A while back I asked, "What are you scared of?" Here's my career fear: I am scared that I will forever be "just mediocre" as "The Career Encourager." I'm not so much scared of being a crashing failure. Failure and recovery is the American way! I'm certainly not scared of being a raging success - that's a great part of the American way. But I am afraid of being mediocre - of not doing anything exciting or special - of not fully using my talents - of forever being stuck in the lather-rinse-repeat phase of work.
Part of this fear comes from my upbringing, no doubt. People with my background - especially girls - just aren't supposed to make it big in a white collar world. I think part of this fear also comes from a media-saturated world where every story is a dramatic story of triumph and achievement. The business publications have picked up on this and report tales of incredible entrepreneurship where the protagonists are amazing, and laser sharp, and incredibly globally conscious and a host of other over-the-top descriptors guaranteed to make me feel like a schmuck because I can't even seem to manage drop off for 2 kids at 2 different schools and get through the basics in my in-box without trauma.
Some time ago uber blogger Penelope Trunk coined the nifty phrase "mommy porn" to describe the glossy multi-page photo spreads the entertainment magazines do on Hollywood moms. I wonder if industry magazines haven't also gone the route of "business porn" with their over-the-top portrayals of business professionals who seamlessly track and forecast trends, create new markets, and become "thought leaders."
I could go on about where my fear of mediocrity comes from, but that would simply lead to a condition that Ann Bares once hilariously described as "slow death by self-introspection." Instead I will concentrate on how to overcome this fear of mediocrity. My plan includes:
Get busy! The Director of Sales at my favorite client company likes to tell his team "Activity defeats doubt." Sitting around and self-introspecting isn't going to get me anywhere, and my to-do list is miles long and already in priority order so it's not like I don't know what needs to be done.
Eliminate distractions! The election is over so that's one big distractor gone. I made the decision to change my Internet homepage from msn.com to a site focused on spiritual development. Amazing the amount of distraction and stress it has removed from my life in just a short time!
Start small! Finish this blog posting. File the stuff that's been sitting on my credenza for the past month. Most of these small things are also distractions, and eliminating then frees up energy for me to use on more worthwhile activities.
Make sure each small task is connected to a bigger goal. Do I really need to read that particular magazine article? D I really need to stay connected with that person? Do I really need to keep those files? If I find myself unable to stop doing something, and yet it's not connected to a larger goal, perhaps I should re-think my larger goals!
Do one scary thing a day! Pick up the phone and schedule one networking meeting. Meet with the business lawyer to talk about setting up the corporation. Each item on its own is not scary once started.
Spend time with my encouragers. I've said it over and over - know who your top 5 encouragers are and spend time with them. Last week I was in a situation where I had to spend time with 2 people who routinely discourage me. One was a work situation where I had no choice so I just had to see it through. The other was a social situation that I voluntarily entered out of habit. Not a good decision on my part. This Friday I have a fun book swap event planned and some of my top encouragers will be there so I am reallly looking forward to that!
I think that's a good list to get me started. Interesting to note that most of these items actually fall into the "lather-rinse-repeat" category. None of them are big. They are ongoing, mediocre tasks. Yet, when accomplished with excellence, I believe that the sum total of these tasks can add up to a great career.
What other "mediocre" items do you think I should add to the list?