Resist the Gentle Pull of Mediocrity

“Beware of the gentle pull of mediocrity,” my friend and mentor once told me.

How easy it is to eventually become comfortable at your job. Maybe you’ve mastered routine work tasks and learned how to avoid major mistakes. You like the people with whom you work. You’re proficient with the products that you use or oversee. You understand the organization’s culture and business context. You know how to operate within your corporate sphere of influence.

This feels OK, but maybe you’re a bit too comfortable? Are you still compelled to excel at your job? How marketable are you, should you need to seek a new position?

We’re motivated by different factors. Some professionals value high salaries; some need well-defined work hours; some look for cutting-edge techniques; some treasure job stability; some get easily bored. Not everyone strives to be a super-star at the office. Yet, most of us probably want to feel appreciated for the work that we do.

If you’ve been in the same role for a while, you might get disenchanted with the field and become complacent in the safety of familiar tasks, people, tools and processes. You stop learning and lose the motivation to improve your skills. This happens so slowly, that you don’t even notice it.

If you’re drifting towards this state, maybe it’s time to shake things up.

Take on new projects, even if there’s a chance they might fail. Go to industry conferences and meet-ups to expose yourself to new people and ideas. Read books, articles and blogs within your field and those that have nothing to do with it. Study on your own or take formal courses. Experiment with technologies that excite you. Seek out new people within your company and your community. Invest time into existing relationships. Seek a promotion within your organization and, if opportunities are better elsewhere, don’t be afraid to switch jobs.

Whatever you do, resist the gentle pull of mediocrity.

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About the Author

Lenny Zeltser develops products and programs that use security to achieve business results. He is the CISO at Axonius and Faculty Fellow at SANS Institute. Lenny has been leading efforts to establish resilient security practices and solve hard security problems for over two decades. A respected author and practitioner, he has been advancing tradecraft and contributing to the community. His insights build upon real-world experience, a Computer Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA degree from MIT Sloan.

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