Joyous mediocrity

    I was half listening to a podcast not long ago while mixing cow chow and thinking of something else. I was not really paying attention to what the interviewee was talking about until the words joyous mediocrity caught my attention. There are times when I’m a perfectionist, or at least much of the time. I operate on the idea that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing correctly the first time. That said, my favorite advice to give students headed to college is that the difference between getting As or Bs is putting in a lot more effort for very little additional return. Sometimes in life you have to draw a line at good enough.
    Life is full of things a person could be doing or striving to acquire while there is only so much time to do so. I doubt I need to tell anyone in the dairy business that it’s full of tradeoffs. Seems like every day we must make decisions of what thing to let slide for now to take care of some other thing needing immediate attention. You can’t tell a cow down with milk fever to wait an hour while we finish hauling a pile of manure out of the heifer lot. There’s also the juggling of personal relationships and responsibilities beyond the farm in addition to that endless list of farm tasks. No one could get all the things they expect of themselves much less what others expect of them done in 10 lifetimes or more. If we were cats and lived nine lives, we’d just up the expectations of how much we should accomplish. Although, looking at how my barn cats spend their day, maybe not. They seem to have life figured out. Laying around with friends in a sunny patch of straw then going out for a hunt before taking another nap doesn’t seem like a bad way of living.
    Society is full of pressure to be the best and exceed all expectations. No one gives rewards for doing an adequate job at everything even though that’s probably the ultimate win in life. It’s good to be motivated to try hard. Often, in the process, I’ve found new ways of doing things that both make the job easier and yield better results but not always. Sometimes I just find myself putting in a lot of extra effort to gain very little extra return.
    I’m no expert in telling you how to spend your time. Sometimes being the very best you know at something can be worth the time and effort. Respect of others and a sense of pride in a job well done are things that are hard to place a value on. Often the value of those things diminishes with time, unfortunately. Ask a star athlete. They can spend years working toward a goal, and when they finally accomplish it, the question that often follows the congratulations is, “What next?” Some folks thrive on the ever-higher bar, achieving even more over and over while others are crushed by the pressure to exceed expectations and find themselves performing ever more poorly despite trying harder and harder.  
    If you find yourself being crushed by expectations, try finding some joy in mediocrity. I looked up the meaning of mediocre, and it means of moderate quality. Not good, not bad. To find joy in moderation is to be pleased with a job adequately done. Sometimes adequate is all there is time for with all the other things going on. It took me a while to learn this, but it’s better to have a thing done adequately than not done at all while waiting for perfection. In fact, I am probably doing a mediocre job on this article because I’m also finishing up our organic paperwork to start the yearly certification process, and I still need to clean and bed heifers before milking. Sorry if there are a few sentences that could have been worded better, but today I’m embracing mediocrity to get it all done.
    Until next time, keep living the dream. But, maybe dial back your expectations if you find yourself stressing too much. There’s also procrastination if joyous mediocrity isn’t your style.
    Tim Zweber farms with his wife Emily, their three children and his parents Jon and Lisa by Elko, Minnesota.


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