Mediocrity-Free Living Mini-Manifesto

by Robert Rizzo | Twitter, Facebook,

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
-Albert Einstein

Are you tired of a ho-hum, just-get-by, ordinary, boring life filled with meaningless meetings and purposeless projects? Do you go through the same routine every day and get the same old results?

Do you dream about doing something meaningful with your life but aren’t sure what or how? Do you hunger for happiness and fulfillment?

You can have it today…NOW!

The message of this blog is simple. Escape mediocrity and discover your true potential by helping someone else succeed in some way, big or small –TODAY!

Recent studies indicate that people who give to others are significantly happier than those that spend more money on themselves. In a recent article in the NY Times[1], researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton wrote:

When we follow up with people who receive cash from us, those whom we told to spend on others report greater happiness than those told to spend on themselves. And in countries from Canada to India to South Africa, we find that people are happier when they spend money on others rather than on themselves.

Dunn and Norton’s research goes on to report that this connection between giving and happiness extends to toddlers, college students, employees and even dodge ball teams!
The more people give, even it small amounts,  the better they perform and the better they feel about themselves.

Watch a TED Talk by Norton below


Arthur Brooks, author of Who Really Cares, in an article in the NY Sun[2] (before its demise), cited several studies that all indicate givers are:

* More happy,
* Less sad,
* Less stressed,

whether they are giving time, money, or even blood.

Bottom Line: Giving is good for you!

My Story

In the last 25 years, I’ve worked as a photojournalist, missionary, brand manager, pastor, blogger and currently mobile app developer. I’ve spent the best part of that time dragging through life, dispassionate, unfulfilled and dreading the next meaningless meeting or purposeless project.

When I wasn’t miserable at work, I was dreading the thought of going back to work. In reality, the work wasn’t that bad. I sat in a clean, safe, climate-controlled cubicle all day staring at a computer. But I felt frustrated, unfulfilled and bored most of the time.

Often the only ray of hope was the weekend somewhere on the horizon bringing with it two glorious days of freedom.

But when the weekend came, I couldn’t even finish it before starting to despise the coming week.

I wanted to escape but that wasn’t an option, nor really the answer. The answer was somewhere inside me. I needed to reframe my situation. View it through a new lense.

I often felt trapped like a prisoner. A quote by a Nazi concentration camp survivor echoed in my mind.

Everything can be taken from a man or woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms. to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
– Victor E. Frankl

My life satisfaction wasn’t to be found in what I did but how I perceived what I did.

Then something else started to happen. Occasionally I experienced a moment that made me feel like my life had meaning. As I connected the dots between these moments of passion and meaningful self-worth,  I realized that what they had in common was giving. I felt best about myself when I was doing something for someone else.

So a thought came to me. What if I made it my personal goal to help someone else succeed every day? Then at the end of the day, regardless of how crappy everything else might have been, I could look to that redeeming moment and consider the day a success.

But how would I help people succeed? Generally, there are three things we can give: Time, effort and money. Since I didn’t have the money to finance everyone’s dream, I focused on time and effort. But I will be talking about micro-giving for maximum giving later.

I started looking for big and small ways to help people succeed.

Whether it was holding a door open for someone whose hands were full, sharing a friendly smile, cleaning up someone else’s mess, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, or most importantly listening.

One of my favorite questions became, “So what do you do when you aren’t working?” People began to share their passions, their visions, their challenges. Stuff that really matters. I was amazed and at the same time ashamed that I had never listened or cared before.

Giving Doesn’t Always Make Cents –  One of my giving stories

On one occasion, I pulled into my local grocer in Northern Colorado on my way home from work. It was a cool, clear evening and the sun was slipping behind the mountains. I parked my car at the back of the parking lot because it was crowded and the walk would be refreshing.

I may have been distracted by the beautiful weather, or the shopping list I was forming in my head, but when I stepped from behind my SUV a passing car had to brake suddenly  to avoid hitting me. I smiled repentantly and mouthed a Thank You but the elderly female driver would have none of it. She frowned and scolded me as she went on to find her parking space.

