“Mediocrities I absolve you” – these are the last lines in the master piece movie Amadeus. The movie tells the life-story of the prolific and influential composer of the Classical era- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The story is narrated from the point of view of a mediocre Italian composer Antonio Salieri – who also lived and worked in Vienna during Mozart’s Vienna years. (The story of the movie is part truth & part fiction, do watch it)
Story of Amadeus
Mozart was a gifted musician, the best of his time and one of the best mankind has produced. But during his lifetime he never really achieved financial success. In the movie, the story is narrated by Salieri – who is a mediocre composer but was quite a success in Vienna before Mozart arrived from Salzburg. Salieri hates Mozart, only because Mozart is a far better composer than him. From the time Mozart appears on the scene – Salieri sphttp://sameer.madhouse.in/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=763ends all his life trying to defame, destroy, derail, humiliate and kill Mozart. But in the process he himself stays mediocre – he makes no attempt to improve his composing skills, to collaborate with Mozart or to discover another art in which he can excel and be the best. He choose to stay mediocre and became saint of all mediocrities and hence the last lines of the movie “Mediocrities I absolve you”.
Observe the difference – once he discovered his calling, Mozart chose to stay true to his music, gave all his life to it, he never compromised, always fought for his music – for his operas, he didn’t do things to please people, didn’t do politics – even though he stayed financially challenged most of his life.
Salieri on the other hand also discovered that music was his calling, worked for it, reached a certain level, joined the Emperor’s services at first given chance, became rich and stopped working on his music or his composing skills. He saw that he had enough skills to make the emperor happy. He chose to stay mediocre, chose to stop growing musically. And later he chose to hate Mozart. Why? Because Mozart did not stop at mediocrity, he went on to achieve mastery – he was the best, he was everything Salieri wanted to become – but without the efforts and without the sacrifices.
Discover your calling
“Find a job you love and you will never spend a day working” – its a old cliche, but still relevant. One can only excel in things they absolutely love to do. So the first step towards achieving excellence and not becoming or staying mediocre is to discover your calling. What is that you can do for hours and never get tired? What is that job in which quality of work matters far more to you than the money you get paid?
If you are one of the few lucky ones you will stumble upon your calling early in your life and after that the job will be to stay on course. But if you are like most of us, the answer wont be obvious, it is there – but it just needs to be discovered. The problem is that for most of us even the fact that we should be looking for the answer is not obvious. If you are one of those who is looking for the answer or wants to look – the only way is to keep trying new things – be restless, be fearless. Give-up things if you don’t like doing them and use that learning intelligently to start afresh. You must keep looking – you will automatically know when you find it. Something will click inside you. That is what happened with me.
I was restless all my life – moving from one thing to another, getting bored, moving again – never settled for something I did not love to do – made efforts to get out, took my chances. In August 2004, I moved to India to from San Francisco and had to find a new job. I thought why not try doing something on my own for 3 months and if it doesnt workout I will go find a job. That’s how I started madhouse; accidentally. But the day I became an entrepreneur – something clicked inside me. I had discovered my calling. Just that I had spent 27 years looking for it and tried quite a large number of things.
Everyone has a calling (infact a person can have more than one calling!) – but we have to look for it – either consciously or unconsciously. Most people fall short when it comes to leave what they are doing right now and start again from zero – they want to keep clinging to what they are doing, safety of job, big salary, the home town comforts, etc. The ability to start from zero is the most crucial element. You must have this ability or develop it if you want to complete the journey to your calling. Give yourself a chance, start that company, take that trip, quit that job, make that movie – whatever it is, do it. If you are not doing what you love to do – YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
At the end of the day if you do not discover your calling – you are assured mediocrity.
Staying on the course to mastery
The next step, after you have discovered your calling, is to get on the path to mastery and to stay on course. It could be music , entrepreneurship, sports, belly dancing or something entirely different. It takes many long years to simply be on the path to mastery. These years are sometimes dark, years filled with hard work, where many mediocres around you are trying to make you one of them, and they will make you some tempting offers.
But if you want to achieve excellence you have to turn down these offers; continue to learn and grow. With every hurdle you cross, the terrain becomes more difficult , but going thru tough times and solving tough problems is the only way to grow.
- You will fail
- You will face problems
- You will fall
- You will run out of resources
- You will reach dead-ends
- People will leave your side
- Many people will hate your guts
- People will humiliate you
- At times things will not move at all
- People will break their promises
- You will fight, get hurt, lose morale and fight again
Amongst all of this, you have to stay true to your journey and be on the path to mastery. Nothing worthy of achieving is easy. So hang in there!
Credits: Thanks to Indus and Nandini for helping me refine the article