This article is not about rich people, poor people, or even that dying breed of middle class people. It’s really just about refusing to be classified. You see, one of the reasons I picked the name Unprecedented Mediocrity for this blog was the desire to express a certain sentiment. In addition to it being humorous, the name is meant to convey the idea that there is a certain amount of unprecedented joy in the state of just being as opposed to chasing some arbitrary standard that someone else likely made up for you. It’s not that you don’t have goals, but you can live 60 years of miserable life trying to obtain a goal that you would only enjoy for 10 years, only to realize it was someone else’s goal all along. It’s all made up. I am a firm believer in that. So if it’s all made up, then why not create your own course. Check out the book The Art of Possibility for a well written guide on that. It feels like I should have figured out a way to make some money off that book plug.
The title of this article is actually a quote/paraphrase of something I heard Geoffrey Canada state this week at my company’s annual employee conference. If you are not familiar with Geoffrey Canada, he is the founder of Harlem Children’s Zone in New York. Harlem Children’s Zone is a charter school and now much more that basically said to the public in Harlem, if you send your kid to our school, we will guarantee they will get into college. Doubling down, he said they will be with these children from the moment they walk into the door until the moment they graduate college. The movie, Waiting for Superman, is a very informative profile of this school.
Now despite serving a large number of youth whose circumstances make that a daunting task, as far as I can tell, it looks like he is pretty close to doing that and he is systematically transforming a neighborhood. The quote was in reference to those that scoffed at the idea that every child should be prepared for college. Whereas there are many tracks that a child might take, the rich people are preparing their kids for college. Every single one of them. Not that all rich kids will attend, but that is the universal expectation among rich families. So to him, it seemed foolish to accept anything less for the kids in his school. Thus, when you are not sure what to do, do what the rich people are doing.
Now the instruction to do what the rich people are doing is certainly not a moral guide. Many of the wealthy in America are wrought with the type of spectacular moral failings that only one with money could accomplish. Did someone say Justin Beiber? Moreover, I don’t think the rich people are inherently full of any more joy than you or I. Sure they might be able to afford a few better distractions than the rest of us, but when it comes to joy, I’m not so sure they got that part figured out.
However, I find it fascinating that the world often attempts to classify us into our assigned groups at such an early age and I am not so certain why so many of us are so quick to go along with it all. After all, this entire nation was founded on the premise of charting our own course. England said we would like you to be a colony whose purpose is to feed the mother land with raw materials. Well, one July 4th in 1776 later, we had other plans for ourselves. This notion permeates our society to this day. Thus, when I see someone failing to expect the greatness of which they are capable, it’s a sad case.
Consequently, whereas I recognize the 110,000 views I have had of this blog in the past 3 months are what some blogs get in a day, I keep on writing anyway. There might be blogs out there with awards such as Best Blog Ever attached to them, but I am not fooled. It’s all made up. So if it’s all made up, I’ll go ahead and call my blog Best Blog Ever and just pity the people who haven’t found it yet. That’s a reality I can get with.
Expectations are an amazing thing. When I was 17 years old, no one expected me to be spectacularly disciplined. No one expected me to be a warrior. No one expected this 125 pound, baby faced, and laid back kid to invade a foreign country and return fire on the enemy. So I didn’t. That is, until someone started expecting that from me. And thus began the process. So 6 years later, I found myself a hardened 185 pound Infantry Combat Veteran returning from Iraq. Full disclosure, I am currently a much softer 200 pounds, but you get the point.
I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and turned 18 during the middle of boot camp. Now, regardless of what your average boot will tell you, a Marine doesn’t come out of boot camp ready to take on the UFC champ in hand to hand combat. In fact, to this day, if someone asks me if I can kill someone with one finger because I am a Marine, I squeeze the trigger finger a couple of times and say, “Only if you’re talking about this finger.”
Marines come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but what unites them all is that they are expected to act like Marines most particularly in combat if nowhere else. And you know what, an amazing thing happens. You start actually acting like a Marine. You are filled with the history of the hard charging Marines that came before you and you are inspired by those with whom you serve. The expectations are raised by Marines from Dan Daley to recent Medal of Honor winner Kyle Carpenter.
This is the culture to which you have joined yourself, so with some basic instruction, aka Boot Camp, it’s time to start acting like it. And it works. You train harder to be sure the reputation of the Marine Corps doesn’t fall with you. No one would have assigned to me at age 17 that War was in my future. But I had other plans. So what does one do when you desire such things for yourself? When in doubt, you do what the Marines would do and it starts with signing the dotted line. Full disclosure again, the line is not actually dotted. I was quite disappointed to find that out.
So there you have it. Rather that let others ascribe to you your path, make up your own. It’s all made up anyway. And when you start to expect great things of people or yourself, watch as that starts to transform you. I’m thankful to work for a great organization that expects us to always be learning. The conference was a great time and in fact there is promise I need to keep. Below, you will see from this conference, the first selfie I have ever taken in 35 years of life. Congrats co-workers, you made the blog.