Great minds think.

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Great minds think.

Over my years as a working class stiff, I’ve come to notice the epidemic of work avoidance that plagues the corporate world. Many a time have I thought to myself, “How does anything every actually get done?!” Oftentimes I suspect very little does actually get done. When it does, it’s usually done by the least qualified person in the building due to some misguided notion that working hard is their ticket to success in the corporate world. I honestly believe there is a ‘Good Will Hunting’ lurking under every cleaner’s uniform. I have no other explanation for how the work could consistently be finished by deadline.

I’ve held a series of extremely boring jobs in my time, and have been absolutely “under-employed” for the majority of my life until turning my hand to the family business. In the past I’ve found myself begging for scraps of work just to keep the boredom at bay, and I have done many things on company time to stem the growing sense of despondency that came with having so much time and so little to do.

I have watched entire TV series, written limericks and poems for friends, started my own freelance writing business, designed, edited and published a recipe book, co-devised an ‘Amazing Race’ style game, shopped, worked out, gone to the beach, attended doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, read full classic novels and Shakespearian plays online, and enjoyed countless 3 hour lunches including the odd ‘DNR’ (‘Do Not Return’) on a Friday afternoon. Out of all the many, many things I’ve done on company time, my favourite would have to be falling in love with my co-worker, best friend and man of my dreams, Andy.

It’s quite a list!

You might think I was taking advantage of my employers and a tad lazy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If I were lazy I certainly would never have bothered with most of the above list. My brain was crying out for something, anything to do. I regularly sought out additional work and helped colleagues with theirs. I just had this awful habit, sometimes known as “efficiency”, which prevented me from dragging out tasks that could be finished quickly and easily with minimal effort.

How many times have you been pleasantly surprised, even impressed, by a co-worker or client simply because they did their job? How many times have you been gobsmacked by a customer service rep when they went “over and above” by actually providing you with customer service as well as basic help?

While it may seem like I am being negative here, that is not my intention. In fact, the above life experience has taught me a very valuable lesson and I wanted to pass it on.

The lesson is as follows: Greatness is within your easy reach.

Greatness does not stem from some inborn talent or skill. Greatness is not about fulfilling ones potential or “being the very best you can be”. To me, greatness is simply daring to do more than the bare minimum in life – whether at work or play. Greatness is setting yourself a challenge and then having a red-hot go at it, regardless of the outcome.

Even by starting the list, I feel as though I am doing something a little bit great in my own life. For me, it’s not going to be a great year because I came first in a half marathon. It’s going to be great because I had a crack at one! My 30th year on the planet could have passed by, and I might even have done a few of the things of my own accord, but the list gave me something exciting to look forward to, challenges to meet, and countless (well, 30) awesome memories for when it’s all said and done.

With that in mind, I would like to propose another challenge, similar to the ‘Welcome to Rutsville’ challenge. Today, however, boredom is not our enemy. Our enemy today is mediocrity.

After reading this post, I challenge each of you to think of one simple way that you can escape mediocrity in your own life. True to form I will offer some practical suggestions that you might feel inspired to try. You don’t have to run a half marathon to be a little bit great today. Any of the following (or similar) would suffice! Here, then, are eight “great” things that will instantly switch your day from “mundane” to “the first day of the rest of your life”:

  1. Quit your crappy job. Now. Do it with flair. I will always remember my ex colleague, Geo, who managed to roast bosses past and present, absent and present, in his farewell speech. Stick it to the man!
  2. Instead of hooning past that broken-down car and toying with the idea of stopping to help, actually stop and help. Even if the tow truck is already on its way, you can still offer a kind word that could help lessen the stress.
  3. See if you can get the whole train carriage to break out into ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. Don’t be embarrassed – if worse comes to worst and they don’t sing along, they’ll assume it’s a stunt for radio or TV. Trust me when I say you will be the talk of many dinner tables tonight if you try it!
  4. Pining after someone special? Write them a love letter! I did this once and it resulted in seemingly unending mortification that – as luck would have it – totally ended! Everyone deserves a heartfelt love letter at least once in their lifetime, and if it doesn’t win you the key to their heart, it will at the very least leave a lasting imprint in the general vicinity!
  5. Quit that bad habit once and for all, starting today. Like my cousin, Lee, who has just today decided to give smoking the flick (so proud!)
  6. Feeling generous? Shout the bar! Wouldn’t that just make you feel so badass?
  7. Go out of your way to help a stranger. Ever had a tourist approach you and timidly ask where the station is? Instead of pointing in the general direction, walk them there. Strike up a conversation on the way. I have had this done for me while travelling and I’ve never forgotten it.
  8. Last but not least, if you are so inclined, do what you need to do to get to that Hawaiian Iron Man! I know you won’t regret it (and the chicks will totally dig it ;))

Today could pass like any other day. Today could be one of the thousands in your life that pass with a whimper, from the drudgery of work to the blessed relief of a completely unmemorable sleep. On the other hand, it could be the day you smash your great grandmother’s fine china plate while washing up because you decided to use “the good china” on pizza night… It is in these small ways that we create lasting memories (and you’ll get one last hurrah with the plate before its untimely demise).

What do you do to inject a little bit of greatness into your everyday life?

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9 responses »

  1. Great blog post! I actually considered writing about this very subject too…quit job: did it 6 months ago! Best decision!

    Nothing worse than a meaningless meander towards mediocrity!

  2. Yesterday, I did a 5-hour shift @ Lynne’s work, filling in as a ‘runner’. Dressed all in black, among other things, I learned how to use the fancy coffee machine & by the end of the day was serving tasty cappuccinos to the corporate clients, who probably thought that I was a quaified barista. Does that count?!

  3. Nice post. Reminds me when I first started work at the Water Board in 1980 – what fun we had. I never remember doing any actual work apart from partying, drinking, playing sport and occasionally answering an enquiry abut a water bill. Those were the days! Now I’m blessed every day with a great job I love, a team that inspires me and an interesting, fun place to be. And, I have done that for 25 years this year!

    Couldn’t agree more about the sentiment to not waste your time in a crappy job. This blog I always find inspiring: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2011/06/23/regrets/ Point 2 is very relevant to this discussion…

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