act as goal-minder, when I wanted to be center-forward and get some of the glory. Yet the pleasure of playing in the games invariably overcame my lack of success on the field.

The truth of the matter is that our very mediocrity can be turned into something profitable if we only can see it that way. A bank, for example, can only have one manager, but it must also have one janitor, and though the intrinsic reward may differ considerably in the two positions, yet both are necessary to the institution. Whether the manager should get less money for his job and the janitor get more is a question which I am not sufficiently proficient to answer, because I don’t know the salaries of either. But that isn’t the point, anyway, for assuming that there must always be janitors on the one hand and managers on the other, why should the janitor destroy such happiness as may be his, just because he has allowed himself to be defeated by his mediocrity?

Not long ago we save a movie entitled “The Big Street,” in which a restaurant busboy (Henry Fonda) willingly sacrifices everything to become the slave of a petulant dancer (Lucille Ball) who had been unfortunate enough to get thrown down stairs by her boss, suffering, in consequence, a broken back. She cursed the poor busboy day in and day out, and he took it all meekly, until one time when she averred that he wasn’t even a good waiter. That was too much; he turned on her like a flash and said: “Don’t you ever say that again; I’m the best darn busboy in the world.” Now, a busboy isn’t exactly high calling in the world of human endeavor, but this one wasn’t making any comparisons between his own job and anyone else’s; thus was he saved by possessing a very ordinary mind which dwelt entirely on the perfection attainable in waiting on tables.

Should this example be considered extreme, stop a minute and consider some of your own frustrations, and then envy the man who somehow had got around his. The great majority of us, as the first paragraph of this article said, are extremely ordinary, so why not turn this fact to advantage by doing whatever menial job may be sours a little better than anyone else can do it?

---Dudley F. Kemp, The Calgary Herald, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, June 5, 1943.

Pleasant as may be the mediocre person, kind as he undoubtedly may be, well-intentioned as he usually is, we know, in all sadness, that for all his days he will be mediocre.

It is not that the mediocre person is bad. Only in exceptional cases does the mediocre person manifest positively evil character, markedly bad traits of personality. Never does the mediocre person reward you with any memorable goodness, or outstandingly pleasurable qualities of association. He is mediocre.

There is in individual personality a texture. One of the appreciated proverbs crystallized by human experience is that a silken purse cannot be made out of a sow’s ear. As you feel the texture of the personality of the mediocre person you come in contact with this same sad finality that the texture of the personality is of such a weave that it may not ever be used for the making of a fine association.

Therein lies the tragedy. If one selects a mediocre person as a constant associate inasmuch as the mediocre person all his days will be mediocre, the association can be maintained only if you are willing to sink to the level of mediocrity. The interchange of thoughts, the mutuality of actions, the common ground in conduct necessary for continued personal association can be attained only to the degree that you become mediocre. It will always be an impossibility for a mediocre person to rise one degree higher than mediocrity. To maintain the association you must lower yourself to mediocrity. That is the inevitable price one pays for selecting a mediocre person as a continuing, personal associate.

Who is the mediocre person? The most accurate definition of a mediocre person is “an indistinguishable part of an indeterminate mass.” When you try to think of a person and realize there is no distinguishing trait to which you can fasten your thoughts about him, you can know he is mediocre. Usually if you think of a person some outstanding, noticeable trait comes to mind immediately. But in trying to think of a mediocre person you find there is no identifying characteristic. He is not noticeable for brilliancy of intellect. He is not noticeable for stupidity of mentality. He is not noticeable for exceptional tact. He is not noticeable for boorishness. He is not noticeable for keenness of humor. He is not noticeable for lack of appreciation of wit. He is not noticeable for running you the wrong way. He is not noticeable for bringing any particular pleasure to a human relationship. As you think of him there is no identifying trait of character or personality. In no ways whatsoever does he stand out sufficiently from your mass of acquaintances to be identified as a distinct, separate personality.

Consequently if you select a mediocre person as a frequent, continuing associate his mediocrity will blunt and blue your own distinguishing traits—the things that cause you to stand out. By frequent association with his mediocrity you will become less and less distinguishable, you will tend to lose your own individuality. That is the price for selecting a mediocre person as an intimate associate.

---Henry Arnold “H.A.” Stallings, Waycross Journal-Herald, Waycross, Ga., March 8, 1938.

