Refuse to Accept Mediocrity

Last semester, my freshmen spent a couple of weeks writing essays. It was their first major writing assignment for me, and I wasn’t sure precisely what to expect. When I collected the finals, though, I knew that I could — and should — expect better. The vast majority of the students simply hadn’t tried to do well.

My kiddos and I had a little heart-to-heart. I told them that their papers were sub-par. I also told them that I knew they could do better. And I told them that I had one piece of advice for them that would help more than anything else as they revised these essays.


“Refuse to accept mediocrity.” 

Settling for “good enough,” I explained, was not, in fact, good enough. I reminded them that sometimes we all fall short of the mark we’re trying to reach, and if that mark is just “good enough,” then we don’t have much room to fall, do we?

I told my students that this was a lesson they needed to take beyond this essay, beyond my classroom, beyond the school walls. “If you settle for mediocre in everything,” I said, “you’ll never achieve excellence in anything.”

Chastened, my students went to work on revising their essays. (FYI: The “chastened freshman effect” lasts, at most, one class period.) As they worked, I started thinking about the lecture I’d just given…and my own need to take that advice. Because I, too, settle for mediocrity.

Too often, I teach the same tired, boring lesson that I taught last year…because it’s “good enough.”

Too often, I settle for a text message when I need to call a friend…because it’s “good enough.”

Too often, I switch a tempo run to an easy run… because my body is tired and running at all is “good enough.”

Too often, I half-listen to my husband instead of being fully attentive… because kind-of listening is “good enough.”

Just like I told my students, none of those things are “good enough.”  Those instances of settling make me a worse teacher, friend, runner, and wife. And I don’t want to be mediocre at any of those.

So I’m challenging myself (and you!) not to settle for mediocrity. To push for excellence and strive for our best in every important aspect of our lives. To rise to the challenge, even when rising is more difficult than we anticipate.

Even if we fall short of excellence, we’ll still be far beyond mediocre.


No questions today, but share your thoughts!

12 thoughts on “Refuse to Accept Mediocrity”

  1. This is beautiful. I was just thinking last night how I settle for mediocrity every single day. I’m not exactly living at the moment. I’m simply just existing. I need to stop settling and start going above and beyond.

  2. Bam! Needed this today! I slept in through my normal morning run and I was just going to do an easy run home after work, but instead I stuck to my plan and knocked out some killer hill repeats. TOTALLY WORTH IT! Thanks for the inspiration =).

  3. This is hard because for so long I pushed myself so hard on certain things. So on other things, I only could be mediocre. I like to balance myself and know what I can and cannot handle. Of course, I want and need to push myself on so much stuff, but I have also spent a lot of time trying to be OK with doing some things just OK and not losing sleep over them. But a very inspiring post and I will remember it next time I turn a tempo run into an easy one (ugh-story of my life!).

  4. I totally get where you are coming from. It is hard to watch others settle for less than what they are capable of. I tried my hand at teaching for a few years and this made me the “strict” teacher.. but I hope the students came away with something they could be proud of.
    Thanks for finding me on twitter! Love your blog here. 🙂

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