“Why Our Parents Want Us to be Mediocre.”
Yup, that was the subject line of an email I received from internet marketing guru Ramit Sethi the other day. Of course, I had to read it, so good job with the interest-capturing subject line, Ramit. Gotta give some kudos where kudos are due.
And now onto the email. You’re a parent, and that email lands in your inbox. What do you say or think?
Most of us are going to look askew at the one asking that absurd question. I mean, I’ve never heard a single parent clasp a hand on Junior’s shoulder and proudly proclaim, “I just want him to be thoroughly mediocre!”
But wait…by their actions and the advice many parents are tending to give their children these days, they are indeed sending their kids the message that aiming for mediocrity is the best bet.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mediocre as: “of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance.”
Let’s set aside the “low quality, value, ability, or performance” because most parents aren’t hoping their children will end up sub-par. Instead, focus on “moderate”, which is defined as “avoiding extremes of behavior or expression”. Stay with me while we explore that idea.
Sethi reports that during an interview with friend Michael Ellsberg, Ellsberg said, “Our parents want safety for us, not excellence.”
What does it mean to want safety in this sense for our kids?
For many of us, it means following the status quo. Get good grades in high school…so you can get into a good college…where you need to continue getting good grades…so you can find a good job afterward…so you can support a spouse, 2.5 kids, and a dog, and own that adorable rambler in a nice neighborhood.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, what are our kids missing out on when we advise them to take paths we believe are the safest and most likely to result in financial security?
Possibly excellence. Because the only route to excellence bypasses safety and goes right through risk.
And I think that’s his point.
During their interview, Sethi says, “We talked about why a lot of our parents took the traditional road to life. And then, even though they’re unhappy, they push us to make the same decisions they did!”
And isn’t that what many of us are doing?
If you’re honest with yourself, are you homeschooling the way that you are, using the curricula and the approach you are because it seems like the best route to college and a good job post-graduation for your kids? Are you nudging your kids toward college because you fear the alternatives?
Once upon a time, their alternatives may have been few. Once upon a time, college was the golden ticket to success. Once upon a time, advising your kids to follow your well-worn trail may not have been akin to telling them you want mediocrity for them.
Times have changed, though.
As Sethi says, “To be excellent, you have to make unconventional choices.”
I follow entrepreneurs like Ramit Sethi because they stand in stark contrast to the choices most people make and the lives most of us end up living as a consequence of those choices. Additionally, in the world of the entrepreneur, self-directed learning is required – and celebrated. One simply cannot achieve success there without embracing what thus far remains far outside the norm in K-12 education.
Our economy is changing. The way we do business is changing. The way we create value and jobs is changing. The way we can signal to others that we can create value is changing, too.
Things are changing for adults, and we must prepare our children for that change. If we cannot commit to courageously bucking the system, we may as well just surrender to it. Surrendering it to means that the overwhelming majority of our kids will end up with mediocre lives.
Not everybody has the stomach for courageously bucking the system. Some of you are going to be willing to settle for mediocre because you’re not willing to risk making unconventional choices. But for those who are, I invite you to take the next step with me. I’ve written a free report, “3 Rules to Help YOU Help Your Children 10x Their Lives” based on a follow-up email from Ramit Sethi called “3 Simple Rules to 10x Your Life”. Click Here to Download Your Free Report!
I’ve included links below to Sethi’s and Ellsberg’s books, as supplements to the conversation. The following items are affiliate links, which mean that if you choose to purchase anything through my links, I will receive a small commission. Doing so will not cost you anything, and it will earn you my gratitude. You can see my full disclosure policy here.