Which do you fear more, failure or mediocrity?

What motivational methods make some of you cringe (or worse)?

This is one of the questions that Dan Pink posed to the group participating in his live chat at The Book Club on the New Yorker. In response to the “Don’t make mistakes because I (mgr,owner, boss) will think less of you” motivational method, he said:

That’s one of the most insidious, imho. To me, it’s one of the greatest flaws in organizations. People are more scared of failure than of mediocrity. It should be the reverse. (emphasis mine)

Making a mistake is like breaking a leg. It happens and you fix it. Mediocrity is like a chronic, cancerous disease that gradually destroys you and from which recovery is far more difficult.

In the short term, mediocrity is “safe” and “going for it” is not. Or at least it doesn’t seem to be. (I can’t go for it, what if I make a mistake?)

Personally, I’d rather get a few broken bones along the way than spend my life trying to avoid those things that might cause them.

How about you?

5 thoughts on “Which do you fear more, failure or mediocrity?

  1. Hi Brett,

    Saw your comment over at Dan Pink’s blog. Parents in your situation certainly have a quandary. Have you seen Aimee Mullins TED talk on the opportunity of adversity? She says she is so grateful for the experiences that being a double amputee have brought her, she doesn’t know if she would take the opportunity to be “normal”. Some food for thought…




  2. Renita,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting here. I haven’t seen Aimee’s talk, but I will definitely check it out.

    We have always teated our son as just a kid. He has strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad. No different from any other kid in form, though a bit different in style. More than anything, it has made us step up as parents and learn instead of just going through the motions.

    If (when!) you get a chance to read more of my blog, you’ll see that this is a topic always on my mind.


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