18 September 2013 ~ 1 Comment

Belittling Excellence

Note: This is a pretty cheesy post. I wrote it a few months ago, on a particular day when I was fed up with our competition for mediocracy, and then I never posted it as I thought perhaps it was indeed the epitome of an American blogger’s cliché: way too cheesy. But then, as I continue to be exposed to more and more examples of people racing to be average so they can fit in and not stand out for being great, or working hard, or caring a lot about someone or something or some core value, I have decided my own fear of being too cheesy was a silly reason to not post this and point out something I believe to be true: when we belittle excellence, dedication, and hard work, we incentivize averageness, and overall, that leaves us all with a pretty average future. So, for the cheese:

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen this epidemic spread through our society.  Perhaps you’ve even fallen victim to it yourself. It’s slowing our personal & collective progress. It’s pervading our schools, our work, our teams, and our families. It’s what causes many people to choose to underperform.

It starts in primary school, perhaps around grade three. The young artist who used to be praised for his work, gets made fun of for being too talented. He gets put down, and is embarrassed about his gifts. He stops sharing his work with others for fear of being made fun of. He chooses acceptance over excellence. Our arts our failed.

In high school, it’s a pandemic. The boy who has been made fun of for years for being too smart decides not to take advanced biology. He gets made fun of enough already, and doesn’t want to add more fuel to the fire. He chooses acceptance over excellence. Our sciences are failed.

On the sports team, one girl stays longer than the rest. She practices harder, stays in the gym later, and tries her best. She gets told to “Cut it out. Stop brown-nosing.” She heads home early, and chooses acceptance over excellence. Our sports are failed.

In an office, a young man stays late at work. He has extra meetings to make sure his team feels supported. His co-worker walks in and says “Stop working so hard! You are making the rest of us look bad.” He heads home early so that others wont see him still working. He chooses acceptance over excellence. Our businesses are failed.

The masseuse works hard at a kink in your neck, giving it extra attention, and trying to fix the problem. The others walk by, give him a nudge and say, “Why are you working so hard? There’s no need to. Plus you are making us look bad.” He continues, determined to do his job well, despite what his colleagues say. He chooses excellence over acceptance. Lucky you.

It’s time we started accepting excellence, and rewarding those who strive for it, rather than accepting and encouraging those who shy away. Or else, we’re all failed.

  • http://tiwazo.blogspot.com/ Sara

    Wow! I’m very happy to have found your blog. I feel like we share a lot in common, and am eager to learn alongside you. I’ve only been to Cambodia twice, but that’s where a lot of my questions on development began to arise. The bulk of my experience has been in Haiti, so am excited to see how our similar lessons may shift with each context.