I have it all figured out. I know the ingredients in the secret sauce.
At least I have it figured out for me anyway. At least for now.
At 40 years old, I finally think I know what is best for me. I have found what seems to work best for my fitness and nutrition. I know what seems to be the best way to protect myself. A few months back, I made a list of skills that I think a human should be able to do. It included things that I am already skilled at, fighting and physical training. It also included things I wanted to learn like playing an instrument and hunting and butchering an animal.
Whether all the things I think are best actually are the best could be debated. It is also, for the most part irrelevant. I believe they are the best and so if that is true, I should be doing them every day. If it I think it is important to eat healthy or exercise, I need to do it everyday. If I decided learning and reading is important… you get the picture.
I have a friend who shared a quote with me he said came from Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend, Bruce Lee. He asked, “For what level of mediocrity are you willing to settle?” It has been ringing in my head for the last few months.
I settle for mediocrity when I decide to skip my workout so that I can get more work done, despite knowing that without the workout, I won’t have the peace or focus to get great work done..
I settle for mediocrity when I eat a medium pizza, and drink a six-pack of beer despite knowing that I will feel like crap later.
I settle for mediocrity when I let my kids veg out on Minecraft or watch shows on Hulu, so that they will leave me alone so I can do what I want.
I settle for mediocrity when I over-obligate myself with people and projects that really aren’t that important to me.
In all of these cases, I know what I am doing is not the better choice, yet I do it anyway. In those moments, I am willing to settle for a worse version of myself. I trade what I want in the long run, for what I want right now.
I trade awesome for acceptable.
A few weeks back, I got a big 4×8 foot whiteboard from Home Depot and hung it in my garage. I wrote down all the things I wanted to get done each week and then I put the number of hours I intended to spend on each piece. I made sure to add in work, exercise, family, adventure, personal development — everything I thought I needed to do each week. When it was done I added it all up. 192 hours, I needed a nine-day week.
All of a sudden, I realized why I was having to settle for mediocrity. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day for everything I wanted to do. Before I did the whiteboarding, I figured that if I just organized my time better, I could be excellent in everything I wanted to do. I figured that if I was just smarter about my approach, I wouldn’t have to settle.
What I found out was that because there was so much I wanted, I was setting myself up for mediocrity from the start. I just couldn’t do it all at a high level.
The whiteboard exercise helped me get crystal clear on what it is that is important to me and what I needed to do to be successful. Writing it all out made it clear that I needed to prioritize the most important things, and let other stuff slide.
Since then, as I’ve made choices about what to take on, I’ve asked myself “For what level of mediocrity am I willing to settle?” That way, I make sure that I’m not settling when it comes to the most important things. As long as I am making an intentional decision about where I will lower my standards, I can devote my effort where I want it most.
How about you? Where in your life do you demand that you bring your A game, and where are you willing to settle for good enough?