I know the reason for most people’s mediocrity, and it’s a word few like to say.  Nevertheless, it’s alive and well, and sadly, it controls a large portion of our future.

That word: fear.

People fear everything today.

We fear the known and the unknown.  We fear the present AND the future.

We are scared to compete (after all, we might lose), and we are scared to chase our dreams because we might fail.

We’re definitely afraid to try anything new.

We are fearful of disrupting the precarious balancing act we call our life as many of us find ourselves employed in positions we aren’t qualified for or prepared to occupy.

Fear makes us listen to that voice that tells us something is a waste of time or won’t be received well in the market.

Fear tells us we aren’t worth our position and makes us think our boss hates us.

In short, we fear change, allowing us to live and work in only one place: the comfort zone.

The comfort zone is the essence of mediocrity, and the key to moving out of it lies in three words: Listen, Learn, and Discover.

Listen to others.

Listen carefully to them, benefit from their experiences, and avoid making the same mistakes.

It’s easy to talk – to tell people how it is.  It’s much harder to be receptive to feedback from others.

It’s easy to talk about change; listening to advice on HOW to change is much more challenging.

Talk is cheap.  You have to overcome your fears and listen to the honest and constructive criticism of others.

But does your corporate culture enable input from all employees?  If so, do you take that input, or is it a pro forma request for a pat on the back?

One of Military Special Operations’s strengths is our mindset about what comprises a “team.” Of course, rank matters, but experience also matters, and solid teams know it isn’t WHERE the solution comes from—just that a solution to a problem was found.

But is your corporate culture enabling your employees?  What is your corporate tolerance for failure?  Do you endorse a “zero defect policy” expecting 100% perfection without tolerance for failure?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, trust me, problems are looming just over the horizon.

Try this: open your ears, listen, and find out.


Educate yourself.  Read a book by someone established in your career field, attend a seminar, book corporate training for your organization, or attend a “meet-up.”

You will learn that people who have made it in life are unabashedly able to articulate their many mistakes.

Learn from them and don’t dwell on past mistakes—learn from them and identify the root causes so you can put solid processes in place to ensure those mistakes don’t happen again.

Is there an education system in place for your employees to better themselves?

Also, learn from your mistakes.  They will happen, and when they do, ensure you capture lessons learned from each.

After events, have your team conduct an AAR (After Action Review).

Start by having each member of the team rank from lowest to highest (so as not to influence the beliefs of junior members inappropriately) identify at least one thing each to sustain and improve the event.

Remember, if you’ve correctly selected and educated your team, they will have valuable feedback your entire organization may learn from.


Discover your potential.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t allow fear to control your life.

Learn to take calculated risks, exploit growth opportunities, and be fearless.  Get up and start living your life.  Put one foot before the other and measure your progress in baby steps.

Let momentum fuel your endeavors.

Never embrace average or settle for mediocre.  Listen to that voice in your head that tells you what you can do and discover your true potential.

Jon Acuff sums it up: “Fear would have told the Wright Brothers not to fly.  Fear would have told Rosa Parks to change seats.  Fear would have told Steve Jobs that people hate touch screens.”

He’s right.  Fear doesn’t change the world.

The ability to overcome it does.

You’ll never know if you don’t try.