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Login Forums Beyond Practicing Forum Society encouraging mediocracy and self-doubt… Reply To: Society encouraging mediocracy and self-doubt…

  • Noa Kageyama

    November 23, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Good question. “Society” was just sort of a catch-all sort of word and probably too general, but it’s ultimately a variety of influences and factors. A couple things I’ve noticed…

    My kids study tae kwon do, and have had a teacher whom we like a lot, but in all honesty hasn’t been particularly demanding with the kids. Earlier this year, the head teacher who is a 9th degree black belt and has much higher expectations, took over the teaching. Some parents (and kids) complained and were upset at how it was becoming much more difficult to advance and earn their next belts. Some even left to another school which was more “fun.” However, the kids really did learn much more, and for those who stuck with it, training became much more rewarding and self-confidence-enhancing as they saw themselves actually improving in a more meaningful way – even though it was more work.

    We learn from an early age too that making mistakes is “bad.” So we tend to follow conventional wisdom and avoid failure. Seth Godin once told a story of an employee he had who was playing it safe and hadn’t made any mistakes in his work. He told him that if he didn’t make any mistakes in the next month, he would fire him and make his firing very public as an example to the other employees. The point being, if he wasn’t making any mistakes, he wasn’t trying anything new, or doing anything particularly innovative. Some would say that our educational system plays into this as well, which Seth talks about here.

    Out of fear, we sometimes make choices that affect the level of quality around us as well. I like Guy Kawasaki’s “bozo” theory – which is essentially, that we should always hire “A” employees around us. People who are smarter and more talented than we are, which is understandably threatening if we have insecurities about ourselves. However, if we don’t hire “A” people and hire “B” people to protect our ego, the “B” people will end up hiring “C” people, and so on, until we end up finding ourselves surrounded by “bozos.”

    We also tend to be influenced in our younger years by peer pressure, and a desire to fit in. Whether it’s what we have to wear to be cool, or what kinds of sports (or non-sports) are cool, we get accustomed to fitting in and need to develop the courage to stick out and be more ourselves as we get older. As e.e.cummings once said, and I only understood when I got into my 30’s, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

    There are even little tiny things that we do as parents, like dismissing our kids’ fear of the dark by saying “don’t be silly,” which could make them start questioning the legitimacy of their own experience of the world – since we are, after all, the authority figures in their life who are never wrong (or at least seem that way at that age).

    Tough question, but good one, and always interesting to ponder…hope these clarify a little bit what I was thinking about when I said that!

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