On a sunny morning a few years ago, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop across from a friend and business management/leadership expert.
At one point in the conversation I was expressing my utter inability to comprehend mediocrity. Since he worked with many organizations and the thousands of people within them, I knew he’d have some good perspective to share. “Why on earth” I asked him, “are people even capable of being content with living an ‘okay’ life and being ‘pretty good’ at what they do?”
To me, that was an absolutely absurd way to live – I had difficulty understanding how someone could walk through life with a “good enough” mentality. For me, it was like, What the hell? Be the absolute best you can possibly be and don’t settle for anything less!
It was at this critical juncture that he chimed in and helped change my perspective.
As he sipped his coffee calmly, he reminded me of something I’d “heard” before but never really heard, at least not at the level that creates true depth of understanding.
“Brian,” he said “not everyone has that kind of desire, and besides, the best teams aren’t composed of superstars.”
We went on to discuss the fact that so-called “All-Star” teams don’t tend to win games like they should. Just looking at the depth of talent on the roster of an All-Star team, they should put other teams to shame. But they rarely do. Why?
There’s no synergy or cohesion.
For one thing, an All-Star team is top-heavy with a bunch of achievers who, a lot of times, have HUGE egos. And then you bring them all inside of a unit where they’re supposed to put their egos aside and work together for the good of the group…
Like that’s ever going to work.
There’s a reason why All-Star teams that actually do kick serious bootay – like the Navy Seals or Army Rangers, for instance – are subjected to rather ruthless training that breaks them down as individuals. They are subsequently built up as a single unit where all members completely rely on one another and work together seamlessly to accomplish a larger mission.
Outside of these rare examples, a concentrated grouping of serious achievers tends to set the stage for some serious conflict, which completely undermines performance.
How could it be any other way?
I mean, you have a bunch of competitive crazies all grouped together. They’re not going to hold hands and see what they can do to support and understand each other’s feelings better. They’re going to mercilessly step all over each other in the kerfuffle of a winner-take-all stampede.
What my friend pointed out to me that day was that great teams need one, maybe two, superstars, and then a bunch of B and C players to round out the roster. There’s tremendous value in people who aren’t obsessed with achievement; They actually support the process of success because they make cooperation possible and fill critical roles. Superstars can’t win games without them.
So needless to say, I learned a lesson that day – one that has been unbelievably helpful to me in many ways.
That lesson was liberating. It helped me just relax and stop getting frustrated with people who don’t show next to zero ambition (although I must confess that when I’m around them for extended periods of time I still tend to throw up in my mouth a little). I finally recognized the real value of all contributing members within a unit and came to appreciate individual differences even more.
And while there’s a part of me that still can’t understand why people who clearly have magnificent potential settle for mediocrity, I don’t get bent out of shape about it anymore. Don’t get me wrong – I loathe mediocrity, but do my best to keep my fear and loathing of mediocrity pointed at my own life, not the lives of others.
If you are one of my fellow top-performing, high-achieving, bootay-kicking beasts, I hope this information has contributed some helpful perspective to you as well.
- Brian Bergford