The opportunity cascade

We look at opportunities and feel many things. One common reaction is excitement with fear. The joy of feeling something new combined with the fear of the unknown.

To be able to make use of the opportunity we need to overcome the fear and embrace the excitement. One way to do that would be to look at an opportunity not as a single occurrence but a beginning. Kevin Kelly calls it an opportunity cascade. One door will open many doors, which will open many more doors.

As for overcoming the fear, we already know that there is a way.

The fear of mediocrity

There is something I fear more than anything. I see it all around me, but only sometimes it raises its ugly head to shred my mental stability into pieces. That fear is the fear of mediocrity, of having lived a life that most people live on this planet.

Fear can be a good motivational tool, if understood and handled well. For example, the fear of failing can be a really bad thing or a really good thing, it depends on how you approach it. But the fear of mediocrity is unique. It can be a very powerful motivator but one that comes at a heavy price.

The problem with this fear is that those who suffer from it need to toughen up more than anyone else. If not, then it can be so exhausting that one would rather accept mediocrity than face it head-on.

There is no golden bullet to be able to overcome it. The only way to deal with it is to travel this slow, arduous, often difficult uphill journey. I am not kidding when I say that those characteristics are the only ones that signify to me that I am fighting mediocrity. That I am doing what I can to overcome this fear. Otherwise, which is most of the time, I am clueless about whether I am heading in the right direction or not. All I know is that if it seems slow, arduous, and difficult, then I should keep going.

The constancy of this fear is what enables those who are ready to overcome it to do remarkable things. That constancy is absolutely necessary for this to happen. It’s because mediocrity is all around you. Being mediocre, by definition, means being average. When you are surrounded by what makes up the average, if you don’t have that constant itch, you will succumb to being average.

Of course, depending on who you are surrounded by, your definition of mediocre might change. It is something you should be careful about because that can act as a double-edged sword. If you are surrounded by low achievers, then the smallest achievement can be very satisfying. But on the other hand, if you are surrounded by high achievers then the fear of mediocrity can propel you to heights no one has ever achieved.

To end on a lighter note though, here is a conversation between a carton of milk and a muffin. Guess what they are talking about? The fear of mediocrity, of course.

What if you could control the drive within you?

Anything you do gets done faster and produces better results if you have the drive to do it. A drive that pushes you, that sets new limits and that forces you to seek new sources to power yourself.

When you see someone with that drive within themselves, you can immediately recognise it. They have a different persona: they are brimming with confidence, they bring great enthusiasm to the table and they make a difference to the people around them. Their work is a source of inspiration to their peers or to the generations to follow.

There may be many reasons for why you have the drive to do what you do. It may be because that thing is on your to-do list, or it might be something that you have wanted all your life, or anything in between. The drive might exist because of some fear that has been troubling you or because of that anxiety which you find unsettling. It could stem from a desire to take revenge or simply because of an inspiration to do something for your loved one.

Whatever may be the reasons, having the drive to do something is a powerful tool to be able to leverage. Not only does it give you an edge over your competitor but it also gives you a lot more pleasure in what you do. It makes you feel that the effort you put in to doing something is worth it. That drive enables you to overcome the pain to experience the joys.

Now here’s the million dollar question:

What if you could control your drive, turn it up when you want?

I don’t claim that I have the answer and to be frank, it will be hard to convince me that there is only one answer. Each individual will have their methods to crank up ‘the drive’ they possess. And I think it is good to have more than one absolute way of being able to create a powerful force within you which will help you achieve your goals.

I certainly have my multiple ways of generating that drive for myself. One that I would like to talk about today is the method of raising the bar or the method of trivialising the achieved.

Here is how it works: Say you have just achieved X and have now you set yourself a new goal Y. You can now generate that drive to do Y by reflecting upon your previous achievement, X. You find ways of convincing yourself why Y, if achieved, will be a bigger achievement than X. That is a perfectly sound reason for you to push yourself to achieve Y. At the same time you may also find aspects of X which you can consciously trivialise because now you have the skill/confidence to be able to do X again. For Y though, you will need new skills and extra confidence. Another reason for why you should go after Y given X has been achieved.

The drive generated by this method can be as strong as you want it to be. You will have to put in the effort to better reason for Y over X.

The biggest advantage of this method is that it can set in to motion a machine that generates ‘a drive’ for you. All you need to do is make sure you fuel it up when necessary. Fuelling the tank up shouldn’t be that hard, after all it is a simple trick that you consciously play with your own mind.