I was a little disappointed that she hadn’t accepted my attempt to show remorse and went on into the store. As I got in line to check out, I suddenly realized I was behind the woman who had scolded me only a little while before. I thought about changing checkout lanes but then someone stepped in behind me and I decided to stick it out behind the woman.

Then a funny thing happened.

As the woman was paying with cash it became obvious that she didn’t have enough money to cover the few things she was buying and she was distressed.

I had to make a decision. The woman didn’t deserve my help. She demonstrated that in the parking lot when she scolded me.

But before I could finish debating in mind, I found myself reaching into my wallet. I didn’t often carry cash then, but I happened to have five dollars which I quickly handed to the clerk.

The elderly woman tried to refuse my offer but I gently insisted.

The look on her face was priceless as she realized that I was the guy in the parking lot. I could tell she wondered whether I recognized her. Then I heard the movie sound effects playing in the background as the tires screeched, metal crashed and glass shattered.

She was so confused, I don’t think she even said, “Thank you. “ I smiled as she walked away with a puzzled look on her face. I never saw her again and really didn’t want to. But I had my chance to help someone else succeed and I got it right, that time.

I can’t list all the times I’ve intentionally done some little thing to help someone. Much of my giving focuses on sharing a smile, listening, thanking someone, opening a door, or choosing to help someone get their project done on time.

Each time I help someone else succeed it re-ignites my passion for life and makes me feel better about myself…and my life.

Which has brought me to the conclusion that a self-centered life is: mediocre, ordinary, barely adequate, unfulfilling and unrewarding.

Why Mediocrity-Free?

Mediocre is defined as: of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate.

I’d add that mediocre people:

  • don’t stretch
  • only think about themselves
  • are content to do the bare minimum
  • hope no one will notice
  • prefer not to think for themselves
  • take more than they give
  • reject responsibility
  • risk little

But I want to live a life that is the opposite of mediocre…filled with passion and personal fulfillment – a Mediocrity-Free Living.

And I believe you do too.

What’s Stopping You

Many times when we have the chance to give, we don’t act. We aren’t prepared to give, so the opportunity flies by the in the corner of our minds eye and just when it’s almost out of site, we think, “I could have done something about that.”

Then the guilt sets in. But we know how to manage that with thoughts like:

“Surely someone else will help”
“I’m late for my appointment”
“I don’t have any cash on me”
“They don’t really need my help”
And my favorite…
“It’s probably just a scam”

I’m not suggesting that you act unwisely, but why not err on the side of grace and mercy? Why not assume a person has a legitimate need, rather than pass judgement?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Mother Teresa. I’ve passed up hundreds, maybe even thousands, of chances to help someone. I know all the excuses not to help someone, because I’ve used them all.

But the more I help other people, the more I realize one simple thing – it truly is better to give than to receive.

Why You Should Care

I’m on a journey and I’m looking for some friends who would like to join me on this journey. There’s no real destination, only a departure. A departure from mediocrity.

Rather than measuring your personal success by egocentric, self-centered metrics of wealth and personal ambition, I want to challenge you to discover your true potential by helping someone else fulfill their dream in some way, big or small…TODAY!

With this blog, I want to inspire and challenge you to succeed. You’ll discover realistic, sustainable, attainable giving strategies. I’ll also share encouraging giving stories from the Mediocrity-Free Living community and hopefully we’ll all make some great new friends.

Stop waiting to change somebody’s life in a monumental way. TODAY you’ll have the chance to change someone’s life! But you have to be ready and willing to seize the opportunity.

Imagine a world filled with people who are willing to do something small, or seemingly insignificant, to help someone else succeed. Millions of little acts of giving could result in big change. Imagine what would happen if schools and businesses adopted this philosophy. It could revolutionize education and business practices.

Get A New Attitude

But giving is more than an act, it is an attitude, a lifestyle, a way of thinking. It’s a good habit that can be learned and demonstrated. You can train yourself, and others, to take your mind off of yourself and help someone else succeed today.

