In Praise of Mediocrity

Or: it’s really probably better not to be good at everything

There are so many resources online to help people become better communicators. On Medium alone there are swathes of beautifully crafted articles to improve confidence, increase the clarity of your message and how to learn to speak like a hundred angels flew out of your mouth and made the whole world better.

But…maybe…it’s ok that not everyone is an expert communicator. It’s even important that we’re not all good at everything, and to recognise that we don’t need to all be fully independent problem solving superheroes.

We’re always being told that teamwork is important. And so, why not make teams with people who like doing the things which you don’t? If you’re completely amazing at programming but hate talking about it, pair up with someone who has great chat. That person might not work in your industry. They could be a poet, or a storyteller, or a songwriter…but there are ways to build a bridge between your world and theirs which can strengthen your message, and save you hours on public speaking courses which make you miserable.

Now, of course, basic levels of communication skills will probably make your life easier, in terms of human stuff like having pals or working out who should cook dinner tonight, but not everyone adores the spotlight. And that’s ok.

More than ever, performers are looking for new ways to work, new connections to make. They’re often used to diving into new worlds and new scenarios. If you work in a super niche or complex area it’s unlikely they’ll understand every nuance of your work…but do they need to? What do you actually need to explain to keep stakeholders happy?

It might seem counterintuitive to save time by reaching out to another person to explain your work, and ask them to communicate publicly on your behalf. But, I’d suggest asking yourself three key questions:

  • how much emotional labour is this taking on me? (ie: how miserable am I every time I think about having to present in public? Is it taking up energy which could be better spent on the thing I am amazing at?)
  • would a well-presented bit of engagement take pressure off in other ways? (ie: could I get more funding, or less nagging from senior stakeholders?)
  • how will this make me rethink my work? (ie: would you think differently about your work if you could talk about it in a way which didn’t make you stressed for days? Could it make you happier?)

It’s not always possible. Of course. But sometimes it’s important to cheer for people being super mediocre at some things, and not spending their whole life trying to be the whole package. It might be, in the right circumstances, that the whole package involves several people and the sharing of skills and resources.

The, maybe without destroying your soul, your project could really make the whole world better.

Let me know in the comments if you’d like some practical tips on how to build those relationships between the artistic community and other businesses, and I’ll delve deeper in my next article. Stay safe xxx

Exploring where data and young audiences meet || sometimes funny, always curious

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