The other day I had a terrifying thought during an otherwise mundane moment: What if I’m mediocre? This is actually a huge fear of mine. Oddly, being bad at something doesn’t bother me – there are plenty of things I’ll never be good at and I’m really ok with that. My fear is that I’m only marginal good at the things that are important to me and I believe I do well.
For example, I don’t spend much time worried I can’t dunk a basketball or do calculus. Neither factors large into my life and there’s no reason for me to be good at them. But, what if I’m only adequate in my roles as parent, spouse, or at my job? What if I walk the line between being good enough that no one says anything, but not good enough to make a difference?
I fear my blind spots. Those spots in my decisions and actions where everything looks fine to me but everyone else quietly wonders how I can’t see all the obvious-to-them places I’m getting in my own way. If I’m not aware of what I need to improve – or even that I need to improve – it’s a huge problem because there’s no way to get better.
I’m inspired by Steve Jobs’ vision of putting a dent in the universe; of the world being better for my having been here, but is it? What will be my legacy? What benefit will I have brought? When I look back from the end, what will I regret, what will I take pride in, and what will comfort me and convince me I spent my years well?
My kids will be grown and gone all too quickly and what kind of relationship will we have then? How will they look back on their childhoods and teen years? My wife and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary, but is that because I’m an outstanding spouse or because my wife is blessed with patience, kindness, and forgiveness? Does my team think of me as a good leader or as someone to put up with?
I’m not as concerned about today – I am actually pretty happy with where things are in my life. But that happiness worries me because it’s such a fine line between striving satisfaction and comfortable complacency. When I think about performance, I know that we are getting either better or worse. There is no holding steady. What feels like staying the course is actually freefall. Imagine flying along on a jet. Even if the engines shut down, the plane continues to glide forward and it feels like things are fine. At least until that moment when you realize you’ve lost altitude and the mountains you were going to fly over are looming large in front of you.
It’s easy to forget that today’s decisions and actions create tomorrow’s results. I know where I want to be, but will the trajectory I’m on today get me there? I fear the answer is a resounding “no” and that’s what really eats at me.
Good enough rarely is.