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How to drop mediocrity? || Acharya Prashant, Sir J.J. College, Mumbai (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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Questioner: How can one overcome the fear of mediocrity? How can you not feel insufficient? How to feel content with one’s work and remain motivated to improve even if you do not feel that way?

For example, I might be working on some project where I have put in a lot of effort, but it is still not that good, and I can see that especially when I compare it with the works of others. I see how much better they are, and I feel that of all the normal people in the class, I am not special at all. So, can one deal with that?

Acharya Prashant: No, your responsibility is to be better than yourself. You are not to calibrate yourself against other people.

Please get this right, because you all are young and competitive. You have to ask yourself, “How much better I am compared to what I was yesterday?” You are on your own individual journey. It is not possible or wise to compare yourself against others. You have to ask yourself, “I started from this particular point, yesterday I was at this particular level—where am I today?” That has to be the consideration: playing against yourself, being your own best self. That’s what all wisdom, all bravery is about—being your own best self.

The battle that you fight is not so much against others. Complete the statement now. The battle that each of us fights, or rather must fight, is not so much against others; that battle has to be primarily against yourself. “How am I and how far have I come? Where did I start from?” I have said that repeatedly, and that’s coming from firsthand experience.

At IIT, I had a long opportunity of four years to interact with an entire spectrum of students from across the country, not only my batch but also senior batches and the succeeding batches. I have seen people with all India rank five, ten, fifteen, which is considered very prestigious. I have also seen people who barely made the cutoff, ranks two thousand or something. Obviously, today they have more than ten thousand or fifteen thousand seats; at that time it was hardly two thousand or two thousand five-hundred seats.

The worth of a student, I clearly saw, was not determined so much by the rank he or she got; the worth was determined by the background that person came from. What were the odds? What did you fight against? Somebody coming from Bihar or Odisha, that too a small town background, from an economically underprivileged family, and yet somehow securing admission to the IIT was actually a far worthier candidate than someone from an affluent Delhi family having all the facilities, all the money, all the coaching, all the comforts. What is it that you are fighting against? That’s what matters. I cannot compare a fellow from a remote interior Bihar village to a youngster from South Delhi. South Delhi is rich, plush and powerful, much like South Bombay, probably.

So, where are you coming from? You are coming from your own background. Ask yourself, “How much have I improved?” And be on an endless journey of improvement. No quantum of improvement is sufficient. And we should not miss, when we are talking of improvement, something more important than improvement: improvement in the right direction. You must choose the right goal, the right target, and then keep improving towards it constantly. It is as simple as that. Is it clarifying?

And what I am saying is not something you can convince all others with because that’s the way the world is. They will benchmark you against the others. They will say, “You have”—if we talk of academic skills—“68%, and the other one is 82%.” So, they will declare you the mediocre one. But you should not take their words to heart. You should know where that 68 is coming from.

Your responsibility does not lie in matching the one with 82. Your responsibility lies in converting the 68 to 72. 68 converted to 72, 68 improved to 72 is as important as, or probably more respectable than somebody who was at 82 and remains at 82. If I have to rank two performers, one who was at 82 and stagnated at 82, and someone who was at 68 and has improved to 72, you know the one I will pick—the latter one.

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