Letters I Haven't Written Yet

What Would a Mediocre Man do?

It has recently come to my attention that many of us are idiots when it comes to our goals (yes, I’m the biggest idiot of them all because this just came to my attention recently). I’m speaking mostly about women here, but this also applies to intelligent, hard-working men as well.  We find ourselves stupefied when we see how some asshat that we work with or deal with in life constantly gets recognition, notoriety and increasing success despite their stupidity. You know the joke – what to do with a badly performing employee – promote him? It’s true! Hand to whatever it is you believe in, it’s true. Think back to a douche bro that you’ve worked with in the past – a lazy idiot, but he is now a VP while you are still an analyst or slowly dying in middle management with no perks or prospects.

Mediocrity is a plague in the modern world that needs to be violently exterminated, before it destroys humanity. You think I’m exaggerating? Look at the man in the White House. The President of the United States sits on the shitter tweeting about how Nazis are nice people and anyone who hates him is bad. Everyday it gets worse. The US presidency is a perfect example of the triumph of mediocrity and privilege in modern society.

So, how do we beat this and break that glass ceiling once and for all? As women (and decent, qualified, hardworking, non-obnoxious men), when a situation arises, we need to ask ourselves: What Would a Mediocre Man Do?

Now, before you go all ape-shit on me about how there are mediocre women out there too… of course there are. Mediocre people are everywhere. However, it is proven time and time again that men are given more opportunities and paid higher salaries in the workplace. There are even a number of studies on the subject (The Economist, the Guardian, to name a few). So if you’re still pissy about it, stop reading here, do your research, and then come back if you want.

This may sound stupid, but think about it. Mediocre Men run the world – they have the wealth, the networks and access to the best education. It is important to remember, however, that an Ivy League education generally doesn’t require brilliance to obtain – it’s a symbol of wealth and privilege. To paraphrase an article I read recently, someone who went to Harvard or Yale is the same cocky fucker that went to the University of who cares where, he’s just richer.

With that in mind, here’s a list of 5 things that the Mediocre Man does to get ahead, that we should consider doing as well.

1.He has absolute faith in his ability

This guy may have spent part of his life working in a garage or on a fishing boat, or perhaps doing nothing but spending is parents’ money and basking in his privilege, but he absolutely and completely believes that he is 100% competent to be doing the job he is applying for. His confidence inspires trust and safety and others, and makes people overlook what he is often lacking in knowledge, background and experience. As such, he’ll get the job, the access, the perks… every single time. You’ll watch this happen and it’ll make you question every decision you’ve ever made in your life. It will shred your self esteem worse than a Jillian Michaels workout, it’ll make you feel like you’ve been punched in your non-existent nuts, make you want to eat a kilo of ice cream and never go outside again.

Don’t. Instead, just believe in yourself. Stop underestimating the skills that you do have (because YOU KNOW you do that), and don’t forget that many jobs involve on-the-job learning. So, you have the experience, you check of some of the prerequisites required, and you’re interested in doing it: then go for it. Believe you can do it and believe you deserve it. List all of your achievements (to yourself first and foremost) and remember you did them and how hard you worked get make them a reality. YOU made them happen. Believe it and others will believe it too. You’ll get the job, opportunity, whatever it is that you’re gunning for, and you’ll flourish. And you can still have the ice cream if you want it, without the associated guilt.

2. He is shameless about self promotion

This ties into the first point: it’s all about taking ownership of what you have done, and being sure of what you are able to do. And for god’s sake don’t be afraid to tell people about it! Be proud, damn it. You’re a kick ass, hard working, brilliant individual. Why shouldn’t you be proud of that? Because it’s bragging? Fuck that noise. How many times have you heard that  asshole tell people about his amazing successes, the deal he brokered, the promotion he got, the article he wrote, the lunch he had with the boss because of how amazeballs he his? Guess what: people remember it, and think about it when they have a new opportunity. So make his method your own.

That being said, there is an art to shameless promotion. The one that goes on and on about how awesome he is and all the super interesting and complicated shit he’s accomplished because he’s just so damn amazing finds a way to seamlessly fit it into a conversation. He listens to others, slips his awesomeness into the discussion, and then continues with the bla bla.

In short, know you’re amazing, because you are! Say it to yourself in the mirror if you have to. Be aware of everything you have accomplished, and know you can do more.

