Gregory Peck? Jaime Escalante? Madonna Louise Ciccone? Jeff Smith? Robert Downey Jr.? Chet Atkins?
Dear Quote Investigator: The fear of being mediocre activates a compulsion to achieve fame and excellence for some artists, performers, and educators. Would you please explore the people who expressed this notion?
Quote Investigator: The desire to avoid mediocrity is present in many people who have remained unsung. A 1919 article in “Harper’s Magazine” contained the following counter-intuitive cautionary words. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
The fear of mediocrity. The fear of commonplace. We are so afraid of being ordinary that it keeps us from being extraordinary; so afraid of being ridiculous that we dare not risk sublimity.
In 1958 Academy-Award-winning movie star Gregory Peck was asked about his fears: 2
“I don’t have much time to speculate on what I’m afraid of,” he remarked, “but I suppose the thing I fear most is being mediocre. I like to excel.”
“I like to make the most out of life and get the most out of it.”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1919 May, Harper’s Magazine, Volume 138, A Word for Hypocrisy by Fleta Campbell Springer, Start Page 786, Quote Page 786, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1958 August 22, Plainfield Courier-News, Meet Gregory Peck: His Big Fear Is Mediocrity by Hal Boyle (Associated Press), Quote Page 16, Column 2, Bridgewater, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com) ↩