Note to the reader: The use of Eminem in this article is not intended to paint him as a role model or man of integrity, but merely to spur thought based on his creativity, popularity, and personal ambition.
Recently, I’ve been giving some thought not just to graphic design, but also to life and the need for passionate leaders. So, I’m going to stray a tad from marketing and graphic design to throw out my thoughts on living in general (living in general seems pertinent to work anyway).
And you’ll have to read on to know why Eminem and Lemmings.
Disclaimer Before I Dive In
Actually, three disclaimers…
I chose to use Eminem quotations in this piece because I respect his creative abilities with words, and because of his popularity, I think more people will be able to connect with what I’m talking about. I am not an advocate of all the words he uses or his mindset on certain issues.
I know there’s some controversy here, but I hope the gist of what I’m writing about can be appreciated nonetheless.
I do not claim to be an expert on business, self help, or anything else I’m talking about here; and I am constantly learning more about graphic design. I simply have thoughts that I would like people to be able to read and think about.
Some people may have never played Lemmings. If this is you, it’s pretty much this simple: you were trying to help rescue the Lemmings and lead them to safety. But, they have the reputation for constantly walking, even if it means they walk right off a cliff or off the top of a staircase and fall to their death.
The Mental Flowchart that this Post Revolves Around
Paint it in your mind with me.
There’s a sequence of facts that I want to run through before going further into my thought process. Here is it:
1. People are naturally irresponsible
People love ease and pleasure. I think this a pretty easy fact to agree upon – just look around at all the products available that promise to make you constantly comfortable. You’ll find these products everywhere you go: the clothing section, the furniture store, the restaurant on the street corner, the car dealership, etc.
Oh, and if you turn on your TV, you’ll see it in the first advertisement.
The natural desire of people is to be comfortable. Work is not typically done for comfort’s sake.
This lack of desire to do work contributes to a world in which most people would rather just get by and be irresponsible for their actions and words than take responsibility and make a difference.
Many people only take responsibility to the extent that it brings them enough money to be comfortable at home.
2. Irresponsibility breeds laziness
So people would rather just be comfortable than make a difference and live responsibly. Let’s not mince this.
We call it laziness.
Lazy people do not want to do work. They only do what they have to so they can get by comfortably. Lazy people don’t think of other people or big picture opportunities when they work – they think about how their work affects them and maybe a few people that they view as important to them.
3. Laziness sets the standard at mediocrity
This is where it gets really sticky.
See, there are a plethora of mediocre workers; there are only a handful of exceptional ones.
Here are a few traits of mediocre workers:
- They do the job. Okay, great. But that’s all.
- They fail to go beyond other people’s expectations
- They are satisfied with good enough
- They use easy methods when a better, more difficult method exists
- They use other mediocre workers as their standard for achievement
- In the end, they leave no legacy
See, it’s not that these people fail at life. They leave no legacy because they live at the standard of the majority of society when the standard of society is mediocrity.
4. A mediocre standard bears temporary fruit
The goal, however, should be to live a life that brings the world lasting results.
Only people who choose high standards and an exceptional work ethic have an opportunity to leave a legacy that lasts.
But, think about this realistically. There are about 7 billion people in the world (give or take a billion…), but how many people are actually known and remembered? Only a handful out of billions. Some exceptional workers are known only by a small community of people, but even these people are few and far between. There are certainly other people who are exceptional workers, but never get noticed because of poverty or such factors. But, even counting these people I see a lack of top-notch work.
So, what we’ve got is billions of people capable of incredible things who have a tendency to value ease and pleasure higher than a lasting reputation of excellence.
This means we’re living in a society whose standard of good is mediocre.
And what we’re left with is a society in which exceptional workers are few and far between, and only this small handful is actually choosing to leave incredible legacies.
Graphic designer, businessman, store manager, etc., your underlying attitude matters.
The Lemmings in all this…
Do you see what’s going on here? Society is like the game of Lemmings, where they often follow each other, regardless of whether or not the Lemming in the lead is walking off a cliff or not. They shrug their shoulders when the job is partway done and leave it when the stairs to success haven’t been fully laid yet.
I have chosen not to live like the Lemmings. I am going to strive for excellence and seek to leave a legacy behind me wherever I go.
Rebel Against Mediocrity
It’s on now. Will you recognize the issues of mediocrity in the culture and choose to turn the tide, or will you go along with it?
I have a few ideas here for those of you who want to be excellent at what you do:
1. Take some time to analyze yourself as a worker
“’Cuz sometimes you just feel tired / Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up / But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength / And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse”
And here’s where Eminem comes in.
Those lyrics from Till I Collapse hit the nail on the head. There’s no room for being a quitter, even when things seem out of reach. For Eminem, that meant finding his niche in music after facing difficult family situations and other hurdles growing up.
What will it mean for you? Do you choose to quit when work gets tough? Do you take the easy way out when responsibility says to tackle the problem? Where have you been mediocre, and how will you be excellent from now in despite your weaknesses (we all have them)?
2. Raise your standards. Compete against yourself.
Make yourself hard to beat. Your standards should be higher than most people’s.
“Cuz the way I feel I’m strong enough to go the club or the corner pub and lift the whole liquor counter up / ‘Cuz I’m raising the bar, I’d shoot for the moon but I’m too busy gazing at stars”
Society’s standards are a joke. Don’t go along with them. Raise the standards, and when you can’t find anyone’s standards for your work that are high enough, compete against yourself for better than ever.
3. Be Exceptional. Go On. Nobody’s Stopping You
“Til I topple from the top I won’t stop, I’m standing on my Monopoly board / That means I’m on top of my game, and it don’t stop ‘til my hip don’t hop anymore”
Compare these lyrics from Eminem to the Lemmings. Do you remember how they built staircases to reach higher places? Well, that’s great, but they’d only build so far, and if they had built as much as they would, they would just shrug their shoulders and walk off the edge, often to their death.
In the end, it’s a decision. Are you okay with mediocre, or will you pursue excellence and dominate your game?
4. Lead the World
I don’t think I’m over the top to say that there only a handful of unbelievable leaders in this world. And the few and brave who lead make a huge difference and are known for their efforts.
You could be one of these people.
All this and My Job as a Graphic Designer
To bring it back to the personal level, I do graphic design. And let’s face the reality here: There are a gazillion meh graphic designers out there – people who have artistic abilities or have a small amount of training, but have never chosen to excel at what they do. A highly competent graphic designer is hard to come by.
I’m still learning. I’m always learning. However, due to me only having held a position as a real graphic designer for about half a year, I have a long ways to go. But I aspire to do better than before with every new project.
Lemmings are not my thing. I’m tired of that. I’m gonna raise the bar and shoot for the moon like Eminem.
And in the end, it’s not all about the art I create. I want to make things beautiful, but what I really want to do is improve the lives of other people and leave a legacy wherever I go.
And We’re Done. Thanks for Reading.
“I must be allergic to failure ‘cuz every time I come close to it I just sneeze / But I just go atchoo, then achieve!”
Mediocre is behind you.