What Differentiates Mediocre and Top Performers – (Academically)

Being an average student in school or an average performer professionally, entails a lot of struggle and responsibility.  Two opposing forces – the one pushing down and the other trying to pull up with the elite group, constantly tears one apart.  The fear of falling down and an anxiety to move up.  The struggle continues.

What differentiates a mediocre performer from someone outstanding?  Strictly keeping the discussion within scholastic framework, I would say the following;

  1. Habits – On the surface, everything appear more or less the same, however, when we dig deeper to unravel the daily routine of an average and a best performer, tiny patterns differentiating the two could be easily noticed. 

An outstanding performer will keep raising the bar on a daily basis to improve learning, so tiny a change, that others may not even notice it, however it begins to assert, show and reflect as the time passes by, over a longer period, like a month or a quarter, when these little gains acquire a much broader contour.

  • Desire– This we think everyone have.  However, the mind of an average performer is not focused towards the best result but forked in saving itself from being relegated to a lower grade on the one side and a ‘want’ to establish itself as a part of the aspirational group on the other side.  The ensuing strain leads to a confused state and consequent inability to move up.  This also explains why they find it difficult to stick to their good habits.
  • Expectations of Others– Pygmalion effect (aka Rosenthal effect) is also at play here, which espouses that people generally perform the way we expect them to.  If we expect someone to perform outstandingly well or really bad, they would measure up to both these expectations.  Since, mediocre performers are expected to scrape through by their parents and teachers whereas top performers are anticipated to stay in the top, both live up to the set expectations. 

There though are outliers everywhere and this phenomenon is no exception.  There would still be students performing exceedingly well despite no or very little expectations.

  • Fear–The fear in the mind of an average performer is primarily of falling down towards the lower bracket, and it is so strong that, a lot many times it even trumps the desire and intensity required to climb up.  It puts them in a vicious circle as they find themselves stuck in their current roles.  The performers on the other hand use this nervous energy to practice and perform well.
  • Satisfaction How many times will you try before giving up?  Some people try more than others and generally, they are the one who turn out to be more successful.  Success is the result of repeated failure, failures turning into learning experiences creating a motivation and a desire to climb up even higher. 

However, average performers give up as they see their efforts not bearing results they expected or not working at all. 

Inability to see and use failure as an opportunity can be typically seen, out of fear and because of the negative expectations of people around them.  Ordinary performers learn to become satisfied by keeping the bar lower as they fear both, venturing in the unknown as well as face failure, to learn more. 

Being satisfied with whatever comes their way, if it is not extreme failure, is an easy way to live within one’s comfort zone.

Of the above five, while each one is critical to change the status quo, however, I would still personally rate Habits on the top. 

And why I am doing that is because, habits can immediately lead to subtle and indirect changes even in other part of a person’s lives.  Habits in one area can have a snowball effect on other areas leading to accelerated growth. 

For example, getting up early and having some extra time for oneself not only reduces stress and anxiety but also lead to much better control over one’s schedule and life.  Small tiny improvements in one’s daily routine can have a massive effect on overall personality in just a matter of few weeks provided these improvements are consistent and incremental.

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