Perseverance is the keystone of success. The man lacking in it, or who permits to lie dormant, can never hope to rise above mediocrity. On the other hand, live of all great men are concrete examples of its successful application. An analysis of those who have risen to positions of power and responsibility will invariably show the lifting power or propelling force behind such success to have been a fixed purpose, courage, perseverance, and hard, common sense begot of healthy thinking and reasoning. Nothing is more demoralizing than unhealthy thinking and discontent.

---Theodore P. Shonts, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., Jan. 6, 1914.

Do you develop your own strength, increase your reasoning power, your will power, your power of initiative?

Do you only elevate yourself and hold yourself up, but also have strength to help others?

Are you a lifter?

Or do you, like the senseless lobster, remain high and dry on the sand or among the rocks, waiting for someone to carry you to the sea, when by your own native ability you should boldly plunge in and ride the waves triumphantly?

Do you, in considering every undertaking, look hesitatingly to the right or left for some advice, some support, some prop to lean on?

It has been said that for every self-made man there are ten self-ruined ones. It is a safe guess that nine out of ten are leaners.

The ranks of mediocrity—of the half successful—are crowded with people of fine natural abilities who never rise above inferior stations because they never act independently. They are afraid to take the initiative in anything—to depend upon their own judgment or resources—and so let opportunity pass them by. They made the fine plans, but leave them to be carried out by others; and then their only consolation is in saying: “I thought of it first.”

In every walk of life are earnest, conscientious people who are disappointed that they do no better and who wax eloquent over the injustice that confines them to inferior grades, while others with no more natural ability are constantly advanced over their heads. Analyze these people and you will find their real trouble lies in their lack of independent action. They dare not make the slightest move without help or advice from some outside source. They lack confidence in themselves. They do not trust their own powers. They have never learned to stand squarely on their own feet, think their own thoughts and make their own decisions.

The price that must be paid for this shifting of responsibility is a heavy one—the loss of a kingdom.

We voluntarily abdicate the throne of personality, resign the priceless privilege conferred upon every human being in this civilized land—the right to think and speak and decide and act for himself.

---Frank Hilton Greer, Oklahoma State Capital, Guthrie, Okla., Aug. 18, 1908.

Opportunity is not a gift from any person. Each individual for himself must unlock the door of opportunity which leads to success. Dependence upon another dissipates all inherent powers and draws a veil over our eyes that conceals the path that should be followed. The father may rejoice that he has wealth or honor or position to bestow upon his son, but these do not open the door of opportunity. The lesson of the value of wealth cannot be imparted from one to another. The young man whose wealth has been earned by another often has a poorer opportunity than the one who has no wealth. Suddenly acquired wealth does not always open the way to the establishment of one’s self above the poverty line. Proper appreciation of money, a knowledge of its value, an understanding of how to use it, must be obtained before a fortune can be permanent. The command to be faithful over a few things is coupled with the promise that those obedient shall be made ruler over many things.

Zealous, tireless effort develops intelligence and opens up opportunities that are inviting and that lead to useful thinking. The false teaching that opportunities not embraced in youth are forever lost has been accepted and has cheated many a person out of a successful career. There is nothing else quite so fatal to the discovery of opportunity as a lack of confidence in self. The belief that the day of opportunity has passed leads men to submit to mediocre things and strangles aspiration that would grasp a higher plane of thought and of living.

The first virtue requisite to the uncovering of opportunity is desire. An earnest, fervent, burning desire to be something more is indispensible to success. Desire will lead to proper application, desire will lead to necessary sacrifices, desire will bring a faithfulness and an earnestness that will lead a way to a fuller life.

---John F. Easley, Daily Ardmoreite, Ardmore, Okla., April 25, 1915.

Who aims at excellence will be above mediocrity; who aims at mediocrity will fall short of it.

-‑‑Youth's Companion, Boston, Mass., Nov. 19, 1846.

Mediocrity must act at the command of Genius, for only Genius can create.

Mediocrity is satisfied with the valley; Genius is never content with less than the heights.

Mediocrity rests with what it has; Genius is constantly reaching to heaven.

Mediocrity sees nothing below the surface; Genius gazes upward at the sublime, and into the depths of the profound.

Mediocrity sees only the apparent; Genius rests its eyes upon the invisible.

Mediocrity must have a pattern; Genius designs and contrives the pattern.

Mediocrity is a plant; Genius is the sun.

Talent, great or small, is superior to Mediocrity, and Genius far surpasses talent. Genius is talent empowered a thousandfold.

Talent glows; Genius flashes and scintillates.

Talent is Common Sense; Genius is inspiration.

Talent is a servant; Genius is a king.

Talent occupies a footstool; Genius sits enthroned.

‑‑‑Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, April 25, 1937.


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