An Ode to Mediocrity
Remember the last time you pursed something for the sake of it?
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Do you remember the last time you pursued a hobby or passion solely for pleasure, no strings attached? As we surrender our lives to the altar of hustle, even leisure and relaxation have become like competitive sports. Even while pursuing our hobbies we feel compelled to prove a point – to ourselves and our friends – that we are indeed having a great time and winning the race of life.
Columbia University law professor Tim Wu suggests that our pursuit of excellence has infiltrated all aspects of our lives and corrupted the world of leisure. He believes that most people either don’t have hobbies or don’t find time to pursue them because we are afraid of being bad at them.
Even while relaxing and pursuing things with no short-term impact on our daily lives, the pursuit of excellence has become the hallmark of the 21st century. We aspire to be great partners, phenomenal lovers, inspiring co-workers and memorable party starters. Being mediocre, average or good-enough doesn’t quite feel right.
Research conducted at Harvard and INSEAD Business School suggests that happiness comes from progress. Excellence is an outcome of consistent progress, but the inverse is often not true. Unfortunately, the pursuit of excellence is far more in vogue than the pursuit of progress. This trickles down even to hobbies and leisure activities as we tend to link our identities and self-worth with them.
Leisure used to be part of our personal space, but it is far more public now. We track numbers, keep scores and measure relative progress. That is perhaps how leisure became hard work.
Angel List co-founder Naval Ravikant shared, “Find three hobbies: one that makes you fit, one that makes you money and one that makes you smart.” I found this three-pronged life hack immensely helpful but couldn’t help to wonder if hobbies need to have a goal attached to them.