I have to warn you: this piece will likely piss some people off, perhaps even you. This wasn’t supposed to be shared with the world. In fact, the words you are about to read were intended to be a download of some ideas and thoughts that have been itching beneath my skin for a couple of years.
Initially, I rejected the idea of sharing this post because of the timing; this is coming on the heals of a hotly-contested incident that happened this past Sunday, January 19, 2014.
After a thrilling end to the NFC Championship Game, where the Seattle Seahawks defeated their division rival San Francisco 49ers, Seahawks cornerback, Richard Sherman, delivered an impassioned and demonstrative rant that raised a tsunami of controversy and sent the social networks abuzz with banter and outrage.
Sherman, despite having just made a spectacular, game-saving play to seal the win for Seattle to help send them to Super Bowl XLVIII, became a lightning rod of criticism and debate.
Before I go any further, I have to remind readers of the blog (and alert new readers) that I am a dyed-in-the-wool, lifelong, diehard Seattle Seahawks fan. For the record, I love Sherman, although I did not agree with how he made his rant about himself; he took away form an incredible win and a remarkable season–both team efforts (which he later acknowledged and apologized for diminishing).
But this post is not about a pro football player and his antics. My position here is not to defend Sherman (he can do that well enough on his own) nor to recruit anyone to root for the Seahawks (we have plenty of true fans, thanks you very much).
This is about something much bigger. Something far more disturbing
It was inspired, in part, by a great article in the Huffington post by Isaac Saul. Saul’s article pushed me to review my own notes on Sunday’s events, and crashed the floodgates on a part of my bigger mission as an entrepreneur, success coach and human being.
You see, there is a disturbing trend in today’s society that has been festering for a while.
It shows up in all many forms; it typically happens when someone publicly rises to a new level, accomplishes something amazing, creates a huge win or experiences success beyond conventional expectations. Almost instantly, the victor isn’t celebrated, but instead slammed by those around them (or a large portion of society as a whole), and their victory diminished.
You may have seen this before. It sometimes looks like this:
– A determined woman rises through the ranks and become the CEO of a large corporation; soon after, the whispers of “she slept her way to the top” ripple through the organization.
– A savvy business person closes a huge deal and is labeled “greedy” or “scammer” and somehow seen as a cheat.
– A hardworking musician gets a big record deal and is called a “sell-out”
– A pro athlete makes a game-winning play and called a “thug” or “unprofessional” because of an adrenaline-and-passion-fueled post-game rant.
– The straight-A student is labeled the “teacher’s pet”, head cheerleader labeled a “slut”…you get the picture…
The problem here is, whether or not the accusations have any merit, the first response by the masses (aka, the zombie apocalypse)—the default reaction—is to diminish success. It’s rare that people stop and applaud first, judge second. It has happened for years, but it has gotten more prolific and more out of hand of late.
The obsession over drama and controversy has served to debase the foundation of our society and its standards for far too long. Instead of celebrating excellence, we vilify it. Instead of studying success, we marginalize it.
In fact, all one has to do is peruse the menu of “reality” television shows to see that, as a society, we seem to prefer to celebrate drama, negativity, ignorance and foolishness than talent, hard work and accomplishment.
And the high-stakes consequences are mounting.
What sickens me most is that even intelligent, accomplished and influential people—some of whom I personally respect—are guilty of this.
If we have any hope of weathering the typhoon of mediocrity, we have to challenge ourselves and each other to rise to a higher standard of behavior. Here are some practices we can use daily to shift the momentum away from low-level mediocrity to High-Altitude Excellence:
Challenge yourself to be a critical thinker. Bashing someone who rises to a level of accomplishment is easy; that’s what the soft-minded resort to when their own internal reflection turns up something they don’t want to confront. But having the courage to do some deep thought exploration on the issue can be quite powerful. Just a word of caution: you will not be popular when you do this. You will not gain acceptance from the mass majority. If you are desperate for acceptance from others, keep sleep walking or join a knitting circle and gossip your life away. But, if you are here to lead and make a difference, practice critical thinking. Ask the tough questions, do the research, put in the extra work to get the full story before spewing verbal diarrhea. It’s not easy, but the critical thinking route is far more rewarding.
Keep the big picture. Getting the full story—including the other side—is not only wise, but it is also rare. This is where leverage is gained and a deeper understanding is developed. Too many people lead with their own ego-driven agenda in order to validate their point, but never strive to deeply understand the other side. That’s ignorance at its finest. Now, imagine shocking the crowd with this: “Did she really sleep her way into the executive suite, or is that an assumption? Oh really? Then with whom? Do you have pictures and DNA proof?”
Here’s an even more novel idea: ask the hard-charger how she made it and get her story, and…wait for it…learn from her success rather than diminishing it (and her). At the very least, you may come to respect her success—and therefore your own.
Realize we do not live in a one-size-fits-all world. Just because a monk or an IRS agent are expected to conduct themselves with stoic detachment does not mean a shutdown cornerback in the NFL should. They’re called shutdown corners for a reason, and it ain’t to be diminutive and gracious. Just as pacifists don’t fit in elite commando units, and animal rights activists are lousy zoo keepers, we cannot expect everyone to fit a certain mold just because of their income, notoriety or the pedestals upon which we place them.
After all, no matter how grotesque his existence might be, you want him on that wall, you NEED him on that wall!
Just because you have ideals doesn’t mean everyone has to live up to them. You have morals and values? Excellent. You have ideals? Outstanding. Now stop deluding yourself into thinking the rest of the world should have to live up to them. It’s never going happen, so align with people who match your filters and move on. If those who don’t match up go on to achieve success, applaud them, then get busy on your own dream. But giving yourself brain damage by lambasting them or trying to convert them over to your way of thinking is childish insanity.
Speak your mind, but remember what Mom said. If you have nothing nice to say, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said. But regurgitating the same negative crap the mass majority is shoveling won’t make you stand out; it only makes you look like you don’t truly stand for much. And, if you still feel strongly against it after you’ve put in the work to apply critical thinking and remove the filters of your ego and judgement, then speak your mind. Do that and at least you’ll have the integrity to say it is your opinion and not the status quo influencing you.
Obsession over controversy and drama is evidence of a mediocre mind. Period. And mediocre minds always gravitate toward negativity and rarely make a difference in the world. My supposition is that since you’ve read this far, you are committed to accomplishing some big things in your life. Undermining someone else’s success is not only vile and pathetic, it’s irresponsible.
It diminishes your own greatness. And you are better than that. It’s up to each one of us to chose between excellence and mediocrity. The decision isn’t always easy, but the things worth having—worth truly fighting for—rarely come easy.
Choose excellence over mediocrity. If you absolutely cannot tolerate the victor, you do not have to celebrate their success, but at least challenge yourself to respect their success by striving to understand how they achieved it. That’s the mark of excellence. That’s the High-Altitude Way of Life.
Fly High, Fly Fast, Fly Far.