Mediocrity is something I have struggled with most of my life. It is something that has created many missed opportunities and immeasurable heart ache for me and my family.
Recently, a good friend approached me and asked if I would accept a guest on this blog. This is something I would not do lightly. But Colonel Paul Longgrear, US Army retired, is a man who shares my heart for the fathers of this age.
Paul is a true American hero and I recently had the honor of attending his induction into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame. His story is an extraordinary one and one Google search will show you why I enthusiastically said yes to Colonel Paul’s inquiry.
Please read his words and insights closely. He is a man I have personally learned a great deal from.
En servicio como Padre
MEDIOCRITY – Paul Longgrear
Years ago our family lived in a county with two school systems. The two high schools were only four or five hundred yards apart and from the start were arch rivals even though one was only nine years old.
The older school dominated the younger school all nine times they played in football. The old school played for the state championship three times and won one of them. At one point they racked up a 29-1 record and won seven region titles. They excelled at football and the newer school was only mediocre.
In spiritual parlance we might consider the word coined by Jesus, “lukewarm”. If one is not going to do his best at something, he might want to not attempt it in the first place. Does this mean mediocrity is bad? Is striving for excellence always good?
If one has to revert to the flesh to achieve excellence; excellence would probably be bad.
Is it better to be a sluggard or turn to sin to win?
Behavioral performance can be based on genetic influence or it can be learned through environment. If a man is born into a family of over achievers, he will be influenced just by being a member of that family. On the other hand if that same person is born into a family of under motivated members he again will be influenced by that environment. He may flow with the character of the family or he may defy the norm and be just the opposite in either case he is influenced by that environment.
Whatever the influence or cause, excellence is refusing to settle for less that one’s best. Mediocrity, on the other hand, is settling for the minimum that will suffice. “If the deadline is 3:00 P.M. why get it completed earlier”, the sluggard might ask.
When I decided to leave my home state of Arkansas to seek my fortune, I followed Horace Greely’s advice and went west to California. Within a matter of days I had a job at a large Los Angeles area lumber yard. Because I had a couple of years of college, the boss put me in charge of the stall that contained small lumber and ply wood.
He assured me it was a mess and challenged me to try and get it straightened out within a couple of weeks, if possible. I had two summers of experience in the lumber yard business and within three days had everything in order. Why did I do that? My mother raised me to work hard and she was the hardest working person I knew. Hard work was not an option in our family, it was the expected.
My wife and I raised three children who were all very good workers and have done very well for themselves. I was always a poor performing student because I was academically lazy. As a result, I was determined my children wouldn’t be.
Our oldest child was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, the second child never had to crack a book in school and the third labored to meet his, self-imposed, classroom goals. I am honored to say that all three are college graduates and one has a doctorate in education. The one with the learning disability was assured that she was as smart as her brothers and the same results would be expected of her.
Which of them do you think has the doctor’s degree? The laborer, he refused to be mediocre.
We had the same standards for each of them; do your best! I learned as a child that too much pressure to perform could cause a student to cheat. Life taught me, excellence can never be achieved by lowering moral standards.
There are no shortcuts to excellence. Diligence and determination mixed with perseverance are the ingredients necessary to fulfill what God has placed in all of us. It should also be noted that talent will not assure excellence. If very talented people accept less than their best for themselves, they are mediocre.
Remember the schools we mentioned at first. The difference was attitude. When the two schools walked on the football field it was obvious which team thought they would win and which team only hoped they would win. The coaches convinced the first team they were going to win every game because they were prepared to win through work and preparation. During the week they practiced smart, hard and long.
Leadership is the key to creating an environment of excellence and overcoming mediocrity. Whether one is a manager, a coach, the parents of children, or commander of a military unit, leadership is the key.
Leadership is nothing more than motivating someone to do what they are supposed to do. How well they do it is determined by how motivated they are.
There are only two ways to motivate; inspiration or intimidation. Think about by which of these ways you are motivated. Now think about how you motivate those around you.
We will discuss this in the near future.