Kerry Reid

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Should we aim for mediocrity?

As children in modern day society we are all told to reach for the stars. The idea that you can be or do anything you want to...but more often than not if those dreams are at odds with convention they are branded as 'silly' or 'impracticable'.

What to do? Dream or aim for mediocrity?

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    Nov 27 2012: You need not aim for mediocrity. Rather, you must flee from it. Just ignore all your ideas and dreams for improving the way things are and mediocrity will overtake you and claim you as its own. Take one of your ideas, one of your dreams, no matter how simple, and do all that you are willing to do to see it realized. Trying is both meaningful and satisfying. Refusing to try is both meaningless and detrimental. Judging success or failure is extremely subjective and difficult to assess. Trying is very easy to assess. . . either you try, or you don't. Try, try again.
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    Nov 28 2012: As a father of two daughters I'm not in the doubting business. It is vitally important that they dream and not just wish. I was listening to an NPR interview with Dolly Parton and she identified the distinction between wishing and dreaming. Wishing is more imaginative but not necessarily to the point of action. Dreaming on the other hand carries with it the element of potential to acheive. While her distinction may not me definitive, I can subscribe to it. Poetry is uplifting and I stress to my daughters the following poem a portion of which follows:

    It Couldn’t Be Done By Edgar Albert Guest

    Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
    But he with a chuckle replied
    That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
    Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
    So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
    On his face. If he worried he hid it.
    He started to sing as he tackled the thing
    That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
  • Nov 27 2012: Aim low and you will shoot low; aim high and you will shoot high!
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    Nov 27 2012: Neither amiming for the stars nor mediocrity. How I see it is that everyone's aim should be located inside not outside. Then the outcome should not be a subject of any kind of objective comparison, as it would be unique.
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    Lejan .

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    Nov 29 2012: Who is scared by mediocrity may just work on its self-esteem. Sure we should go for what we wish for, as this is usually the most stronges motivation within us, yet we should also learn to fail and to find good compromise to avoid frustration and to loose all our faith.

    This is why we have 'falling stars', so we can stay 'down to earth' while collecting them... ;o)
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    Nov 28 2012: I think everybody dreams to get higher. The problem is how people cope with failure, great people try harder until they reach what they initially wished for whilst other just adopt mediocrity

    I recommend this amazing Ted talk: TEDxKarachi 2011 - Imran Khan - Never Give up on Your Dreams
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    Nov 27 2012: The only thing thats 'silly and impractical'' is mediocrity itself.

    Nothing is more silly than having one life to live and to live it solely in the style of a cog in a machine
    and nothing is more financially and creatively more impractical than living in the way of the status quo.

    Always keep dreaming and reaching for better things and to hell with those who ridicule you for it.
    If their opinions don't matter when you're at the top, then they don't matter when you're on your way.
  • Dec 5 2012: Just do and try. If it turns out to be mediocre, fine. At least you can say that you tried to do something that is meaningful to you.
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    Nov 30 2012: I'm sure that we all remember what Samuel Beckett said that encourages trying and not giving up.
    “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” If the "thing" that one is trying to do is logically possible I wholeheartedly support the pursuit because success is not really fully realized unless one has experienced failure by which to contrast it
  • Nov 29 2012: Two adages:

    "Some men are born to greatness; others have greatness thrust upon them."

    "Most people will not do great things, but they can do small things in a great way."

    I find that, in terms of our lives, society has penned so many fantastic stories hitherto that it is difficult to become a part of history oneself. But that is because of a fervent desire of the world to take things out of context. Behind every great event or person there were others who helped to achieve that goal. While history might not remember them verbatim, they contributed to something bigger than themselves. A great man once said something like this: "It is amazing what people can get done if they don't care who gets the credit."

    We should strive to place ourselves in positions that, when a certain door is opened, we can do all the good we can for all the people we can in all the ways we can wherever we can. And maybe take pretty good care of ourselves and family along the way...
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    Nov 29 2012: Yes.

    Everybody should aim at a star-through-mediocrity.

    It is because one can not be a star without thinking to be a star. And one has to be a mediocrity if the objective conditions do not permit one to be a star.

    This is determined by one’s brain ability and the situation in which he or she is in.

    (For details, see the 1st article, point 15, at
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    Nov 28 2012: Somehow this seems relevant too...
  • Nov 28 2012: So many things that we do during the day are not important. Somethings are get-it-done others are more important. This is obvious. Always keep the obvious in mind too.
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    Nov 27 2012: You write that children today are all advised to reach for the stars. It is wonderful, I think, that you get that message to try for things that are challenging. This advice is only good. Many people do not realize that kids today are given that message.

    Then you say that if dreams are at odds with convention, they are branded silly or impractical. For this claim, I would love to see an example, because I have a feeling that that might be a bit of exaggeration.
    Here is why I am asking. I noticed a few months ago on TED a few cases of young people, maybe fifteen years old, distraught because they felt they would never be another Isaac Newton or Einstein in physics. Because of this thought- that they might not become figures of that stature in the area that interested them, they felt they needed to quit physics and become something ordinary, "like an engineer."
    This is where that advice to reach for the stars starts sometimes to seem a bit oversimplified to be helpful. There is nothing wrong with studying hard to try to be one in a billion in terms of attainment in your field but it is a problem if ones dreams are so narrowly defined.

    I spent a chunk of my professional life working with, and doing programming for, highly gifted adolescents and teens. I have seen too many young people veer away from the subject they were most passionate about because some other kid or four at school was better at it and also working hard at it.
    This was a loss to the kid and also potentially for the world.
    There is a big difference between mediocrity and Isaac Newton. Aiming to be outstanding in something or things you care about is a gratifying version of reaching for the stars. It is good to have some challenging intermediate steps as well that you can work hard toward and feel great about when you attain them.
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    Nov 27 2012: The collective would have you believe in mediocrity.

    The very substance of life is made of dreams.
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    Nov 27 2012: i always felt that "aim for the stars" or even "aim high" a little oversimplified. one might think naturally that aiming the right height is good, any higher or lower is not. the question is, how much would you sacrifice? everything? hope not. your life? other's life? your youth? your health? friends? other goals? what if you are wrong? what if the desired goal turns out to be fool's gold? and why would you set goals that far ahead? why don't just leave the possibility open? why not "go with the flow"?
  • Nov 27 2012: I found in history true innovation is branded foolish or crazy for many years and is only branded differently when leaders take up the idea and carry it forward. Henry David Thoreau was just a man who denied to pay taxes and was punished until Gandhi used his methods and added his own spice to make true innovation and change in how individuals deal with hardships. I think if you aim for mediocrity you are fully obliged to reach averageness, but I do not think we are faulted with aiming too high in life it is that we are not aiming high enough. I do not remember where I heard that last part, but it has proven true time and time again. Change and innovation only wait for people who are not willing to settle to convention.
  • Nov 27 2012: "What to do? Dream or aim for mediocrity?"

    Dream, but make your dreams about something other than your career. Put the effort in your private life. That's not going to be enough for some people, but they can put all their efforts into their careers, while most people wouldn't really miss being a vice president if they had a better private life. A higher than average corporate position (which is the only claim to fame of most "successful" people) does not really mean you have a successful life. On the other hand it's important for young people to know that if they are smart and work hard enough they can, in principle, become an astronaut or prime minister, even if they weren't born with a silver spoon in their mouths, that requires affordable education and meritocratic institutions.