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gondwanalon's avatar

Do you suffer from not being brilliant or a genius, not achieving greatness?

Asked by gondwanalon (22539points) May 25th, 2023

I feel trapped in a mold of mediocrity. I’m a Jack of all trades and a master of none. I know a little about everything and a lot about nothing. Everything I accomplished or tried has generated adequate or just good outcomes. Nothing to me has ever been good enough. I’ve never been satisfied with any result. And I suffer for my weaknesses to excel to higher levels of success. And it’s painful and frustrating. I keep thinking, “What more do I have to do to get out of this rut”?

I struggle with everything I try. I’m generally moderately successful because of my one strength and that is bone head perseverance. I never give up no matter how massive, how futile and tedious the challenge. I succeed mostly through brute force.

Here’s a short clip from the 1984 movie “Amadeus”. I feel like I’m the reincarnation of Sigore Salieri.

I suppose it is true what they say, “You can’t put in what God has left out”.

How do you cope in the face of genus?
How do you accept that being mediocre is your best despite giving it your all?

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32 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

Ah, that’s where we differ @gondwanalon. I grew up in a house that had a culture based on competition, against each other, against others, and all the most stupid of things to be the “best” at. My mother picked out the people she liked the least, and required us to be more so than them. It left me with two things: a hatred of being competitive, and a lingering feeling of never being enough.

So no, I no longer feel that way at all. My accomplishments have been ordinary, and I have done them very well. I don’t need to shine or be better at stuff or excel in a field to enjoy a great satisfaction with my life.

I was always told that I had the potential to do Great Things and was wasting my “natural gifts”. The last time I needed to prove anything was in my 30s. I did the thing, and it was a hollow victory.

So, ironically, I thank my mother for convincing me (not her intention) that doing well is enough, I am not in a race with anyone. I am just fine as me.

Caravanfan's avatar

I’m mediocre at everything I do except my job. I just have fun with things.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Not at all, I choose gratitude daily for what I have. If I compete, I will win, but it doesn’t actually matter to me. My self-love is far more important than any achievement.

Frankly I would ask yourself why you are so hard on yourself, at your age. Who are you proving anything to? If it’s just your personality, that’s one thing, but if someone makes you feel inadequate that’s not okay, but emotional abuse imo.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I could have done better but shit just kept getting jerked out from under me.

janbb's avatar

I have known brilliant family members and at least one of them is a total prick. It took me a long time to realize that being your average bright kid was good enough.

Blackberry's avatar

Some people truly don’t want high status and recognition, but I totally understand chasing it.

Having some money in the bank and food and shelter and someone that loves me is something I’m ok with.

A rat race after all, is only chasing the goalposts.

Working at a factory used to get you a home and some security. Now soon all rent will be 4,000 and no one seems to care…

Acrylic's avatar

Spot on. Well, sort of. While I’m not brilliant nor a genius, I hardly suffer from that. I’ve learned to embrace that status and use for my benefit.

gondwanalon's avatar

Thank you all for the very thoughtful responses.

I’m not interested in impressing people by accomplishing something extraordinary.

I thank my Mom too for giving me no culture or adult supervision at home (>90% of the time). That allowed me the leeway mess up and also experience a lot of failures (including flunking 2nd grade). I realized in early childhood that failure is painful and to rely completely on myself to succeed..

At 72 years old I realize that I don’t have much time left. I’m retired and have plenty of time. Might as well challenge myself by continuing to chasing a dream. Just keep hoping that at some point all the stars will line up for me and something inside of me clicks that enables me to move up to be among the very best of the best (for just a brief moment in time).

kevbo1's avatar

I’m reasonably bright and have had no functioning thyroid since I was 17 and only started managing it properly 28 years later, so yes.

