Don’t Be Mediocre, There Is Too Much Competition

On May 20, 2011, in Instructional, by Peter Rasmussen

Nobody consciously thinks “I want to be mediocre”, but through a number of compromises over a long period of time we can find ourselves there, stuck in the middle. In the race to the middle there is a lot of competition. Everyone dreams of reaching great levels of success, but few are willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears necessary to reach the top, and this is how the race to the middle begins.

It starts with a small compromise. Perhaps during the last few shots you do in a multi-shuttle drill you allow your quality to drop. In the weight room you might stop a couple of reps early. You think to yourself “it’s alright, those little inches here and there won’t matter”. However, as Al Pacino famously reminds us, life is a game of inches.

“You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small. I mean one half step too late or to early you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second.”

What would happen if you decided to push through those last few reps in the gym, or you re-doubled your focus during multi-shuttle drills to make sure your technique is just perfect. The best players are perfectionists. They are looking for the tiniest little thing that they can improve upon. Fighting for that extra inch on their lunges, catching the shuttle just that little extra bit earlier to try pressure their opponent.

I believe talent is overrated. You may argue otherwise. Whether or not you are right does not matter much. What does matter is what attitude does my belief reflect compared to the alternative? Believing that talent is overrated means that you will be willing to use the ultimate equalizer, hard work, to help push you for success. If you are of the opinion that talent is a necessary pre-requisite to success then you are one step closer to joining the race to the middle.

The reality is that reaching the top can actually be easier than reaching the middle. The middle is crowded. Reaching the top is pretty straight-forward, work hard and don’t compromise. When you’re stuck in the middle you have to compete so much harder for a piece of the pie, but when you’re sitting on top things come much easier for you. Take Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei as examples. They’ve put in the work and continue to do so. Now when they come up against their opponents it’s easier for them.

Perhaps the most important benefit of reaching the top is that the rewards are disproportionate, financially and otherwise. Also, once you reach the top it is easier to stay there than it was to get there. The added confidence and experience of seeing what it took allows you to maintain your position.

Most of this is a matter of mindset. I’ve had many arguments with people over this concept. Very few people seem to be able to accept the idea that reaching for the top actually provides less competition. Perhaps that’s why they’re stuck in the middle. Don’t be afraid to reach for the top, and don’t be surprised if you trip and fall along the way. Even if you fail to make it to the very top of your field, whether that’s as a badminton player, or in your career, the experience gained by truly reaching for the top will be priceless.

12 Responses to Don’t Be Mediocre, There Is Too Much Competition

  1. Simon says:

    The problem is: If you don’t know exactly what to do or how to do it right, you can be as hardworking as you want, you’ll never be on top.

  2. edwardgibbon says:


    Part of that same attitude of perfection that Mr. Rasmussen is talking about is constantly and meticulously self-analyzing one’s own areas of need.

    If an aspiring Lin Dan doesn’t know what to do, or how to do it, then they work hard to find the people who can help figure it out. (Not that such help will be readily available or cheap…. but that is just as much part of the sacrifice as blood toil tears and sweat in the gym). These are the difficult, unreasonable, financially-dubious life choices that the truly obsessed make.

  3. Simon says:

    I totally agree with you! But Peter’s examples suggest – and I think there lies a big danger in it – that it’s only about doing the extra work in the gym and on court.

  4. Emmet Gibney says:

    Those examples are most appropriate simply because we’re talking about badminton, and that’s what most people relate to. The reality is that the most sacrifice you’ll have to do in badminton is off the court. Sacrificing social life and other opportunities to chase your dreams.

    For those who are driven beyond the rest, they find a way. They figure out what they need to do. They don’t look for excuses, in fact they look to remove any and all opportunity to make excuses. Excuses might get you out of trouble with your teacher, but Lin Dan doesn’t accept doctor’s notes from his opponent.

    It’s not just about “hard work”, it’s about making the “hard choices”.

