Delusions of Mediocrity


Recently, my wife Jane and I were discussing my career: in particular, what I planned to do next.

Two things precipitated this discussion. For one, as I wrote here, my long, self-crafted study of the intricacies of IT and “The Enterprise” is finally wrapping up. For another, I’d just passed another completely arbitrary milestone in my social media adventure – 200,000 followers on Twitter. This last one really caught Jane’s attention.

“Hey dummy,*” she said to me. “I know how you feel about ‘celebrity’ being a big, fat crock. But guess what? You’ve got a skill that others would die to have, and you’re crazy if you don’t do more with it than you are now.”

I demurred. “I’m just a guy who tweets a lot,” I said for the umpteenth time in the last four years.

She wouldn’t have it. So Jane followed up with this: “I think you suffer from delusions of mediocrity.”

Sometimes, when you’re talking to your friend and your friend just isn’t getting what you’re saying, it pays to hold them down and slam the point home with a hammer. This was one of those times.

Jane’s point was well taken; let’s leave it at that. I’ve already taken steps to remedy this situation, which I’ll share in future posts. But let’s talk now about you. In particular, I have a couple of questions for you:

  1. What is your superpower?
  2. Do you suffer from delusions of mediocrity, as I did?

We’re all good at something, no matter what we think. No matter what our teachers, our parents and coaches, our ‘friends’ and spouses, tell us to the contrary. All of us have at least one superpower, though often it’s more than one. In future posts, I’ll share the tale of a young online gamer who is turning zillions of hours of couch-potatohood into a fortune. Of a lady who likes to talk to interesting people she meets into a lucrative talk-radio career. And a very good (but not quite professional-grade) golfer and avid hobbyist-writer into a rising star of the blogosphere.

All of us have at least one superpower

Each of these people has a superpower that, sure, even ten years ago might have been hard, maybe even impossible, to turn into a career. And maybe none of these three will be the successes I feel they can be. But guess what? I’ll bet they can. It’s the 20-teens, and we’re all plugged in now. Digital technology is so ubiquitous and easily mastered that you don’t have to be a code-jockey to take advantage of your skills anymore.

Digital technology allows us to take advantage of our skills unlike ever before

You want to know one reason I’m so unimpressed with my own ‘Internet Fame?’ Today, more than ever before in the history of our species, we’re all only a slight tweak away from being amazing and successful at something!

So again, my questions, because they are unbelievably important to you, right now, today: what is your superpower, and are you holding yourself back by believing – wrongly, stupidly – that you’re simply average?

Do you suffer from delusions of mediocrity, as I did until just a couple of week ago? Are you unimpressed by your own amazingness because it’s too close to you? Because you need to step back to see what others can see in you?

Are you holding yourself back by believing that you’re simply average?

And if so, what are you going to do about it? I’ve already taken steps to remedy my self-imposed fetters. The three people I mentioned above, they’re taking steps right now. How about you?

Stop holding yourself back. Because guess what? There’s a good chance your talent will make this world a better place. Right now you’re being selfish by keeping your superpower to yourself.


*Jane can talk to me this way because she’s my best friend. She’s probably the kindest person you’ll ever meet, and an incredibly supportive spouse (thank God!). But we aren’t very formal with each other …to say the least. You might want to go gently before you start speaking this informally with your own spouse. It could end badly.


Art by Scarkid

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • AlanB

    When you describe yourself as “one of the most influential business leaders on Twitter” it seems less like that you suffer from delusions of mediocrity, no?

  • I agree, we all have a superpower. I think identifying it is the hardest part, especially if you know you’re pretty good at a few things. “Pretty good” and “superpower” aren’t that far apart, yet they are.

  • Ted,
    I really appreciated this post. I too am proud of what I have achieved but often suffer from a constantly moving goal post. My husband has also been instrumental in helping me to recognize how important effort and growth are as entrepreneurs. We celebrate both now on a regular basis. As a reader and follower of yours, thank you for your openness.

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