Rise above mediocrity

Amal Chatterjee
7 min readDec 6, 2019


Source : Google photo of shooting stars

Synopsis : Not everyone can become a star but anyone can rise above his mediocrity if he tries hard enough. The blog looks at ways one can find his hidden potential to improve himself.

Who has not seen the falling stars that leave a long streak of light in the sky? It means the death of a star but it is not a daily occurrence anywhere among the people because unlike the stars in the heaven, our stars who have made a name for themselves are few and far in between. They too die someday leaving behind them a legacy of greatness and a bright shining streak just like the stars in the heaven. They were once ordinary people just like you and me but became stars to shine forever in the annals of the history of mankind through sheer hard work and perseverance.

Someday in the distant future the generations to come will scarce know the sacrifices these fallen stars had to make to become the stars because people have short memories and tend to not read the history.

Who will remember how Nelson Mandela suffered for 28 years in prison crushing stones that broke his health and made his eyes poor? Who will remember the beatings of Stefen Biko in the hands of the policemen in jail that caused his death? Who will remember the punishment Veer Savarkar suffered daily in the hands of his torturers in the Andaman jail? Someone someday may put up a statue of such stars in a public square that children will ignore while passing by because they will not know unless taught by their parents or teachers.

I saw the golden statue of Joan of Arc in the public square of Philadelphia recently but the tour guide just mentioned her very casually almost like an afterthought while I looked at the beautiful face of Joan of Arc and wondered how she suffered the excruciating pain being burned alive in France so long ago. She was only a young girl who wanted her country to be free but was betrayed by the very king for whom she fought.

To be a star is not easy for anyone because it requires tremendous struggle and great sacrifices so such people are rare and very special. They are called the extraordinary people who had the resolve to see them through all of their challenges. I recently wrote a blog called Determination that you may like to read in this context.

If you see a herd of sheep, you will notice the sheep at the head of the long column that all the sheep follow because he is the leader and decides where he will go. We are also like sheep and follow a leader because most people are not leaders and are content to be like the sheep. So ask yourself why this is so? Why the leaders are so few and rare? The answer is not a complicated one.

It is because most people cannot rise above their mediocrity to become leaders and stars because to be a leader is dangerous and very difficult. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir were killed for their leadership roles because of powerful enemies they had. Rajeev Gandhi was blown up by a bomb and his mother Indira was gunned down by her own body guards. Anwar Sadat was killed by fanatics who opposed his peace treaty with Israel and Lincoln was gunned down by an assassin who favored slavery.

The political leaders have always faced danger from those who oppose them so we see them as falling stars whose lives are taken in a flash. The spirit of Joan of Arc is probably looking down at her golden statue in Philadelphia from the heaven and wondering if people knew how much pain she had to suffer to become a golden statue somewhere.

But artists, singers, movie stars and writers who become great stars have also paid a price for their fame. An innocent singer like John Lennon who sang about peace and love was gunned down by someone who hated him. David Carradine, Robin Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Margaux Hemingway, George Reeves are some of the numerous stars who took their own lives for reasons of their own but surely it was a high price to pay for their fame as stars. Why Whitney Houston died and why Michael Jackson overdosed himself with drugs when they were famous and successful? They too paid a price for their success but was it worth it?

Today the news came from India that the famous actor Amitabh Bachchan is in a very critical condition in a hospital and may have a limited time in this world and a very famous singer Lata Mangeshkar too is seriously ill but do you know how they had to struggle so hard to become a star? They did not give up when faced with challenges and struggled on so this tenacity separates them from the ordinary people who give up easily when faced with difficulties.

So I ask the question.. How do we rise above our mediocrity? It is a simple question that is difficult to answer because it requires tenacity, resolve and determination that most people do not have. However, it is not impossible.

I have a wonderful example of a Sudanese girl who rose above her hopeless life and made tremendous progress because she found the hidden energy that she did not know she had and needed only a spark to light it.

That spark came from me when one day she invited me to her wedding engagement party. She was a very headstrong girl of only 17 who did not like to listen to her father or anyone about the bleak future she would have if she married so early and produced numerous children in short order. I told her that she should postpone her marriage for some time and get more education in the meantime like learning how to type and get education in computer science. She listened to me quietly but said nothing so I did not know what she would do or not do. Besides I was leaving Sudan.

Imagine my surprise when one day many years later I received an e mail from her saying that she had taken typing lessons and computer course as I had suggested and she and her whole family immigrated to Australia where she found job easily and was very happy. She had the resolve and determination to make something of her bleak life in Sudan. She also broke off her engagement.

There is another case that I should mention here. There was this Tamil boy in Saigon during the war who had joined the voluntary service as an animal husbandry worker. He was so home sick that he sought out the company of Tamils in Saigon who enticed him with native food and the language that he missed sorely but it came at a price. They started borrowing huge sums of money from him that he failed to recover.

One day he spilled out his problems and asked me what to do and how to shape his future so I said that he should forget the Tamils and start saving every penny he can that would come in handy when he goes back to college somewhere someday. He then showed his resolve, got admitted to a very good University in the United States from where he graduated and got a job somewhere. He had to find temporary part time jobs to pay for his expenses in college but he struggled on and became a successful person. He became no star but he did rise above his mediocrity and took the plunge.

So there are people who only need a spark to light their inner energy that then propels them to success in life like that girl in Sudan. The stars I wrote about earlier in this blog are extraordinary people who had extraordinary courage and resolve. They were willing to die for their cause and many did so but the ordinary people are not like them because they lack the resolve and determination. However, there are those who need just a push to realize that they too can do something extraordinary if they can find a mentor who helps them realize their potential and encourages them to struggle on.

Not everyone wants to be a hero and suffer the consequences the heroes suffer. All they want in life is to be successful in job or business in their chosen vocation. They do not want to go to jail or be beaten up by the police for taking part in some political demonstration although great changes in many countries have been brought about by the ordinary people in Poland, Tunisia, South Africa and such. They are the unsung heroes no one knows about but many of them have given their life for the cause of freedom in their country. They rose above their humdrum life and got inspired to do something extraordinary.

What I want to say here is that almost anyone can rise above his station if he determines to do something about it. There are numerous ways one can do it. There are competitive exams that anyone can take to get admitted to prestigious schools and colleges, military academies and the armed services where all expenses are paid by the government.

There are competitive exams that anyone can take to get into foreign services or other administrative services where the future is bright. You just have to study very hard and prepare yourself for such exams although the success is not guaranteed. The Sanskrit wisdom says that you have the right to work but not the right to expect results so one has to learn how to carry on in spite of difficulties. That is how one can rise above mediocrity.

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

Blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

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Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русскиu