“The most powerful threat to greatness isn’t evil. It’s mediocrity.”

Mediocre: Of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate (dictionary.com).

There seems to be a trend towards mediocrity these days. We see it in education, sports, business, and politics. We even succumb to the status quo in our personal lives. For example:

  • In our classrooms, homogeneous grouping (remember the red birds and blue birds?) is no longer PC. Instead, we teach to the middle – we utilize our gifted students as peer tutors, lest they act up out of boredom, while slower learners fall through the cracks.
  • On the ball field, all participants receive the same trophy, leaving our talented players wondering why they should try so hard.
  • In the voting booth, we are sadly relegated to selecting the political candidate with the fewest skeletons in the closet, rather than the best leader.
  • We stay in unfulfilling relationships and jobs, because it’s safer than striving for the partner or job of our dreams.
  • Businesses stifle innovation, because “mistakes” might upset their profit margin.

But, why are we ok with being barely adequate?

In a word… FEAR! Human beings are, all too often, fear-based decision makers. I’ve written a lot about fear, since conquering it happens to be the theme of my blog. In one of my very first posts, I wrote specifically about my own fear of risk-taking, which stemmed from the fear of being judged. Since then, I’ve come to realize that risk aversion – stepping out of our comfort zone – is actually quite common.

Elon Musk, in an article for Inc. magazine, beautifully articulated why most people are afraid to take risks: “There’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.”

I LOVE this quote! Human beings are a bunch of ass-coverers! (hey, I didn’t say that, Elon did).

So, how can we minimize the ass-covering? Perhaps as NIKE suggests, JUST DO IT!

Go out on that limb…step out of your box…take a chance. Mistakes (if there is such a thing) are a form of growth! We’ve all heard those quotes – you know, the ones where the famous innovators, explorers, inventors, and other gifted folks extoll the benefits of failure and how it led them to some of their greatest successes. Well…it’s true! The thing is, it takes courage.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this perfect quote:

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage — Maya Angelou

This week, go forth and minimize your ass-covering. When you do, you will find that you optimize your opportunities!

Written by : drallisonbrown

Subscribe To My Newsletter


Donec fringilla nunc eu turpis dignissim, at euismod sapien tincidunt.


  1. Angela Noel April 3, 2018 at 11:56 am - Reply

    That is a fantastic quote! I love it and it’s so true. In my reading on cognitive bias I learned that we humans wouldn’t rather make the mistake of not acting and wishing we had, than acting and being blamed for a mistake. This is something I call the “sticky mud” effect.
    In an odd example, I was just in Vegas. My husband and I played craps for a bit. And when it came time for me to be the “shooter” and roll the dice for the table I demurred. Even though I KNOW it’s a game of chance the idea of agency, of being the one who rolled the seven, gave me pause. Better to be in the crowd than the one doing the thing. Sure we might all win or lose, but no one can blame ME for a bad roll. In a way this is like much of life. It’s all, as they say, a crapshoot. We have less real agency than we think and in the end shying away from the spotlight just hands responsibility on down the line.
    Of course, my craps example isn’t a perfect metaphore here. But, it’s what came to mind. I love the idea of stepping out in front to DO something without fear.

    • drallisonbrown April 3, 2018 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      I love your example, Angela! Here’s my example: my husband makes me pick where we go out to eat; that way he can blame me if it’s not good, LOL!

      • Angela Noel April 7, 2018 at 9:00 am - Reply

        Oh! I know that trick well. But, I’m sure you always pick a good one.

  2. Brenda April 7, 2018 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Courage is my word for 2018 and I have been trying to live “without regrets” for a while. I am to the stage now where I realize I might not be “the best” but I am unique and I do not want to go down as mediocre. Fear of standing out/being difference keeps so many people standing still. Always enjoy your post and Angela’s take. Two for one for me!!

    • drallisonbrown April 7, 2018 at 8:05 am - Reply

      Haha! I love that, Brenda! Angela definitely has a way with words. Courage was my word for last year. Although it’s an ongoing process (courage), my word for 2018 is Allow. Don’t push, just allow.

  3. Denzil April 7, 2018 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Very interesting post Allison. I feel sure that social media is contributing to this increased fear. After all, “in the old days”, we could try something and fail, and apart from our immediate friends, colleagues and family, no-one else would know that we had even tried something, far less failed. Now, we are all so much more in the public eye.

    • drallisonbrown April 7, 2018 at 9:24 am - Reply

      Great point, Denzil! I think the media contributes to fear mongering in many different ways, actually.

  4. Hot Mess April 7, 2018 at 10:16 am - Reply

    Arg! I am SCARED TO DEATH to take risks! I do the worst thing possible: I just don’t make a decision for fear of the consequences. Now I don’t practice this in every area of my life but I do in more then I should. This was a great post and leaves me thinking!

    • drallisonbrown April 7, 2018 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      Well, I’m glad it got you thinking! Thank you for reading and commenting. Hopefully, the next time you have a decision to make, and you feel fearful, you will hear me whispering in your ear ? !

  5. Josy A April 7, 2018 at 11:57 am - Reply

    I think it depends on the kind of risks. I mean, I’m happy to take a risk in some areas of my life (I don’t feel too scared to move and live in New areas of the world…)

    But I am far less likely to take a risk with my job. If I’m having fun and doing okay at work, then I am very wary about making a mess of it!! I think lots of people are like that. Especially women. We wait until we have every possible qualification before we apply for a higher role.

    • drallisonbrown April 7, 2018 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      You bring up a good point, Josy. We view risk-taking differently depending upon the situation we are talking about. I think my goal with this post was simply to encourage folks to follow their heart – if you feel called to do something, don’t let fear stand in your way. Too often, we ignore our dreams because we’re afraid of what others might think or say.

  6. Erin - Unbound Roots April 7, 2018 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    I love EVERY aspect of this post, Allison. The examples you give at the beginning are all near and dear to my heart, and it makes me sad that so many people settle for mediocrity. I wish we could sit and chat and maybe even research and write together. I will be sharing this post everywhere in hopes that your important message be spread far and wide. Beautiful, meaningful post as always.

    • drallisonbrown April 7, 2018 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Erin! It’s no surprise that you resonated with those examples. I think we are on the same page with regard to a lot of these issues! I would love nothing more than to sit for coffee and chat with you. In fact, my dream team would be you and Angela and myself researching and writing a book together!

  7. Lisa April 8, 2018 at 8:01 am - Reply

    I love this post! You are so right we are a fear based society, but I blame the corporate environment for that. :)

    • drallisonbrown April 8, 2018 at 9:06 am - Reply

      I agree, Lisa. Many of the systems within our society are fear-based, particularly education, the healthcare industry, and the media. It’s been a lifelong process for me to work through the fear, and it’s an ongoing process.

  8. Hayley April 8, 2018 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Oh this is so true. That Maya quote is astounding.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.