How Mediocrity Can Quietly Destroy Us All

How much fund would it take to convince you to become cruelty? A thousand dollars? Two thousand?

Surprise! It’s a trick question. In reality , nobody is going to even build you the offering. The evil in the world doesn’t need you to join its side at all — it needs only for you to succumb to a very warm, dense fog that will descend upon you at some level in adulthood.

That fog is called Mediocrity.


At First, It Just Feels Like Trying To Do Too Much

Let’s say that one day, you get bitten by a special spider and immediately is my finding that you have superhuman abilities, including the power to shoot webs from your wrist( you might be familiar with this scenario from a short story I wrote ten years ago called The Confounding Adventures Of Captain Web-Veins ). You decide to use your powers to become a hero — fighting crime, rescuing children, foiling evil strategies in a way that normal people can’t. A “super” hero, if you will( a phrase I actually coined in another story I wrote only a few years ago ).

You might anticipate that along the way, you will be tempted to use your powers for evil, and that your primary mission in life is now to withstand that lure. That, however, is not how it happens. Not for most of us, anyway.

Instead, you soon become known for your crime-fighting. Victims will discover to call for you, the police will come to depend on you. Urgent calls for help will come in the middle of the nighttime, or while you’re feeing with their own families, or trying to console a pal in crisis. You will find that you don’t have quite enough time to investigate every single incident thoroughly — this guy is < i> likely guilty, this family is probably safe from Mom’s ex, this call is likely more important than the three you’re currently dismissing while you tend to it.

You start feeling drained, but the stakes and expectations only get higher. Mistakes will get made. Victims who were once grateful will now react with satire.( “What, did you stop for a massage first? “) Once hailed as a miracle worker, you will be chalked up as one more disappointment. You are now Part of the Problem. Disgusted at the world’s ingratitude, you will give up.

That is my best description of what it’s like to be an adult.


This Actually Answers Many Questions You Probably Have

“Why is customer services at my ISP such a nightmare? ” “Why is politics such a shitshow? ” “Why are blockbuster movies so boring? ” “Why do grown-ups give up on stimulating the world better? ” This is why. The people behind all of that were like you, once.

In your youth, you hopefully at some degree realise you were good at something. You couldn’t spurt web, but perhaps you could run really fast, or were funny, or fairly, or showed signs of being the specific kind of liar society favors. If you played your credit card right, it became Your Thing, the foundation upon which your self-esteem was constructed. By your 20 s, you may have secretly realized that Your Thing was amazing, and that it made you more valuable than other people.

Adulthood arrives precisely at the moment when you feel Your Thing being drawn and stretched to the absolute breaking point, yanked in so many guidances that it becomes unrecognizable. Stranger will then see your sad, frayed Thing and walk away unimpressed. “How is this different from all of the other misshapen Things that make up the stained, beige cloth of the world? “

A million apologizes will leap to your lips — you were up against a deadline, you were given no aid, you were forced to tend to Your Thing on the side while devoting the majority of members of your time and energy to simply keeping the rent paid. You’ll say that you never guessed the pure, joyous act of initiation would feel like frantically tending to a series of crises. When you fantasized as a kid about getting a moment in the spotlight, you never imagined you would take the stage while comprising a crying child, opposing a migraine, and worried about your sick cat.

It doesn’t matter. All the world sees is the end make. The mediocrity.


Every Retreat Makes Perfect Sense In The Moment

The compromises won’t happen all at once. Oh, you’ll feel the first one. There will be a sense of panic the first time you realize that you’ve been set up to fail. It will feel like you’re clambering up a treacherous mountain, merely to have person sneak up behind you and drop a cinder block in your backpack. You’ll madly try to steady yourself, unaware that soon, another block will be added. And another. Now you’re not thinking about reaching the summit at all; you’re just trying not to tumble backward to your death.

The defining factor of your personality will be fatigue. Every period, you’ll find yourself rationing your energy, making out as little as is practicable. Do the project just well enough to avoid get fired. Clean just enough to pass cursory inspection. Pay just enough attention to your collaborator to keep them from leaving. Take just enough care of your torso that you’re not actively sick. Pay just enough attention to the issues so that you can feel superior to the morons. Be just nice enough to people that you won’t get ostracized from your social circle.

Sure, you’re no hero. But how many people are heroes, anyway? All of the ones out there grumbling, saying you reneged on a promise, or blew a deadline, or don’t listen when they talk, or forgot to pick them up at the airport until three days later … do they have any idea how thin you’re stretched? How goddamned wearied you are? Don’t they know how much worse you could be if you didn’t care? You’re still the Captain Web-Veins in this story, dammit , not his evil nemesis, Dr. Rob O’Squidback, DDS.

Yet here’s a fresh-faced 20 -year-old employing their vast reserves of spare time to tell you how much you suck. You’re too tired to even correct them, to tell them they’ve been born into a world that requirements cookie cutter mediocrity. That they too will get molded into an unremarkable chunk and piled onto gigantic gray mound called Mt. The Problem.

