Wednesday, January 2, 2019


“There is real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.” – Norman Vincent Peale

One thing I have always feared is being mediocre. Few people understand what that really means. They think being mediocre is being average. But being average means you are somewhere in the middle in comparison to everyone else: average height, average weight, average intelligence, average grades. Being mediocre, however, has nothing to do with where you are in relation to others. It is about where you are in relation to your own potential. There’s nothing inherently bad about being average, but mediocrity means you have failed yourself.

In the course of my writing career, I have met hundreds of other authors like myself, many of whom I revere and others not so much. Those authors who have earned my respect have done so not because they’ve achieved great accolades or earned millions for their books, but because they have put their all into their stories. Their books represent the very best of themselves; they create stories of which they can be proud.

On the flip side, I’ve met authors who sell themselves short by producing sub-standard books. They fail to invest time or money in developing their writing skills. They cut corners on design and editing to save a buck. They publish their books prematurely, just to get them “out there.” Or they write stuff because it sells, not because it matters. These authors had the same potential as the others, but they fell short of the mark. And that is the tragedy.

Whenever I write a book, I set out to write the best story possible and to produce the highest quality book I can. It often takes years to get it right, and even then, I am never completely satisfied with the result. I constantly strive, not for perfection, because in writing there is no such thing, but I strive for improvement. Each project should be better than the one preceding it. That way, I can always be assured I am doing my best.

Reaching for excellence isn’t just about writing. The reality is, we are surrounded by mediocrity, by people who are too easily placated by their own ordinariness. It’s easy to be ordinary. It’s easy to be mediocre. It takes effort and consistent hard work to stand out from the crowd.

I teach college English composition, and usually, within the first few days of class, I can identify the mediocre students from those who will excel. My mediocre students show up late or are often absent. My mediocre students turn in assignments late or not at all. My mediocre students fail to progress throughout the course of the semester; they do “just enough” to pass the class.

On the other hand, students who excel are committed to doing their very best every single day. They ask questions. They are not satisfied with less than an ‘A’. They also feel a deep level of personal satisfaction when they do get a good grade because they know they earned it. And that is the biggest difference of all—mediocrity can never experience that feeling of satisfaction and self-pride because the level of work they produce did not require any sacrifice on their part. They don’t know what it means to “give your all.”

As a mother, I try to teach my kids to do their best, whether it’s in their school work or just washing the dishes. Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity. That doesn’t mean beat yourself up for being imperfect; it means, instead, to strive for excellence and progress. It means to grow and to achieve. Finally, it means to produce the kind of work you can be proud of.

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