I was at lunch with a distant cousin when she started to thank me. She mentioned that if I hadn't helped her with her resume years ago, she wouldn't have the opportunity that she currently has making roughly $30 per hour (not bad for a 24 year old). I was puzzled because I don't remember helping her at all 🤭
She begin to share stories of her job history and impactful things she recalled along the way. She mentioned applying for her first 'real' job at Amazon at their packing warehouse. After day one, she said she knew the environment was not for her. When she got home, she was telling her dad about her day and the taxing culture at the job location. She said, "I will never forget what my dad said to me. He said, "You're better than that!" She continued, "At first I was like, "At least I'm working and not begging you for money or sitting home doing nothing," but he said, "you don't understand what I'm saying. You're very smart.That role does not challenge you, motivate you and there isn't growth potential. This job will not grow you in a good way. You'll be mediocre at best. If status quo is your goal, then stay." She ended the story with, "I quit the next day and I'm so glad I had my dad to tell me I'm capable of more."
Realizing that you're too good for your current job is a transformative moment in your career.
I meditated on this snippet she shared for several months. We are constantly telling our children, our younger folk, our subordinates, etc to remain humble, not get too big for their britches, don't let their success get to their heads, and all types of other clichés. But, how often our we telling them, "You're better than that!" Not enough adults are providing the language young adults need to hear in order to help themselves level up. Positive affirmation is a wonderful thing--with the right amount of balance. Positive affirmation is great, but also may need to be accompanied by a mentor, a book, a class, a challenge (an agility course, bootcamp, etc), travel, etc. We can only take someone as far as we ourselves have gone so if your child wants to be a earn a Ph.D. and you've never been to college, it's important for you to help him/her to be in the right rooms with the right people. This is a necessary accompaniment to the positive affirmations.
Of course, believing you’re supremely talented and at best you're subpar and un-coachable --essentially suffering from Dunning Kruger---yeah, that creates a big problem. Take the example above. My cousin's first response was defensiveness. If your response is to keep hammering away at why you’re right, odds are you aren’t listening. She took the time to hear her father out and it worked in her favor.
If you want to have an amazing career, you’ll need to define in black-and-white what you want and even more importantly, what you don’t. Learning to advocate for yourself, negotiate, and address conflict and adversity while keeping a cool head are such underrated skills. We don't talk about the 'golden handcuffs' and them being the entry level for mediocrity.
The term “golden handcuffs” was popularized as a way to explain why ambitious professionals were choosing to stay put rather than explore other employment options.
Don’t wait for the stars to be aligned. Reach up and rearrange them in the way you want. Create your own constellation. AND believe that you can. Escaping mediocrity is hard, but it’s the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself. People all over the world are taking their simple life and turning it into something meaningful and powerful.
Mediocrity is not about having low intelligence or lacking abilities. It’s about lacking ambition, being unwilling to tap into your potential, taking it easy, and choosing to drift rather than proactively work towards a worthwhile goal.
And that attitude is not acceptable.
Because it insults, belittles, and undermines the person within you.
So...when someone tells you, "You're better than that," maybe the best thing you can do is listen. They just might be right!