THE BLOG
08/15/2014 08:36 pm ET | Updated Oct 15, 2014

Mediocrity: The New Normal

There's a new disease spreading through the collective, and it makes me very sad. It doesn't cause lumps or fevers, and it's not fixable by a course of antibiotics, but make no mistake -- it is frighteningly contagious. The symptoms are as follows: lethargy, indifference, laziness, a lack of excitement, occasional feelings of entitlement, depression and perhaps the saddest symptom of all -- a decrease in one's lack of purpose; it's called mediocrity.

Throughout history, humanity as a whole strived to better ourselves, to become -- to do -- to be, more than what we ever thought possible. We had dreams, we woke up every morning ready to better ourselves or to work on a project, whether it be giving service to others, growing a garden or inventing the wheel -- we were propelled by a need to evolve.

But lately, more often than not, it is a rarity to find someone who is bubbling over with curiosity and passion for their work. Whether one's position of employment is in the field of hospitality, education, politics, health, law, technology, the media, etc., we've lost our spark -- that verve for life -- across the board. Good grief, just take a look at Congress -- people we voted into power and honored with our trust, can't even discuss situations rationally; their world is black and white -- no room for grey, no room for growth, just the same old arguments. Unbalanced egos, reflecting their personal demons onto each other rather than acting like intelligent politicians. Rarity is not acceptable when it comes to passion it needs to be experienced every day of our lives.

As with everything, there are always exceptions; the lady checking out my groceries this morning shared smiles that were genuine, the teachers who were in their classrooms over summer painting and organizing in readiness for the upcoming school year, and the lady who works in the local radiologist's office -- she spies on the patients when they choose candy then stocks up on their favorites. I find myself happily surprised by these anecdotes, and that's because they are becoming more infrequent rather than the norm.

What's happened to our need to strive forward, to be the best that we can be -- all the time? Why is it that some in leadership positions choose to keep drearily calm and let things be, instead of applauding those who can achieve growth and change? These workers are often thought of as over achievers and are "let go," rather than acknowledging them monetarily or through advancement in their career.

I once heard these words from a boss of mine when discussing the ethics of a co-worker: "This way has worked for years. After I've retired the next person can do the dirty work [of firing the lazy workers]," I resigned a few days later. Run-of-the-mill, business as usual attitudes, especially when it comes to educating our young minds, are neither acceptable nor conducive to progress.

There are those in leadership positions who most likely fear for their own jobs -- terrified to rock the boat in case they look incapable, and let's face it, risk taking is not for the weak at heart. While many chairman-of-the-boards and CEO's take home millions of dollars and drive nice cars, there are even more people who work their butts off scraping to pay for rent, mortgages, food and gas. I have no doubt that this is one of the reasons we've turned into a mediocre society. Where has the support gone?

I've witnessed this kind of behavior in kindergarten classrooms; the child whose hand shoots up to answer or ask questions can often be found sitting in the back of the room come fourth grade, withdrawn and apathetic. After having his bursting curiosity squished by a tired, overworked or disinterested teacher, he becomes withdrawn. The light that once shone brightly within this child, like a lighthouse guiding him through the rocky coastline has been extinguished by mediocrity. This need not be the case; there are hundreds of fabulous teachers just waiting for the chance to act as lighthouse keepers. We need to find the courage to stand up and be the mother bears our kids need us to be.

Thank you to the folks who continue to strive forward, and to those few in power who light up our paths when we're about to give up, and value a good worker striving to be anything but mediocre. The CEO's and quiet defenders of progress who aren't afraid to back us, to take risks on our ideas, to help pay for our education, fund the entrepreneur, and acknowledge our presence, who take a pay cut in order to keep a good worker -- you are my heroes. With your help, encouraging us to do our best, we are able to keep moving forward and that's good for everyone. Without you, the greedy succeed in winning power, and quite honestly that's just not good enough for this great country.

So forget keep calm and carry on, I'm suggesting, Keep Alert And Always Strive For Excellence!