PERCEPTIONS: Mediocrity: The key to a rich life
Remember Orville Redenbacher? He is famous for his popcorn, but also for his philosophy: Do one thing and do it better than anyone. He made some really good popcorn.
As a teenager I ran into Orville’s philosophy everywhere I went. My teachers and coaches spouted it like religious dogma. In the classroom I was challenged to set the curve. In the band room second chair was shameful. On the basketball court it was the state championship or bust. Those cute cheerleaders were not yelling, “We’re number two!”
I decided this obsession with being the best was stupid. My philosophy was (and is): Be mediocre at as many things as possible. Not being the best at any one thing is a small price to pay for the freedom to indulge in everything else.
Imagine yourself at a banquet table that is swaying beneath the weight of your favorite dishes and desserts. You are calculating how many things you can pile onto your plate when Orville approaches with some advice. He tells you that the key to enjoying the banquet is to pick a single dish and become the world authority on it.
Let’s say you choose tomato soup. You become the expert on tomato soup. No one can stew up a pot of tomato soup like you. You are the King of tomato soup.
The price of your crown is fidelity to a single dish. You must turn your back on the miracle of roast beef, mashed potatoes and apple pie. For you it will be tomato soup ’til death do you part. The price is too high.
I am a mediocre French horn player, golfer, pastor, teacher, carpenter, theologian, fly fisherman, backpacker, father and husband. I am not the world’s greatest anything, but I find life to be a fantastically rich banquet. I could no more limit myself to just one thing than I could eat a single piece of popcorn.