I was reading a column last week (no, not one of my fellow columnists). The writer was complaining about 'smug people'. Those you see in your office who finish their work before the deadline and make you look bad. The fit people who work out regularly and make you look unhealthy. All those damn smug people roaming around trying to show how much better they are than you. Why should they go jogging, groom themselves regularly and take pride in their work? Why can’t they just be like the rest of us, and embrace mediocrity? Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place without these people who insist on doing more than is strictly necessary? In a word: NO.
This column disturbed me. My parents taught me that if I decide to do something, I should do it to the best of my ability. That there’s nothing wrong with failing, but that I should always try to be the best. So when did it become okay to be mediocre? When did we decide not only that we don’t want to be exceptional, but that we’ll begrudge those who are?
Think about it. Suppose you fall ill.You have a choice between two doctors; one who dreamt of being a doctor all his life, worked hard to get there and is the absolute best at what he does. And another one who is just a okay doctor. Whom will you pick?
What really makes me nervous is the thought that this writer is not alone… that other people might think the same way. Truth be told, we’ve always been a dichotomous (look it up in the dictionary; I’ll wait) nation; on the one hand, we have produced some of the brightest minds in the world, while simultaneously embracing the famed Indian chalta hai attitude. Our politicians are criminals; chalta hai. The roads are crumbling; chalta hai. What if the chalta hai outnumber the achievers? Scary thought.
The fact is that every step mankind has taken forward has been because someone wasn’t satisfied to let things remain the way they were. Because someone stood up and demanded more. From themselves and from others. We owe a great debt to these people; but more than that, we owe it to ourselves and to others to carry that legacy forward. If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past, you’ll know that I’m an optimist. I have always believed that human beings are capable of great things.
There’s a saying in show-business: “There are no small parts. Only small actors.” We can’t all walk on the moon, or sing a song which will be remembered a hundred years from now, or topple an empire without ever picking up a weapon… but I promise you this: you can be more than you think. All it takes is for you to want it. Don’t ever let that part of you die, because if you do… it’s not just yourself that you’re letting down. It’s every one of us.
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