Become the sworn enemy of mediocrity. Like Tom Cruise.

14 Sep 2015

Become the sworn enemy of mediocrity. Like Tom Cruise.

While a lot of his peers are thinking about their retirement, Tom Cruise is still hell bent on hitting the ball out of the park. Whether he’s climbing the Burj Khalifa or dangling from a cargo plane, he is pushing the limit. Every single time. No shortcuts.

In an interview, Cruise said, ‘There was no question the [plane] stunt was always going to be me. As a kid, when I looked at Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton – when I saw the things they did on screen – it brought me more into the subjective reality of the characters in those stories. Take the CIA sequence in ‘Mission 1.’ If someone else had done it, the audience wouldn’t have been as invested in it.’

Cruise relentlessly invests in his films. Why does he work so hard and so obsessively in film after film? Well, for starters, I think it’s clear he loves what he does. But the second reason is even more important than the first. Cruise doesn’t want to make good movies. He wants to make great movies. And he wants to do that every single time, no exceptions.

Mediocrity in any fashion is anathema to Cruise. It’s his sworn enemy.

I don’t know about you but personally I find it difficult to live like this! In fact, I find it almost impossible to be anti-mediocre every single time. I have my great days, then I have my good days and then I have lots of bad or average days.

I think most of us are like that. We dwell in comfort zones. We’ve got a relatively fixed idea in our heads of what we can and cannot do. And we’ve resigned to that idea. We’ve stopped trying. We operate below par. We’re safe.

But when we were young, we all had big dreams. Then somewhere along the way, mediocrity set in. What happened? There are a few common reasons:

1. Dreams are easy. Turning them into reality is crushing, back-breaking work. Not everyone wants to work their asses off. We like to take it easy, like our weekends too much to spend it doing anything besides vegetating.

2. We have original ideas from time to time but the fear of being cut off from the herd – of being out in the wilderness – is very strong. So even if we do the bare minimum, as long as we’re with the herd we tell ourselves we’re OK.

3. When an opportunity comes our way, we misperceive it as danger. We’re unwilling to make short term sacrifices for long term gains.

4. We are terrified of failure. Our society has prized success above everything else. So some of us are too scared to even try.

 But after a while, the comfort zone turns into a graveyard. It acquires the unmistakable quality of defeat and escapism. Neale Donald Walsh said, ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’

If you’re tired of the bullshit you’ve been feeding yourself about why you can’t get out of your comfort zone, follow the 4-step rule I’ve formulated:

1. Choose what you love: Following a passion is the best way to pre-empt mediocrity. You can’t drag your feet about something you love.

2. Have a goal: Passion is not enough. You must concentrate your energies on a challenging but achievable goal.

3. Let it kill you: Work your ass off. Work long after you’ve lost faith and interest. Pay attention to the details. Fall in love with the process. And the results will follow.

4. Take time to review progress: No matter how passionate you are, there will be days when you’ll question everything. When you feel low, act fast: Review progress, talk yourself out of negative situations, and remember why you started. Learn to put bad days in perspective.

It’s not easy. But it’s not impossible. You can hit the ball out of the park every single time too, just like Tom Cruise.

All you need to do is find what you love, set a goal, and let it kill you. And have the right story in the background. I don’t care what you put in the story as long as the first four words are ‘I can do this…’

About the Author:


Sandhya Reddy is an Executive coach, Leadership and Business coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.

Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, personality development, leadership coaching, business coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals.

Starting your own business can be exciting and daunting. It means coming face to face with hidden beliefs and behaviours that may be coming in the way of success. If you are an entrepreneur, Business Coaching helps you craft a vision, take responsibility, prioritize strategic thinking, and complement the best-laid plans with systematic action. Entrepreneurship involves a significant mind-set change but the right positive self-talk is the first start point.

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