3. His mantra is: Network, Network, Network

He may piss you off because he looks like he’s always wasting his time having lunches, beers, playing squash or golf or whatever sport and socialising in general, but this is actually his greatest superpower. All of this socialising keeps him at the forefront of people’s minds, in a fun and positive manner. He makes the right contacts, and keeps them going. He is not afraid of making ones that seem frivolous, because he knows that one day down the road they may be useful.

There is a reason why they call it “the boys network” or the “boys club”. These networks are close, closed, and extremely powerful. As women, we do not have access to these networks for many reasons, but even more importantly, we shouldn’t want to access them. These networks, as they exist, do not allow for diversity and a difference of ideas or experience. Heaven forbid a strong woman, a person of colour, someone from the LGBTQ+ community (basically anyone that’s not like them), join. They wouldn’t be able to make demeaning comments about their wives, mistresses, colleagues or secretaries, harass the serving staff of wherever it is that they meet or bemoan the influx of immigrants into their city/country if the group was more diverse.

No, as women, many of us have gotten to positions of authority by fighting our way there. And when we get there (and on the way, actually), we have to create our own networks. Our networks should reflect the values we hold dear: meritocracy, diversity, equality and strength, and it should be nurtured lovingly and carefully. This network should be used to share opportunities, knowledge and experience to others, a source of both strength and empowerment. Instead of isolating ourselves because of our suffering, we need to surround ourselves with competent and inspiring people.

Let this network become your superpower: it will be your greatest tool.

4. He’s not averse to giving one of his own a leg up

The Mediocre Man is competitive: he loves to talk about his achievements, but he has zero issues helping another Mediocre Man out. His competitive nature does not equate the destruction of someone else, as long as he is part of the same network. If he sees an opportunity in his office or somewhere else, if he has the possibility to recommend someone in an informal manner (that often carries much more weight than the formal interview process), he will do so, without shame. Plus, he will let his friend know he did it, just to be sure the favour is known and returned one day. Rest assured, it will be.

Often (and I’m not saying this is always the case, just my experience talking), as women we do not do this. Instead of lifting each other up, successful women are harder than they should be on other women, at times surrounding themselves with men just to show their strength. We’ve all had to deal with her: that one woman has had to fight tooth and nail to get where she is, who becomes jealous or protective of her power that she will not allow other women rise around her without necessarily having to fight as hard. She will cut a female competitor off at the knees to make sure she does not rise higher than she has, without an equal or higher amount of suffering. This is a massive mistake, because it goes against everything we are aiming for.

Because in the end isn’t that the point? To be able to rise through the ranks on merit without having to be seen as different? For us to achieve true equality, the women who make it up to those higher spheres of success have to first reach down, extend a hand, and with a firm grip lift them up, and from there, hoist them onto their shoulders, helping them reach even higher. The higher we reach, the more normal it will seem, until finally we won’t need to fight to get up so high. Faux feminism does nothing but hurt all of us in the end.

5. He does not see a mistake as a failure, or even a problem.

The thing about the Mediocre Man is that he never makes mistakes. Ever. Even when things go wrong, he hasn’t made a mistake. Victories are his, failures are organisational. He doesn’t take them personally, and he makes sure the blame doesn’t fall squarely on his shoulders. We could learn from this.

I am not saying shun from your responsibilities, or put the blame on someone else … but I am saying that if mistakes are made, just move on. Don’t take them as a sign from the universe that you were not meant to do this job and that you should go back to serving up fries at McDs, or go looking for that tub of ice cream again. It just means that something happened that wasn’t planned. Take it, learn from it, and move the fuck on as soon as possible. Most women (myself included) take mistakes as epic failures – they dwell on them for ages, and that dwelling not only makes them miserable and can have a serious impact on their self esteem, but it also reminds people that the mistakes happened in the first place. So instead of being remembered for all the good work you have done, you are remembered for the one, often small, mistake.

A final thought…

In general, the Mediocre Man is a guy who takes up a lot of space. He makes himself heard at every opportunity, presenting himself as the expert of whatever the fuck he is doing, when really he’s just the expert at saying he’s the expert. He takes other people’s ideas and makes them his own. Plus, when he does idea-poach, he does it from good, decent people who will be so surprised they will not catch it in time and thus will be left in the cold. He does this so much that people believe he is as amazing as he says he is, and lay out the red carpet for him when opportunities arise. So not only is it important to be aware of the tools in his arsenal, but to turn them around, making them positive elements for change. Make those tools your own. It is only in this way that we can battle the mediocrity and inequality that continues to be the norm in this world.

Comments (2)

  • Great post, Alnaaze!

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