You might take a look at Scott Adams’ book and general material about developing a talent stack, not being great at any one thing, but achieving greatness nonetheless.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

I have a lot of interests. I’m good at my job in the sense that I bring a broad tool box to the table but I’m average at most of it. There is a price that people pay to be truly exceptional most of the time. They often miss out on the ability to follow through with their curiosity for the world we live in. Being really good at a couple things is boring if it means you miss the rest.

seawulf575's avatar

I’ve never considered myself to be a genius or brilliant. I’ve never worried about it much. I don’t feel robbed by not being that. I’m neither a genius or an idiot. That makes me like about 99% of the population. I’m very comfortable with who I am and where I am in life.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

~My beauty is as great as my benevolence is to behold.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Doesn’t bother me at all. I am what I am and how I am. I haven’t ever wanted to be anything else. Maybe it’s boring, but at least I am not neurotic.

Mimishu1995's avatar

I don’t have an answer for you, but I just want to say I’m in your position. This could be a question I type out. Everything you wrote is spot on to me. So maybe you can take solace in the fact that you are not alone? I’m here waiting for answers too.

raum's avatar

Wouldn’t call it suffering?

More like I’m learning to lounge in both my mediocrity and wasted potential. It’s usually a smattering of both.

JLeslie's avatar

I never cared about achieving greatness, whatever exactly that means. As far as brilliance, I was very good at some of the jobs I’ve done, and I’m pretty smart, but I never use the word brilliant to describe myself, there are people much much smarter than me. I’m fine with all of that.

I’m not a competitive person in most aspects of life, so I tend to enjoy what I’m doing and not compare myself to others and I don’t feel deflated if I am not first or I don’t show some sort of great achievement.

What I do feel uneasy about sometimes is regretting not taking some financial risks where I would have made a lot of money. I also regret not going farther in what I feel should have been my career path. Additionally, there are some things I never finished, and I think one of the main things very successful people have is perseverance, and I seemed to be lacking some of that. These feelings hit my very hard in my 40’s, but now I think about it less and focus more on what gives me happiness.

flutherother's avatar

I raised two children I am still close to and that is enough for me.

JLoon's avatar

I’m just average when it comes to mediocrity.

But I make up for it with urealistic expectations for everyone else.

RocketGuy's avatar

I try new things that look interesting. I realize I won’t be good at it at first. If I enjoy it, I’ll do it more often and get better at it.

MrGrimm888's avatar

My biggest problem is that I suck at failing upward. A common reason for the success of many.
G.W. Bush failed all the way to the top…

gondwanalon's avatar

@MrGrimm888 Looks like Bush was an exception to “The Peter Principle”.
Most people don’t reach a level where they are incompetent and then continue to be promoted upwards. They succeed and are promoted up to where they’re incompetent and the they stay at that level.

Six's avatar

Plenty of geniuses never achieve greatness.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@gondwanalon sometimes, it’s easier as a person in charge to promote a bad employee out of your area, than to fire them. Bush was an ultimate example. Because of his family and wealth, nobody could just fire him. He failed at every job he ever had. But. Can’t just fore the guy. So. Get him a better job, somewhere else. Then you won’t have to deal with him. He was never even really a president. Cheney, and other powerful men used Bush as a do boy figure head. They pushed the agenda. Bush was told what to say, and at times wasn’t even aware of the gravity of what his puppeteers were up to. I’ve listened to more than 9 hours of interviews with GW, since he left office. I absolutely hated the man. However. It’s clear to me now, that GWB himself realizes now that he was being used. Unfortunately. The poor guy still can’t see the big picture. But. He knows that he was handpicked by a certain people and pushed into the POTUS job, to advance an agenda he only vaguely understood. I’m pretty sure he has regrets. He knows he is responsible for some bad things. But he was manipulated.