I recently read an article in Success Magazine [3] profiling the comedian and actor Bill Murray, best-known for his performances on Saturday Night Live, CaddyShack, and Ghostbusters, to name a few.

What’s  less known about Murray is his obsession with giving.

The article talks about a Golf Tournament that Murray and his brother, Joel, sponsor. All the proceeds go to local charities.

Now in its 12th year, the Murray Bros. Caddyshack Golf Tournament has raised more than $2 million for charities, including St. Vincent’s Mobile Health Outreach Ministry, The Guardian Catholic Schools, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, and Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

This is a tremendous act of giving. But Murray goes on to explain why he believes giving is such an important part of his life.

Giving back is another Murray family tradition. “It’s just how we were brought up,” Bill Murray says. Joel Murray explains that their widowed mother, who raised her six sons and three daughters alone, was their primary inspiration. “I don’t know how she made the bills every month. But when she would sit down and do the bills, she would write a check for charity. Even if it was $25, she would write a check for something. She was doing her best to keep shoes on us and was always giving something away.”
Murray is a giver today because he saw his mother demonstrate the desire to give even when she scarcely had the means to care for her own family.

Murray’s mother had a giving attitude and her children caught that attitude. As a result, she may have only been able to give $25 then but today her sons are able, and willing, to give millions.

Happy or Sad, You Choose
So you can do one of two things. You can continue to lead a half-hearted, mediocre life and try to find fulfillment in a bigger house, newer car, or flatter screen. But deep down inside, you know that I’m right.

Your true happiness will be found in the little things that you do to help someone else every day. Each time you do something little to help someone else you will be increasing your level of happiness and decreasing stress. Imagine the impact this way of living could have on our world.

How would you like to be remembered by your kids?

As the dad that loved to play golf, or the dad that was always doing something to help other people? As the mom that couldn’t wait to spend her last nickel on herself or the mom that always found a little extra to give.

Maybe one day, your son or daughter will have $1 million and they, like Bill Murray, will know that giving is not an option, but a responsibility.

Mediocrity-Free Mandates

As I look back on my life and how I came to desire a Mediocrity-Free life, I realize that I made some adjustments along the way that helped me embrace a giving attitude. I believe that there are steps we can take to  prepare our mind and soul to say “Yes” instinctively when an opportunity to help someone presents itself.

There are 10 key principles that I believe helped me develop a passion for serving. I call them the Mediocrity-Free Mandates and I try to practice them daily.

  1. Listen
  2. Learn something
  3. Leave a place better
  4. Be thankful
  5. Be balanced
  6. Be a giver, not a taker
  7. Always smile
  8. Always forgive
  9. Always take responsibility
  10. Never quit

They may sound simple…and they are. But when life comes at you, these simple principles will help you focus on what is truly important in life and relationships.

Join The Journey

OK, I’m sure half the crowd just checked out of here and back into their self-centered, egotistical lives but for those you who stayed I am inviting you to join me on a journey.

To join now or just check out MFL some more:

  1. Leave a comment at the bottom of any post. I haven’t actively promoted the “comments” section in the posts yet, but you’re free to share your comments and include a link back to your own site if you have one.
  2. Use myEMPTY to tell me what you think so far. Please!
  3. Join my Newsletter Updates or add me to your RSS Feed reader.
  4. Tell your friends, or tell the world by sharing and liking posts.

I plan to spend the rest of my life helping people discover Mediocrity-Free Living – The Art of Cheerful Giving.

And I want to help you do the same.




  1. “Don’t Indulge. Be Happy. –” 2012. 11 Jul. 2012
  2. “Why Giving Makes You Happy – The New York Sun.” 2008. 11 Jul. 2012
  3. “All Kidding Aside | 2012-04-11 | SUCCESS Magazine | Your …” 2012. 11 Jul. 2012 <>

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Robert is the founder of | Mediocrity-Free Living. He is passionate about helping people discover the rewards of daily giving.

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