Scared of mediocrity

Does anyone else have an existential fear of mediocrity, that your life will ultimately amount to nothing despite being complimented since childhood of your promise and potential? For reference, my parents grew up dirt poor in a third-world country and made it to perhaps the top 5% (?) in this country; so I grew in a fairly privileged environment, but nothing out of the ordinary. While we could afford some basic luxuries, there was always much to be desired. I've always felt a subliminal duty to achieve "more" than my parents to fulfill their dreams; I excelled in public schools and recently graduated from a T10, and since childhood I've had ambitions of becoming someone great: a respected scientist, a top politician or federal judge, respected novelist, singer/actress/model, even marrying into a wealthy/aristocratic family. And investment banking, being so exclusive, was always at the fore of that path. Now that I'm in IB, however, I feel like I'm wasting away my life. Realistically, the most I can achieve is an MD or C-Suite position, but nothing close to Wikipedia-biography worthy. I don't think I'm physically incapable of performing any of the careers I listed; I'm attractive, have a high IQ, sociable, enjoy decent pedigree, etc., but I just honestly don't know where to find opportunities to do something greater--or whether those opportunities even exist--or if I'm just neurotic and being unreasonable. Any advice is appreciated. Please be as harsh as possible.

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Comments (24)

Sep 14, 2021 - 8:03pm

Being mediocre is irrelevant to me. You either do good works or you do nothing or evil. What makes a difference is how you treat each person you encounter.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 14, 2021 - 10:45pm

First you need to drill down whether you want to be known/famous. I'm not sure why anyone would want to be in this day in age. You basically just put a target on your back. But to each their own I guess. To be clear, you can be worth 10s of millions, probably even low hundreds, be well known/respected in your niche, and still have the majority of the population not know who you are. That's as well known as I'd want to be. Nowadays, you could probably even make that kind of money and have little to no one know who you are by doing it online.

Honestly, from your above post it sounds like you just want to be famous. In which case, I urge you to look within to figure out why. You likely have a deeply rooted insecurity that you'd be better off working through. Once you become famous, your insecurities don't just vanish. You won't automatically feel fulfilled. You'll just shift your focus to something new, thinking that once you achieve it everything will truly be amazing...

Mediocrity scares me too, but for different reasons than you. I personally don't care if I have a Wiki page or anything, I just want to max my potential in every aspect of my life. Yes this includes wealth too, but that's more to help my family/friends, enhance experiences, etc. It's not to dunk on people from grade school who didn't amount to anything.

Sep 15, 2021 - 1:54am


Therapy is extremely helpful. The need to be famous is an affliction that will suck the joy out of your life because so few achieve it (outside of social media, depending on your definition) and there will always be someone more famous/rich/respected than you. It's a vapid goal. When you get healthy, you'll be more proud of your accomplishments and realize helping others with their happiness is extremely satisfying.

I'm only here because I recommended to one of the people I mentor to make a post about a few of his job offers and I wanted to see what the responses were.  I opened this post because I too feel a fear of mediocrity but more for the reason listed in the post above. Not so much to help family and friends but to be helpful to people that are putting in immense efforts to overcome economic challenges. Being poor or even middle class is tough in this country. Upward mobility shouldn't be that difficult for those truly working hard to overcome it. I'm now worth low eight figures and will sell my company within the next decade to work on these kinds of issues full time because those were the challenges I faced growing up and if not for a few people here and there that serendipitously entered my life, I'd still be there. Sorry to digress.

In sum, your current life purpose is a little pathetic. You want the wiki page because that's how you measure success. Get some therapy and you'll have a new metric. 

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  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 15, 2021 - 12:07am

Honestly - what the fuck is wrong with you people on this forum? Been coddled and spoiled all your life?

You said it yourself - went to a top school, work in IB, have wealthy parents, attractive. Why are you still bitching? 

yes, I grew up a broke boi so these dumbass topics trigger me 

Sep 15, 2021 - 11:07am

To be clear - you will amount to nothing. We all do. The most important people in history amounted to nothing. Whether you're remembered by those that outlive you is irrelevant to you because your ego will die with your body. Understanding this was key to my letting go of these feelings and learning to live my life according to what I actually cared about. 

The only thing you should be concerned with is whether you're making the most of the time you have, right this second.

Sep 15, 2021 - 1:25pm

Even the greatest leaders of today will always live in the shadows of people like Julius Caesar.  Just accept that you're a monkey with a slightly more developed brain and move on with your life.  

Sep 15, 2021 - 2:49pm

I just honestly don't know where to find opportunities to do something greater--or whether those opportunities even exist

Good people find opportunities and great people create them. Call it personality quirks, call it frame of thought or mindset, whatever you like., but IMO, that is one of the differentiating factors between good and great.

Sep 16, 2021 - 11:46pm

While I appreciate what you're saying, you appear to be a 1st year analyst and even what appears to be your "base case" scenario of being an MD or member of the C-suite somewhere is still an absolute reach. You have no guarantee at all you will make it to a position even near those spots. At first when I saw your post I thought you were referring to mediocrity in the same sense I see it where you don't want to be "normal" and want to achieve something great by yours or anyone's standards but it sounds like your definition is more skewed towards reaching fame and leaving behind a story-worthy legacy. I'd recommend you reprioritize and adjust your energies and efforts to become more grounded. This doesn't mean settling for less but it certainly means separating the idea of fame from success

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Sep 17, 2021 - 11:04am

Some great advice on this thread (esp famous vs successful one). Warning from me - I come from a similar background except my parents are middle class in a third world country. Get this life meaning thing sorted ASAP otherwise IB stress, lack of sleep and being around insecure people who are always showing off will get to you. We are brought up with very specific near term goals (get into X school, bag an offer) and when the time comes to set your own priorities you find yourself lost. 


Sep 17, 2021 - 3:24pm

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  • VP in IB - Gen
Sep 17, 2021 - 7:44pm

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