I’ve been in at least three important jobs, where people parallel to me were underperforming, and messing things up. My bosses though, couldn’t just fire these full-time employees. So. They promoted them, or got them better jobs in the company to just get them out of the department/team. Then. The sane thing happens in their new job. They bet moved up and away, until they are one of the worst people in a large group, but actually the highest paid with the most authority. Until they go higher to get them out of the position they are hamstringing…
It’s beyond frustrating. I’ve had to do it before, when I was in law enforcement. Some guy under me would be a bad officer. Someone I know will never fit the team, and never develop into more than a person who we have to succeed in spite of. So. I pulled strings, and got them in more cushy positions where they had less responsibilities, and couldn’t fuck my team up. But. The result was that these losers get passed up, instead of out. That punishes everyone and hurts moral, because everyone knows that anyone BUT that person should be making more money now. But. You can’t just fire some people. If they’re punctual and never call in sick, that’s better in many eyes than a far more skilled/effective employee…

I always work hard, and do my best. That has only ever gotten me moderate success.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was pretty good at everything. I always found myself backing down so some else could steal the lime light.

gondwanalon's avatar

@MrGrimm888 Sorry that you’ve had to deal with losers. There are always exceptions to the rule. The Peter Principle is a generalized observation that says that people raise to a level of incompetence and then stay there. This is consistent what I have seen during my 40 years of working. In all the non-government professional positions that I have worked people were fired for major screw ups.

Perhaps you should write a book on your observations of the work force. Title it, “The Grimm Principle “.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^It’s a corporate principle. Corporate structures make full-time employees very difficult to terminate. With HR issues paramount to what a corporation wants to project, they can’t just fire people.
The solution has been to simply not hire many full-time employees. Instead, rely on mostly part-time workers. Those aren’t easy to fire either. But. The schedule makers can cut their hours to the point that employees quit, and leave that way.
Full-time employees are GUARANTEED hours. Most full-time positions are considered ones that require 33 hours or more per week.
Only employees that are written up, or face disciplinary documents on a large scale are susceptible to termination. Exceptions are things like theft, or violence…
Computers track punctuality, and sick days. If those incidents reach certain levels, they will result in disciplinary notations in the employees records. Enough of those, and the employee is terminated. An example would be Employee A was recorded clocking in 35 seconds late once, 5 minutes once, 1 minute twice, within a two month period. Ok. Sounds fair. Late is late. Right? Agreed.
However. Things not tabulated are times when Employee A was early (something not even allowed in many cases,) or stayed many hours after their shift was scheduled to end because they were asked to. Nor is coming in to cover other employees, or because of higher amount of business. Employee A also does exceptional work, even when they could have half-assed.
Employee A is an exceptional employee, and more often than not provides more “work” than their level of compensation meets. No record of cigarette breaks or long personal phone calls, or work avoidance. Employee A’s performance only becomes relevant in incremental employee reviews.

Meanwhile. Employee B clocks in on time, enough for the computer to ignore them. Employee B also rarely misses shifts. So. No automatic disciplinary action. No automatic termination.
However. Employee B is deemed difficult to work with by the majority of other employees. Employee B takes 10–20 cigarette breaks, each lasting an average of three minutes smoking time and three minutes getting outside and then back to their workplace.
Employee B also has 2–5 personal phone calls, each lasting an average of 3–15 minutes.
Employee B avoids the hardest/, most meticulous tasks. They tend to be somehow strangely require cigarettes, or an important phone call at the exact time of the hardest times on any given shift.
When Employee B actually does take part in difficult work, the quality and timeliness of their work is substandard.
Such behavior constantly bothers other employees AND the most immediate person in charge. However. Most people are reluctant to sit down people like Employee B, and request they make adjustments, or face disciplinary repercussions. Employee B understands that they could go to HR, and protest such subjective criticism. They may even have reasons, that HR will accept, that can paint their low quality evaluation as bias by their supervisor.
So. Instead of risking the HR nightmare, the supervisor explores ways to get Employee B out of their hair. The easiest way to do that, is move Employee B up or parallel, to another position…

The result of this corporate structure is simple.
The company would rather keep, and reward an employee that does mediocre work, and is toxic to the environment BUT is punctual, than a far superior employee that is less than 5 minutes late on rare occasions…

I’m not crying about it. I’ve been Employee A all of my life. However the honest truth is that I could have always done better at any profession, if I were always precisely on time…
I’ve learned that. So. In my opinion, I should be doing much better than I am financially.

