How to Avoid Drift into Mediocrity

By November 1, 2012Millennial

Kent Julian recently asked the following question on his blog, Live It Forward:

“What strategies do you use to avoid the drift into mediocrity?”

Read his post “Beware of the Drift into Mediocrity” to gain more context. It is an essential question to answer.

Preventing Mediocrity in My Life Story

In thinking through my answer, it came down to story. What I mean is we are each developing and living our life story. To prevent drift into mediocrity, we need to visualize the story we want to develop. If we have our storyline defined, it builds a barrier to prevent drift. With a strong visual storyline, we are focused on building rather than drifting.

There are a few elements to add since it is vital to build a resilient barrier to mediocrity:

  • Develop a compelling theme: Our visualized, defined story needs to be reinforced by a strong theme. This can be called purpose, and it is. Purpose can sound lofty at times. Theme is stronger, I believe, in that a compelling theme needs to be a thread that weaves through each chapter we live.
  • Include strong characters: In our life story, we need strong characters to hold us accountable. Accountability holds us to higher principles and values, and it also encourages us to change when needed. In addition to accountability, a required trait of characters in our life is people who make us better. We need to associate with people who challenge us to live with a higher purpose and be the best person we can be.
  • Grasp lessons learned: We make mistakes. It is a part of living. As essential to correcting our mistakes is learning from them. If we learn, we avoid mediocrity. It is that simple.
  • Know when to change: Life is not a straight line. If we believe it is, we will quickly find life advancing without us. Changing to improve our skills, our mindset, or our mind is paramount to avoiding mediocrity. It is about improving, advancing, and avoiding just running in place.

Developing a strong storyline is essential to living a purpose-filled life. An added twist to this is to create an unlife life as a way to avoid mediocrity. The waves of our past can overtake us, pulling us into constant drift and away from how we really want to – or should – live. The balance of “unlife life” prevents this drift and empowers a life of significance.

To build on the question Kent Julian posed:

  • How do you prevent life drift?
  • How do you enable a compelling life theme?

Add your voice to the conversation in the comments section below….


An invitation.

Leading an unlife life has been on my mind a lot lately. And now I’m curious to hear your thoughts on undoing certain things in your life and leadership in order to take on new actions.

Would you consider writing a blog post about the topic? When you do, please send me a link. Each week I will highlight a collection of unlife life thoughts and approaches.

Uncertain how to begin? Check out Susan Mazza’s piece written last week. It was this post that inspired the idea of gathering other viewpoints. Learn more by reading “Live an Unlife Life“.

Thank you.

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz

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Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Debby Stephens says:

    So, true, life is not a straight line. Our plans don’t always work. We have to learn to adjust. Yet we have to be intentional about the direction and choices we make.

  • How to Avoid Drift into Mediocrity | Thin Difference | says:

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  • Jon, the fight against mediocrity. I like that. My goal is to increase the number of people surrounding me who will “make me better”. Those around us are taking us somewhere, and we need to be sure we like that direction.

    • Jon M says:

      Thanks, Skip, for your comment. I agree completely – surrounding ourselves with people who make us better and us them is a key way to live fully. Your comment is greatly appreciated! Jon

    • Debby Stephens says:

      such a good reminder. Who do we spend time with? Do they challenge us to move forward?

  • Ali Davies says:

    Love your points in this article. I have found that creating my own unique definition of success, based on my core values, and building all areas of my life and business around that helps keep mediocrity at bay.

    • Jon M says:

      Great point, Ali. The role of core values is vital to preventing mediocrity in living and leading. Your website offers a lot of great information. Appreciate your voice being added to this conversation! Jon

  • Kate Nasser says:


    I love this post — most especially “develop a purpose/theme” and “life is not a straight line”. Oddly enough, some of the most driven people who hold to feverishly hold onto one purpose, miss the fork in the road for they see it as a detour.

    I’m all for going after a purpose and achieving dreams. Yet extremes in anything can cause trouble. Many times people see moderation as mediocrity and it’s not the same thing. I share my additional thoughts on this at:

    I like the four steps you outline because they are balanced with “lessons learned.” When we can see the steps as lessons, we also can see the forks in the road as success options — not detours. I think that people who can see the difference, succeed.

    Warmest thanks for this post and inviting comments!
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

    • Jon M says:

      Great insights, Kate! Really appreciate your added points to the conversation. Your post on moderation is a great distinction to make and understand. As you state: “Moderation is exceptional judgment and restraint that guides all to success by avoiding the brink of disaster.” Thanks again for joining in. Jon

  • Alice Chan says:

    Very creative process, Jon. Never thought of it that way, so appreciate the brain food. For me, the strategy to avoid drifting into mediocrity is in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, especially the 4th – Always do your best. When we intend and commit to doing our best, even if that may not look the same every day, we can’t go wrong. Besides, can we do what’s beyond our best? Anyway, thanks, I’m grateful to have been introduced to your blog. Your consciousness and the way your think really resonates. Thank you!

    • Jon M says:

      Alice, I have not read that book, but I can tell already that I would like it! “Always do your best” is a great principle, especially when combined with “never give up.” Thanks so much! Jon

      • Alice Chan says:

        I think you’ll really like the book, very easy to read and loaded with wisdom. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. The other 3 agreements are: be impeccable with your word, don’t make any assumptions, don’t take anything personally.

  • Kent Julian says:

    Love your take on “include strong characters.” Great insight and such an important key to success in life and leadership. Good job, Jon!

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