I just wrapped up an engagement in Sophia, Bulgaria where I met some of the warmest, most energetic and eager-to-succeed people on the planet. But you know what? I met the same kind of people in Sydney and Melbourne last month and in London the month before that. Still, Sophia is different and here’s why.
Only one generation ago Bulgaria was a part of the Soviet Union. Under socialist rule from the end of World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Bulgarians had no apparent desire to succeed. There was no incentive to work harder, think smarter, innovate, or even dream big.
Everyone had a job, which is a good thing, but the government decided what you did and what you got paid and that was usually just enough to get by. Everyone had staple foods, a roof over their head and clothes on their back. All that was good too, but you had to wait two years to buy a car or even a television. So life for the parents and grandparents of those who came to learn from me about Straight Line Persuasion, lived a life of sameness – mediocrity. There was no room for improvement, so why bother trying?
And the point of my little history lesson? To show the contrasts and similarities with America today. Here we are in 2015 and still, too many of us don’t see any room for improvement in our lives, so we don’t bother trying. And yet we live in an entrepreneur’s paradise! No country on the planet has produced more rags-to-riches success stories. Nowhere in the universe will you find it easier to start and grow a successful business. So why are so many people willing to settle for mediocrity?
Well, for one, most of us were taught to be average. It began at an early age when we were trained to conform to the standards of society, to play by the rules and not make waves. By the time we became teens we felt the need to “rebel” which really meant not be like our parents. But our greatest desire was to “fit in” – to be like every other teen. So we graduated from being average in one group setting to being average in another. We never became our own and by the time we figured out we had to it was far more difficult.
Mediocrity is safe. Being average means you never have to face risk or challenge. You just sort of exist, go with the flow, put in your time and let the matrix deplete you like a disposable coppertop. Here’s the truth: Mediocrity breeds a false sense of safety and comfort, one that’s very dangerous because it keeps you stuck in a rut.
Back in Bulgaria, many of the old generation wish they could return to the days of the Soviet Union. Back then they felt safe, the government took care of everything and it was easy to hide from their problems. Every year it seems more and more Americans are demanding the government do more to take care of them, guaranteeing they’ll be stuck in that rut a little longer.
The new generation of Bulgarians, the one I just trained in Sophia, are rejecting the old socialist model because they want more out of life and they realize no one’s going to do it for them. And like their entrepreneurial counterparts in Britain, Australia and here in America, they’re willing to risk some comfort and safety for greater rewards down the road. And for that I applaud them.
All the best,