How to Achieve Greatness By Being Mediocre Every Day

Build a “better than nothing” habit

Stephen Moore
3 min readAug 2


Image: Midjourney

In the last few years — and especially during the never-ending pandemic lockdowns — I’ve tried to form a whole host of new habits: running, baking, and even learning card tricks to dazzle my nieces.

Each of these pursuits started strong — until I gave up shortly thereafter.

I headed out on that first run, filled with expectancy, only to pull up with burning calves after 10 minutes. I put my banana bread mix in the oven, salivating at the thought of tasting it, only to be met with the smell of burning. I bought the card trick book and eagerly tried to fan the cards out in my hand, only to send them spinning across the room.

Honestly, I had lofty visions of being good at these things immediately. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Who likes being bad at something? Unfortunately, I wasn’t good at any of them. I hated the feeling of failure, which immediately killed my “I’m going to become a better person with these habits” vibe. The habit was quickly swept under the carpet, and my mind switched to something else with the deluded optimism that I would be better at it. Before long, I was trapped in an endless habit-failing doom loop.

Things only changed when someone pointed out an obvious flaw in my plans — I was fixated on the achievement when I should have been focused on repetition.

To successfully build new habits, you need to stop trying to be good and instead get comfortable being mediocre. Yes. This is no piece on how to 10x yourself. It’s not revolutionary. This is about living in the average. Reaching your goals doesn’t depend on willpower but rather a willingness to be bad at your desired behavior.

To overcome your brain’s desire for instant greatness, it helps to create a wildly unambitious daily practice — a ‘better than nothing’ habit.

To build your ‘better than nothing’ habit, simply take one of your goals and strip down the outcome into steps so small, so seemingly insignificant, that they seem almost effortless. For instance, if you want to be a runner but don’t remember the last time you walked a mile, don’t set a daily running target of 30 minutes. Instead, start with one minute. Really. If…