If you tolerate and excuse mediocrity, you’ll get more of it. If you accept ‘average’ as okay, you’ll get lots of average (and in so doing leave a lot of money on the table). And if you accept nothing but the best from your people, you will create a magnet for the best talent in the market. Attraction and retention challenges will be a thing of the past. (source: http://www.hiringsmart.com/articles/533/You_Attract_What_You_Tolerate/)
This past year and a half, I experienced two intense athletic activities that seriously pushed me to my limits: the first was Kyokushin-kai Karate training and the second was General Physical Preparedness to help me improve my performance in Tennis. The common points between the formal and the latter? First, those trainings were so intense, they almost made me cry. Second, I did not regret any of it after the training was over. In fact, I cherished those after training moments because I felt different; stronger; healthier; my mind was clear and I felt I was able to sustain more.
The morale of this little story? Pain is good. I honestly don’t think we can achieve anything worthwhile in this world without going through a certain amount of pain.
Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. (Lance Armstrong)
The common point, between people who avoid pain? Mediocrity. They tolerate it for themselves, they tolerate it for the people around them and they let it run their lives.
Mediocrity is the result of compromising too much when facing a difficult task, in order to achieve something worthwhile, in favor of something easier. By compromising, the author of the decision wants to avoid the pain that s/he could expose her/himself to.
Going back to the martial art and sport metaphor. In Shotokan Karate, the kumite part of the training does not permit kicking with full power, instead you should control your kicks and punches (meaning, you should barely touch the skin of the opponent). On the other hand, Kyokushin-kai Karate is a tougher form of Martial Art where you don’t refrain from actually fighting with full power. In fact, Kyokushin-kai literally mean: The ultimate truth. In other words, you endure a training that is extremely hard but fair. Should you defend yourself in a real situation, the latter will really prepare you for it as you will not be surprised if you get punched or kicked. Actually, you will mostly likely have endured even harder situations during training.
You can look the other way once, and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier for you to compromise the next time, and pretty soon that’s all you’re doing; compromising, because that’s the way you think things are done. (Jack Bauer, 24, Day 1).
By using the word compromise, I am not talking about technical tradeoffs such as space vs time, consistency vs availability and not even talking about the famous triangle: quality, time and feature. The kind of compromise that is being discussed here, is the lazy one. The one that allows you to free yourself from having to do the hard work and endure the pain.
The problem with compromising, is that it’s viral. Sloppiness calls for some more sloppiness and before you know it you are already swimming in a bath of mediocrity. If you are a leader, you should demand nothing but commitment to achieve excellence from your team. You should never tolerate sloppiness, never. Because its consequences are disastrous.
Mediocrity is contagious
In the software industry, compromising can manifest itself in many different ways. For e.g.:
The alternative is hard? Painful? I never said it would be easy. Wake up and embrace the suck like the military say.