A while ago, I wrote this:
I’ve been doing my best lately to be awesome, and the conclusion that I’m beginning to reach is that not only does being awesome take a lot of work, it also makes more pressure on oneself to be continually awesome, rather than allowing oneself to be awesome just now and then. Such is the curse of attempted awesomeness.
A modern, more jaded version of myself would probably add another tier to this argument: “Not only does being awesome take a lot of work, it also makes people more likely to resent you and/or take advantage of you. Or at the least, it makes your best efforts seem average.”
This isn’t because I’m a cynic. It’s because I’ve spent the last three years working in an environment where it’s seemingly natural policy to use mediocrity as a defense mechanism against raised expectations.
Of course people don’t want to spend the rest of their lives giving 110% and escalating their efforts with each added responsibility, so they curtail their efforts in exchange for clemency. Basically put, if they fail to bring notice to themselves by being exceptional, they won’t become targets for “exciting new opportunities” with enhanced workload weights.
Part of me can completely understand this mentality, since I’ve been a victim of the workload curve many times in the past. Unfortunately, I could never bring myself to slack off without feeling a deep sense of guilt. Like I was cheating myself, as well as my employers. At the same time, if I keep outperforming, I eventually find myself overburdened by a suffocating amount of tasks that no human being could ever hope to complete in a 40 hour week.
So what do you do, if you’re too awesome? (And I don’t like to brag, but it’s happened before.) Do you pretend you’re capable of less than you are? Do you struggle on under the enormous weight of all those expectations, trying not to resent the ones who complain about a load that’s half the size of yours? Or, like countless elementary school seminars teach, do you simply have to learn how to “just say no” to additional opportunities?