by Steven E. Streight

One of the strangest things I've seen in my many years of marketing work is the passionate person of mediocrity. Someone has great zeal and hopes about their their new business, but they're not dedicated to excellence, they have no expertise, they are not high quality.

They have noble goals, but have not developed to the point of having a genuinely unique and helpful product, or a whole new approach to a problem. They are sub-standard or worse.

Many times, I've noticed that, according to their own statements, they could never get along with bosses and managers. The idea of starting their own business is a result of being unemployable. While I understand the maverick, outsider, and rebel, just because you dislike authority is no basis for launching out on your own.

This rebellion against corporate culture is not enough to build a business on. We must go beyond that antipathy and forge a better way. We must see not only where the establishment is doing things poorly or unethically, but also how we can fulfill a need in a creative and effective manner.

I have seen the disgruntled entrepreneur go bad.

They slap some things together, then think that all they have to do is promote their business powerfully. They think they have mastered some technique or trade, but they're only half-baked. Now they want to push their ambitions to fulfillment, having skipped the necessary achievement of near-perfection with a true differentiation from competitors.

The ambitious amateur is a sad sight to see.

They can give an exciting speech, do a great presentation, and be totally sincere -- but they suck. It doesn't mean they'll never be exceptional, but their current status is well below average. It's almost as though they've been drilled in some twisted positive affirmation delusions.

Skipping the requirement of being superb, of being radically special and worthy of accolades, they seem to be relentlessly chanting to themselves the standard productivity anthems and motivational slogans.

"Fake it until you make it."

"Thoughts are things."

"Believe in yourself and your dreams will come true."

"Thinking makes it so."

"Do what you love and love what you do."

"Perception is everything."

"Winners never quit."

"You deserve success."

"Conceive it and you'll achieve it."

"Unleash the power of imagination."

So, what is missing?

The discipline to train and struggle and strive for solid accomplishment. They want to leap into the realization of their ultimate vision, without the production of a really astonishing product accompanied by totally professional service.

You see it all the time. Many people, even seasoned business veterans who should know better, are taken in by the exuberant energy and the smooth talk. They like the charm and charisma -- but.charm and charisma are for crooked politicians and sleazy celebrities.

Look beyond the hysterical hype and self-congratulatory ecstasy. Look for real substance, true expertise, hard-nosed acumen. Listen to the sales pitch, then sit back and sift through the details. Question each point. Discover the contradictions and identify the dubious claims. Bring a calculator to the meeting and analyze the numbers.

Enthusiasm is often the cloak of incompetence.

Too many businesses are started and encouraged, only to fail miserably, because the mentors, team members, and investors did not look more closely at what the real deal was, the slackness that was lurking semi-transparently under the mass of dazzling pretensions.

In cases like this, smiling, nodding, and applauding are not what is needed. A gentle critique, a modest questioning, or a kindly recommendation that they fine-tune what they're doing would be more appropriate.

A compassionate rebuke, patient mentoring, or friendly but realistic assessment can be a tremendous boon to this type of individual. We don't want to destroy their motivation, but we should seek to diplomatically direct it into the achievement of true greatness. 

Everyone is mediocre in the beginning. Those who accomplish big things must have a keen self-awareness that doesn't flinch from painful realizations and deep introspection. It takes a humbleness of mind to recognize that even when we have been successful for years, we all still have some less than exceptional qualities and behaviors.

No matter how fantastic our own company or services are, we all have plenty of room for improvement.