Julien Smith and I just did a chat conversation with people interested in books and writing. What became interesting to me were how many variations on a theme came back in their responses, questions, and clarifications. In most cases, they were arguing for mediocrity. seal

In a World Full of People, Only Some Want to Fly

In his recent blog post, Mark W Schaefer made the point that people are being told the equivalent of “be awesome or go home.” And his great point back was that people who just leapt off the abyss in search of some YOLO-like adventure were likely going to splat on the rocks, or more accurately, pull their entire family off the cliff to splat when that big “reach for the awesome” thing didn’t work out. I don’t disagree.

But there’s a difference.

You can do the grunt work and still thrive. You can be responsible and still make the extra effort to make something amazing happen. You can put some chrome on top of the hard grinding iron.

And yet, so few do.

We Didn’t Want to Market. We Wanted to Make Art

I interviewed Sean Bonner and Andrew Kline about their new project releasing music in a very physical way for the band Cross My Heart. It’s like listening to the opposite of a marketing meeting. It’s the opposite of a “me too” blog. It’s someone striving to go out of their way to do something amazing and interesting above and beyond what will be easy to understand. By its very nature, it’ll be difficult to replicate. Half of what they did didn’t exist before they convinced a network of strangers to assemble it.

It’s About a Constant Menu of Choices

I ate poorly yesterday. Those were choices. I ate better today. Much better choices. This post? A choice. What does it do for me? It’s helpful to you and your thinking. It also shares my podcast, in case you’ve not been into that yet (and you might be, but she isn’t yet).

Choices. I can choose to be mundane and that’s crazy. I can choose to make art and do more than just grind. But I also have to choose to grind. Choice.

Do what you have been doing and you’ll get what you’ve been getting. Copy others and you’ll get the cheap and faded aftershadow of what they got.

Fly, and who knows? You will crash. You may get back up.

Your choice. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Stefano Landi

    Hey Chris your post got me thinking about how mediocrity seems to be the new norm, how people just don’t strive to go beyond their reach anymore. As much as I LOVE technology, I sometimes think that it is the very technology that has made our lives so easy that is at the root of this new accepted MQ (mediocrity quotient). People today have it so easy, from remotes, to cell phones to the ubiquitous microwave oven to spell-check, people just don’t need to strive anymore to do plain day to day things. Slowly and inexorably, this has seeped from peoples’ regular day to day lives into their workplace, job responsibilities and ultimately, into their human relations. It really isn’t that difficult to fly like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys as it only takes some additional effort on an individual’s part to stand out from the crowd. Be that as it may, I can’t figure out why people don’t do this, don’t strive to be better, to give their best, especially when, more often than not, it gets results. I’m still shaking my head on this and have been grappling with this for years. I don’t know who said this, but I’ve always loved the following quote;

    “I would rather die of thirst, than drink from the cup of mediocrity.”

    Great post, got me thinking



    • Chris Brogan

      Wow. This is a blog post hidden inside the comments. : )

  • Sheree Martin

    So true, simple and insightful (as always), Chris. In my 20s and half of my 30s I tried to be someone I wasn’t. I followed a “tried and true” road to career success. And despite feeling massive conflict and dissatisfaction with my life, I succeeded by that definition. Then I got brave, did the crazy thing and nearly succeeded at being myself.

    Just before I got to the place I was going, I got scared and jumped off into the safety net. I did make some poor choices during that time that also held me back, or slowed me down, but in hindsight it’s easy to see what happened.

    Now I’m back on my own path and intend to stay there, without following anyone else’s roadmap or formula. This time around, I will succeed. I can feel it. Even if it’s still something ephemeral and I don’t exactly know how it will work. I’m just out to do this thing that I feel and somewhat see, even if I’m not yet doing a great job of explaining it to everyone else.

    • Chris Brogan

      Ah the tried and true. What a depressing path indeed. Pavement. Parking lots. The whole thing.

      Be you, Sheree. : )

  • Nando

    Does it seem to anyone else that, increasingly, people discuss from diametrically opposed points of view? Black or white. This or that. Be awesome or go home.
    Life isn’t as clear-cut to most of us. Conflicted decisions, our current situation, whatever.
    I think unless one is a religious fundamentalist, life is a huge gray area where the best we can do is make the best decision at the time, given what we know, and our moral compass.
    And so, what happens with the bravado of a “Be awesome or go home” is some people are hurt (or hurt themselves), many are alienated, and only a very few, for whom the time and conditions were right, actually “do awesome”.
    Some will read this and take it for an argument for mediocrity. My argument is for balance. Understand you can be awesome, but there will be no shortcuts. Understand that in order to “fake it until you make it” one still needs subject matter competence. And yes, understand that awesomeness is right there in front of you, for the taking, but it’ll be risky and may hurt.

    • Chris Brogan

      I loathe balance. I prefer harmony. And definitely not black and white.

      • Nando

        Made me look it up and think about it.
        Hmm… I just may have misusing that word (Feel a “Princess Bride” quote coming).