  5. Robert says:

    I also beleive that developing self both mentally and psychologically is just as important.
    If you are fit but don’t believe then you are already behind against your opponent.

    Work on the mental side will provide strength to continue and drive forward on teh physical side too.

  6. Mel Wyatt says:


    correct me if I am wrong, but I think the point you are trying to make is that you have to be doing the right thing, and doing it the right way.

    The work in the gym, if not the right type of work could at best be pointless, at worst career threatening.

    Just clocking up hours on court is not enough: you have to be practicing with purpose.

    By Peter’s own admission, his career was cut short by working harder rather than smarter.

    Think you were just trying to warn younger members who read this that they need to seek advice rather that just go out and lift heavy weights until they pick up an injury.

    Working harder on it’s own will not make you the next Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei, the ‘Quality’ has to be there too.

    “Hard Choices” – DEFINATELY! How many of us are willing to give up everything else in life to chase the dream?


    I agree in general with Peter’s comments. You have to work hard( a lot of sacrifices in all the things in life if you want to be the best) work smart. I disagree with Peter’s comment about “the talent” part. Talent is not everything but It surely helps. You have to be coachable ( it will make it easier to reach your goal to be #1). To summarize: work hard, work smart and practice those drills, a lot and listen to your coach.


  8. Emmet Gibney says:

    I don’t think Peter was saying that talent was not helpful. What he is saying is that it is overrated and that people get bogged down thinking that it is too important. The reality is that you are as talented as you are, and whether you have it or not you still have to work hard and be determined.

    However, if you believe that talent is overrated what does that mean for your attitude towards work? If you believed that you were not talented and that talent was all that mattered you wouldn’t even bother to try. The reality is if you want to be successful you have to dismiss the odds against you. Statistically speaking so few people reach the top. Why don’t they get there? Is it because they are not talented? Perhaps, but the truth is most people give up which leaves the door wide open for those who won’t give up. Simply by fighting a little longer than the next guy you can win.

    Some people understand this perspective, and they reap rewards because of it. For those who don’t, thank you :) , because you’re making things a little easier for those of us who never give up.

  9. Simon says:

    @Mel Wyatt: No correction, that’s exactly what I wanted to say! Thank you!

    I would consider myself a victim of the “hardworker” mentality, although it wasn’t in the field of Badminton sports.

    I have worked for hours and hours in order to get where I wanted to be. Unfortunately without success, because I wasn’t in the know of doing the right things. Instead of looking for knowledgable people who could actually help me out, I tried to compensate for it by working even more. Injuries occured etc.

    Now as I’m in the know of things I would have wished to be a little bit smarter in my younger days. There’s just too much to know to discover it all by your own.

  10. Mel Wyatt says:

    I fall into the ‘hardworker’ mentality too. I think ALL those of us who are competetive do.

    But as Peter points out, it is VERY easy to make a little compromise here, and a little compromise there.

    If you look at Lin Dan and LCW, I think ‘compromise’ is a word they use rarely.

    But of the people who read this site, very few are going to compete at their level, but we all have our own little battles to be the best we can be. To constantly improve our game whilst still having to work for a living or be in full time study.

    But by putting the hard work in, by winning our own private battles against mediocrity, we CAN constantly improve. We can get more out of the game than we ever thought possible.

    As for ‘talent’, give me a hardworker against a talented slacker anytime!!!

  11. Trenton says:

    I think this whole idea can be summed up with the question: How badly do I want this? If you want something bad enough, you will take the necessary steps to try and achieve it.

  12. Mel Wyatt says:

    Yeah, but very few of us truely want it bad enough to sacrifice everything to be number one.
    And it is very easy to get lazy and take the easy way out: it is human nature.
    But the best are constantly striving to DO those extra reps, to deliver quality right at the END of a training session.
    Think that as what Peter was saying to us – if we really want it, we cannot compromise.

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