IF I can just be punctual. And avoid injuries/sicknesses, I would have less to complain about.

The world is not working against me. It’s just not working for people who’s only problem is punctuality…

gondwanalon's avatar

@MrGrimm888 What you described is different from what I’ve experienced. In the world of clinical laboratory professionals that I maneuvered for 38 years no mistakes were tolerated no matter how small or insignificant. All screwups were documented and counseled in an effort to keep the mistake from happening again and to inform the employee(s) involved what will happen if another screwup happens again. And at the end of the year employee evaluations referred to all mistakes and received ratings that reflected as such. Poor evaluations were death to the employee’s ability to be promoted.

Attendance, lateness and tardiness were also well documented and entered into employee end of the year evaluation. Where a I worked if I clocked in exactly on time, I was documented as “tardy”. I lived only 31 miles from work but I had to drive through some of the worst traffic in the nation. Sometimes it took me 1½ hours to get to work. Sometimes I got to work in 45 minutes. Therefore I had to give myself 2 hours of commute time. Yes I was late and tardy at times and I got no sympathy from management. I tried to reason with them stating that my situation was so much worse that other employees. The response, “So you want preferential treatment”. HA!

MrGrimm888's avatar

^I was let go from a great job once, because I was late 5 times in two months.
Here in Charleston, the area is a conglomerate of islands and regular land all attached by bridges.
I had to cross two, on my way to that job.
In three of my late arrivals, I was less than 5 minutes late. Traffic was a nightmare because of the time of day. The smallest car accident would clog all the areas bridges. Many times, I could see my place of work but still took 10 minutes to get there…
Two of the instances were just ridiculous.
One day, traffic was not moving at all. I was going to be very late. Turns out that someone had painted the word “bomb” on the side of an SUV, and parked sideways on the Ravenel Bridge. (The biggest/longest bridge.) SWAT was called in. The person driving the SUV eventually tried to drive off the bridge, and was captured in a wild chain of events. I was 2 hours late. The entire city, was 2 hours late…
Next time. There was a “jumper.” Some despondent soul was threatening to jump, cops had the bridge shut down for an hour…

If I had just been able to make it on time the other three times… I don’t know…
But. It seemed ridiculous that I was in trouble over the other two…

It is what it is…

RocketGuy's avatar

@MrGrimm888 – job shop mentality. We have that in one dept at work. I transferred out when the work there lost its luster.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^I’ve left several jobs, for mostly the same reason.
I outwork/outperform everyone (not always,) wherever I work. I’m a naturally competitive person. Regardless of what it is. I will make sure I’m the best. When I get my foot in a door, I usually move up fairly quickly. I am a team player too. I make everyone around me better. When I get into any supervisory position, I lead by example.

Some places don’t recognize, or care. That’s when I’m out the door.

When I was a LEO, I always had part time jobs. I always worked my ass off. Didn’t matter if it was a shity job. But. If I don’t eventually get compensated, at least more than people I outperform, I ditch, or in worse cases I drag ass until I find another PT job…

Now. I’m recovering from major surgery, and just about ready to reenter the job market. I’ve done a lot of different things before. I’m not certain of which direction I’ll take now. The jobs I have most tangible experience in, are jobs I probably won’t be trying for… So. I’ll likely be starting off just trying to kill it, and take my lumps somewhere. Until I find my niche. As I’m 42, the situation is not ideal. In some cases, I will not be different from a younger, less experienced person on paper.

I don’t claim genius status. However. I am confident that no matter where I get in, I’ll step on heads and get mine…

The cream will rise. Eventually. Or try someplace else…

SABOTEUR's avatar

Suffer? No.

I see no evidence that people seemingly blessed with those attributes are particularly happier than those of us not so blessed. They may achieve acclaim or be more financially well off but these are false indicators. The true measure of success (in my opinion) is the ability to achieve and maintain a happy, healthy life.

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