  • Matt Ridings – Techguerilla

    I read both of your posts, and I guess I see things from a slightly different perspective. To me the issue at hand is whether or not we are allowing others to define our definition of what ‘amazing’ is. Carving out a life of satisfying simplicity can be amazing. Opting for poverty to tackle some social cause can be amazing. Opting for a entrepreneurial life built on financial gain can be amazing. Yet the only thing you find being celebrated is a very narrow set of ‘amazing’ that typically requires some ‘remarkable’ steps to have been taken. It’s not that those stories or philosophies aren’t deserving of celebration, it’s that our focus can be so intent upon those that we skew the perspective of what is important. We twist ‘passion’ and ‘happiness’ as having a direct correlation with success or extraordinary public facing activities, and while those may make for better stories I’d argue that happiness and passion should be held apart.

    My .02 cents.


    Matt Ridings – @techguerilla

    • Chel Wolverton

      Matt has explained this in a way that fully resonates with me. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

      • Crystal Carey

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    • C.C. Chapman

      Found myself frustrated that I couldn’t like or love this in some fashion since you hit EXACTLY how I feel about it all.

      Thank you for saying it.

    • Chris Brogan

      Very nice cents indeed. I feel like I embody that in some ways, as I’ve opted to carve a very specific path. The more I learn to say no and the more I learn what I don’t need in my life, the more I can pick a completely different definition of amazing. : )

  • Peter Billingham

    Hi Chris – from one who is sometimes accused of jumping too soon, and too often, I would agree that sometimes, and this is tough part, going to edge and jumping can be scary and cause splats.

    I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention …

    So for me best summed by the quote
    “Come to the edge.’ ‘We can’t. We’re afraid.’ ‘Come to the edge.’ ‘We can’t. We will fall!’ ‘Come to the edge.’ And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew.” ― Guillaume Apollinaire
    Occasionally, we need a shove! Thanks for the push.

    • Chris Brogan

      What a great quote, indeed. I really enjoy this. : )

  • RUTD

    This post is a real kick in the pants for me, I read an email from Chris and one quote really made sense to me- Your old thought: “Some day, someone will notice how brilliant I am.”

    Your new thought: “Today’s a good day to start showing off my brilliance.”
    I thought that is brilliant exactly where I am-Then I did nothing about making the change.
    Crazy :(

    I think Chris’s point in this post is quite like the point that Seth Godin makes in his book “The Dip”. I need to give up on cul-de-sacs be more honest with myself and commit to the right things for the right reasons.

    But if things are going to change, I also have to choose to grind. Crazy :)

  • Srinivas Rao

    That post by Mark caused a ton of conversation. I don’t disagree with the post either. But I think we can do the grunt work and thrive. I tried to be mundane. I wasn’t very good at it. It made me crazy. I had to stop. I’ve seen plenty of friends who make lots of excuses instead of choices. I realized the choices I made over the last 10 years made my world come crumbling down. That’s why even though the reinvention has been a struggle at times, I can’t make the same choices. They’ll lead me back to the same destination.

    However, people get addicted to their comfort zones. And very little growth happens there. It doesn’t make sense for somebody to always make bold audacious decisions. But within the boundaries of our circumstances we can explore the edges. To find what might be your art, you have to explore the edges.

  • Elaine Joli

    I think being “awesome” is often overlooked for “doing” awesome. One of the most powerful things you can do, is be an “awesome” friend, business associate, or peer. When you refer people, introduce them to new activities or new ideas, toss an idea around with them with no expectation of a reward, send someone in your network a note just to ask how they’re doing, pick up the phone and have a conversation, respond to an email query that you might have deleted, the impact you may have on others is going to be awesome.
    Being creativite is hard, disrupting an idea is harder and executing long term on an idea is the hardest. But “being” awesome is something everyone can do.

  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Chris,

    I crashed and burned my way from having 4 cents to just wrapping up a 2 year trip around Southeast Asia. From fired security guard to a dude living in Bali, Phuket and Malaysia for months on end.

    Guys, jump. The net appears, always, if you have supreme faith in your abilities, and in the fact that a Bigger Force wants you to succeed, for the betterment of all whose lives you touch.

    The cool think about jumping and flying is that you learn to jump and fly more frequently, with greater success, AND you inspire people around you to jump and fly too. This is the most rewarding part of what I do.

    Love it Chris. Thanks for sharing.


  • dgmattichakjr

    Many people want a mediocre life and that is fine- for them. I have always wanted to have an exceptional life and have always been prepared to make the sacrifices that that entails. It often does mean choosing not to take the safe, well beaten path but that isn’t where life’s adventures happen anyway. It also means that you often have to have the courage to believe in yourself and that regardless of whether you succeed or fail that you have chosen the path that was right for you. For those who don’t ever want to leave their cul de sac in life just choosing this course can make you ‘amazing’. When you have lived this way, the things that seem ordinary to yourself begin to look exceptional than others.
    As you have said here- it’s all about choices.