Mediocrity is a terrible teacher.

I’ve been reflecting on reflecting (meta!). Last year I wrote a post at the end of every week, for about 50-odd weeks, as a way of mentally bookmarking where I’d been and where I was going.

The weeks that were hardest to write, interestingly, were the ‘beige’ weeks. The ones where for whatever reasons, it was difficult to pluck success or failure from recent memory.

Why is this?

Instinctively I thought the weeks featuring failure would be the ones most difficult to write about. And while they were sometimes exhausting and occasionally demoralising, there were always gems of learning to be mined with even the smallest amount of digging. These gems are opportunities for doing things different/better the next time around.

Success proved to be a valuable learning experience too — although paradoxically I’ve often learned far less from things that worked well (and no doubt, occasional pangs of impostor syndrome are to blame here). When everything seemingly works on the first attempt, it can be tricky to identify the variables that enabled it to succeed. Sometimes the only way you truly know you’ve stumbled on the magical formula is to try and repeat it elsewhere.

The limbo spot between flying high and crashing/burning is the trickiest to reflect upon though. Whilst the zone between success and failure can be comfortable, familiar and reassuring, it doesn’t always tell you very much about your efforts. Being neither good enough to be notable or bad enough to learn to do something differently. I find it hard to reflect on these periods because they’re almost a personal admission that I’m playing it too safe or coasting along in quiet compliance.

I think I have to acknowledge there are times where it feels too hard to push onward for one reason or another. Sometimes that comfort zone feels like a useful bit of breathing space from other things that might be going on in life. But it should only ever be temporary stop off on the way to somewhere else, because dawdling there too long makes me unhappy too!

So, logically speaking, what have I learned from this.

  • Find the most challenging, valuable work you can do, and keep doing it.
  • Work with people who will help and support you to do the above.
  • The comfort zone is a useful place to temporarily heal wounds or stop and smell the roses, but I don’t want to live there.

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