What Makes People Mediocre

by Nian Li


Posted on March 26, 2019



We may always hear the complains that people are getting bored to their life. Students are struggling with exams, employees are pegging away at office and millennials are taking multiple jobs for living. In contrast, we might also read stories about those people under ’30 of 30’ Forbes list with their evolutional innovations and discoveries and how some ‘geniuses’ made a huge fortune before they finished their college. There are more than 6 billion people in the world, but only a minuscule portion of them are elites. Hence, what makes the majority of people mediocre?

The first thing comes to my mind is the scarce of ambition. With the escalating living quality, a prevalent thought gradually creeps into millennials’ mind that enjoying is always easier and happier than striving. I do have some friends who are intoxicating in virtual life without any goal in real life and I am always hearing negative voices towards life from people spending hours on TV shows and smart phones every day. Here is part of my experience: two years ago, I was fascinated by competitions and great ideas. Large to urban packets delivery system using small rockets and small to all different kinds of robotics and software development. However, when I shared my idea with people, they always reacted naturally: Oh, that is too intractable! Afterwards, I concluded that: if you want to do something, no one can stop you. If you do not want to do something, no one can help you.

In addition, stamina is another vital aspect. Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba, once said: “nowadays, many young people go to sleep with some great ideas. However, when they get up in the morning, they forget everything.” There are countless examples around us: students that swear to get an A at the beginning of the semester give up after few weeks’ hard work. People that are resolved to shape their body leave their gym pass expired in the corner. People who are saving money for a car spend most of their income in bars and have to repetitively postpone their goal. There was an interview, after Warren Buffet telling the journalist that his investing strategy is by simply leaving the value stock in the market and focusing in the long term without active trading, the journalist asked Warren:” if your strategy is so simple, why so many people cannot get as rich as you?” “it is probably because people are not patient enough”, Warren replied. In my perspective, it is almost impossible to achieve the transformation from quantity to quality without fortitude. Though it sounds simple, it is just so hard for people to insist in the long run.

Moreover, the way in which people spend their time can significantly differentiate themselves from other people as well. Utilizing time seems to be an ancient topic, but do people really spend time efficiently and wisely? The area where people spend most of the unnecessary time I could come up with is on reckless dating. I have a friend who almost dates a different girl every week. In a particular weekend, he unprecedentedly got up at 4 AM and took a 4-hour trip to see a girl in another city. Here is a simple calculation for me: suppose I can use even only one day in the 2-day weekend efficiently, I can have 4 extra days in a month and 48 extra days in a year. I believe many people have experience in desperately working or learning overnight to catch the deadline. If we can duly spend even a portion of those 48 days, our life can be much easier.

Last but not least, vision is the key to determine whether people can jump out of mediocrity or not. An adage says that:” the poor use time to earn money and the rich use money to buy time”. Nowadays, it becomes pervasive for students to take a part time job during their study. However, the question is, whether it is worthy or not? First of all, I have to say I am always encouraging people to try different things that can improve their abilities, visions or skillsets. Meanwhile, I am always avoiding generating value linearly instead of exponentially against my time. Therefore, excepting financial considerations, personally it is hard for me to see values in those repetitive manual work in order to improve myself in the future.

If we take our life as an 85-year journey, in which the first 20 years and the last 15 years are spent in studying and retiring respectively. After 40 years old, let us assume we have our children and we need stable income to support our family and hence the existing possibility for us to take risks will largely decrease. Therefore, the golden period for us to find our destiny and to challenge ourselves would be a 20-year range. However, if we delve further and conservatively assume that on daily average we have an 8-hour sleep, 2 hour leisure, 1 hour meal, 1 hour showering, shaving and tooth brushing, we only have half of our time left available which is equivalent to 10 years. And this is the period that can truly define whether we will become mediocre or not.