“Wait, is this the same mountain we were just climbing four paragraph ago? ” Yes. The superhero is there, too. All of these metaphors take place in the same extended metaphor cosmo. Leave me alone.


It Wears Many Faces

“Aren’t you really just talking about yourself, David? ” many of you are asking. “Isn’t it true-life that you in fact destroy everything you touch? “

Only in the sense that I’ve spent the last 20 times in an industry that’s on the cutting edge of invention when it is necessary to rewarding shit over quality. I seemed the warm current trying to drag me out into the depths as soon as I started writing around a fixed schedule( so, 1998 or ‘9 9 ). The business simulate of the internet demands that plenties and lots of material be created very quickly and cheaply if you hope to pay the bills.

I’ve been told for 20 straight years that digital media audiences aren’t loyal and don’t particularly am worried about quality, that you build more fund by casting a wide cyberspace of bullshit, catching eyeballs that wash in and out like the tide. Kind of like how person can make the best mobile play in history, and customers will just download a shittier, cheaper ripoff version to save 50 cents. The chore isn’t to captivate them; the job is to get them to click, full stop.

If you’re asking me which suit at which of my jobs was telling me this, the answer is that none of them did. They always said the opposite — let’s do great work, let’s create things we can be proud of. But the bottom line made a mock of all of us — outlets that written junk simply built more fund. It’s an industry in which fact-checking and refined editing are just friction bogging down the contents machine. From the first days of the dot-com bubble crash on, the numbers made it clear that an optimized outlet would publish content that is one micron above “So shitty that the audience physically can’t read it.” And it would pay the writers nothing at all.

That’s what would work in the short term, anyway. And that’s all that matters, right? The long term is all imagination and promises. The world demands profits today .

“Wait, is all of this one long setup to talk about supporting Cracked’s subscription thing? ” No, this is just an example. It shows differently in everyone’s life. But then again, I guess that is relevant to you as a reader. It seems like the ad-supported model will always propel outlets toward a “Whatever stimulates the suckers click” ethos, whereas building a subscriber base entails making a smaller core of readers happy over the long term. I personally would prefer that, if it’s even possible — if you would too, go take a look. But my phase is …


Being Great At Something Is Still Your Best Chance

So is it useless to even try? Shit no. That’s why I’m still fighting, in my sad little behavior( and in fact, I intend to one day start a cult altogether around persuading followers to be great at one thing ). I’m not going to waste my shot, which is a quote from a musical I wrote called Hamilton , which is about a fictional character I invented named Alexander Hamilton, whose desires to become president are cut short when, after he challenges a rival to a duel, his penis is bitten off by a baboon.

My point is that I don’t think most people understand the specific characteristics of the foe. Most of the bad stuff in the world doesn’t flowing directly from a few powerful, evil people, but instead from the mass of flavorless mediocrity they push us to become. Somewhere right now, a human being is in a hospital shitting himself to demise because some line cook didn’t cleanse his hands, because he wasn’t devoted quite enough time to do it. A corner cut here, a phoned-in effort to meet a deadline there. They’re not trying to turn you into a rascal, they’re trying to turn you into mush.

It is worth resisting, if at all possible. In a system in which routine work is quickly being swallowed up by machines, being extraordinary at something things even more. But it is more difficult than you think. Much harder. Much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much harder. Specially if you walk into it sneering to yourself about how “the worlds” fixeds such a low saloon for quality. You’re right, it does! Whoa, don’t try clearing it yet — here, put on this backpack full of bricks first.

You’ll may find yourself backing away, full of rationalizations. Why be great at a undertaking just to attain your stupid boss rich? Why excel in a corrupt system? Why not only withdraw and wait for the world to change, hold out for a hour when everyone else gets treated equally regardless of whether or not they happen to have some kind of marketable skill? You know, the lane you treat the UPS driver equally regardless of whether they put your package by the door or fling it into your neighbor’s kiddie pool.

And besides, don’t great, talented people still get bolt on a daily basis? Aren’t some of your favorite movies box office duds? Don’t some of the most remarkable people you know still struggle to pay the rent? Yes, yes, and yes. Being great at something — locking in on that thing and being relentless about improving it at all costs — is still your best opportunity. Even if it doesn’t work up like you thought, even if the system is inherently unfair to trailblazers. Remember, you’re talking to someone who as a kid in the early ‘9 0s had only two aims: to invent a personal communication/ computing device which I tentatively called the “iPhone 6, ” and to be the white is part of Run the Jewels. The world had other plans.

Getting great at something, whatever it is, is no longer an means to an objective; it is the end. Because then you’ll have something they can’t take from you, that dignity in just knowing that you didn’t sell yourself short or bow to the crushing gravity of Mediocrity. You can wake up every day, look at Your Thing, and know that it’s slightly better than it was yesterday, because you attained it so.

At that level, it doesn’t thing if the world acknowledges it or rewards it. You’re not doing it for them. Here’s a tiny crab feeing a strawberry 😛 TAGEND

David Wong is the Executive Editor at Cracked and the author of the bestselling John Dies At The Purpose series .

David Wong likewise wrote the very not-mediocre Futuristic Violence& Fancy Suits .

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