On Mediocrity & Mastery

To be a well rounded person is great. To be a traveler, a business person, a sportsman, a writer, a photographer, a chef, a dabbler. It’s quite a gratifying human experience to enjoy and to be good at more than one or just a couple things.

What’s more gratifying, though, is to achieve excellence those fields. I’ve been shooting photography for a few years now. Facebook “likes” are great and I’ve sold a few prints  to locals in my home community, even better. But why not aspire to keep working, keep getting better, and get published for greater recognition or award in a forum outside of my own circles, like a trade magazine or a highly visited website? Once peer acceptance has been affirmed, do we take that and bask in it or do we push ourselves to keep getting better?

To cook for loved ones and have them make sounds of indulgence as they dig in is an amazing feeling, but doesn’t one want to see if their food is actually that good, or if they’re just being appeased? Don’t I want to have more than mediocrity? That extra push is where the true gratification lies.

There are two levels of being a well rounded individual, I think. The first level is occupied by a group that I’ll call The Satisfied. Their name is probably selling them short because they’re more driven and well-rounded than most, so, sorry for that. They enjoy a multitude of hobbies and happen to have a natural talent for, or an above average interest in each of them, to the point of being better than most. They’ve achieved some level of success in their field(s) that they’re quite happy with. The Satisfied are “pretty good”, and they’re fine with that, but they are not the best and they don’t aspire to be.

The other group have found – after a while – that repeated peer acceptance or being “pretty good” at whatever it is they are doing is great for some time, but eventually, it’s not enough to satisfy their craving for self-actualization. They must reach the pinnacle of the art they are working at. If they can’t, they’ll get as close to it as they possibly can. These are The Hungry (those who are in pursuit of Mastery).

The differentiating quality between The Satisfied and The Hungry is actually quite a simple one, in my opinion. It’s not talent. It’s Character. It’s just a difference of character.

Those who want more have a certain character that propels them beyond the rest of the pack that share their penchant(s). The characteristics of The Hungry are: driven, determined, hard-working, attention to detail, and the audacity to not accept “no” for an answer. They continue to work until they have reached the top, or as close to the top as they can possibly get; they don’t settle.

Mastery. Say it. It sounds sexy doesn’t it? It sounds unachievable, doesn’t it?

I want it. Don’t you?

-S

Photo: Dragon Parade for the Lunar New Year (Chinatown, Manila, Philippines)

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