The Art of Mediocrity

Contrary to popular opinion, it is difficult to attain true mediocrity without consistent effort, sacrifice and self-discipline. It is apparent that while many are willing to make half-hearted efforts, few appreciate that mediocrity can be aroused, refined and enhanced by the application of some simple principles. Most therefore still arrive at mediocrity by happenstance rather than intent. To assist those seeking a direct path to the pinnacle of mediocrity, the following practice guidelines are offered.

1. Eat lunch out of a paper bag at your desk

Life is full of stimulating people, fine restaurants, and mind-altering experiences. To avoid being distracted by appreciation for any of these, eat a sandwich at your desk daily. Do so while marking papers or re-reading a report.

2. Dwell on the negative

Life is a spicy mixture of painful and pleasurable occurrences. By consistently dwelling upon the negative, one’s mind can be trained to ignore the steady stream of newly-arising opportunities to expand, enjoy and succeed.

3. Keep to the straight and narrow

A lecture, bibliography or training presentation exists for one purpose — to highlight your own achievements, and possibly those of a few close friends. Avoid giving credit to others, since it will distract an audience from discovering your importance. Never draw attention to anyone who is not able to benefit you personally.

4. Avoid familiarity with other living creatures

It takes time and effort to learn the many plant and animal species in our surroundings, and once you know them, they will become an endless source of delight. Life today has too much pressure to waste time in such frivolous enjoyments. Keep focused on your house and office. If you must have another outlet, let it be organized sports.

5. Avoid risk

Mistakes are made only by stupid people. If you take a risk, you might make a mistake. Therefore, to avoid looking stupid, always pick the least demanding job and try to solve the most tractable problem. If you see someone else ready to take a risk, do whatever you can to discourage them.

6. Avoid productive people

Productive people make us all look bad with their achievements. Therefore, seek out the incompetent, the negative, and the underachievers. Cultivate them as friends and allies.

7. Be unkind to yourself

Failure is a constant in human affairs. Life ultimately offers only failure, illness and death. Therefore, when you make a mistake, dwell upon it. Build it up, talk about it, wallow in it. Do so on a daily basis. Train so that when new opportunities arise, you will be able avoid them in the conditioned awareness that we are all fated to be losers and then die.

8. Be unkind to others

The world is full of incompetence. Fools are easy targets for criticism. Seek them out, and draw their shortcomings to everyone’s attention This will make you look clever by comparison. Others, fearing your criticism, will tend to fall into line.

9. Cultivate praise

Rigorously train subordinates to admire you. Lead them daily in cheering conformity. Mold them into a cohesive and self-reinforcing team. Study the conduct and writings of Stalin, Mao and Jim Jones in order to master the inner secrets of building personality cults.

10. Avoid being a mentor

Every subordinate is a threat. The higher one rises, the more subordinates there are. At all costs, avoid training them; it merely increases the odds that they will someday take your position from you. Arrange frequent public executions to set a stern example. Stifle creativity, keep subordinates in their place, and you will eventually become irreplaceable.

11. Be opportunistic

When all else fails, remember that everyone has at least one area of vulnerability. Watch quietly and smile broadly as you seek it. Play it safe — always strike first. Then strike hard and deep. That should make them back off and think twice before they mess with you. Once they are broken and isolated, offer consolation, and they will be yours for life.

12. Keep it serious

Humor is subversive. Laughter briefly exposes and illuminates the illusions that deceive us. Therefore avoid humor. Train in the assumption that all humor is an insult. Do not read lists posted on web sites.

With apologies to Sun Tzu.