Middling mantra


2nd place

I’m a big fan of continuous improvement – in both business and personal life.

But some advocates of this discipline are beyond me.

Take, for instance, Émile Coué’s conscious autosuggestion:

Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.

This exhortation is so demanding, I can’t keep up with the damn thing!

So I think I’ve a better idea …

Too-hard basket case

First, let’s unpack Émile’s proposition.

‘Every day’ is Draconian, totalitarian (and possibly Orwellian).

It includes Mondays, public holidays, days we can’t get out of bed and days we’re too busy to scratch ourselves.

‘Every way’ is even more demanding.

It’s hard enough to pull off a good day’s work. Must we simultaneously improve our health, knowledge, relationships, finances and everything else too?

‘Better and better’ is not only elitist, it’s a tautology.

Whatever happened to ‘near enough is good enough’ and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’?

Middle path

Agreed, those last two might be a little underachieving.

So here’s my seven-out-of-ten idea:

Almost every day, in at least one way, I’m getting better.

This give us scope.

If we:

  • Go for a swim, we needn’t eat bran.
  • Walk the dogs, we can have a beer.
  • Suffer a completely crapola week, we can skip a day until things improve.

The trick is to keep moving forward, but with a bit of wiggle room either side.

Going the distance

Faced with overpowering goals, I tend to give up rather than smash through.

But I can devour an entire sourdough baguette, if I slice it into manageable bits.

A year of around 300 small-to-medium-sized improvements, with a few biggies for effect, is nothing to sneeze at.

And it’s heaps better than throwing your hands up and doing squat.

My counsellor likes the middle way a lot, but what do you think?

Second opinion

As you can see, my view of life is literal.

I need you to moderate my perceptions.

Is my middling mantra a clever compromise or a cringing cop out?

You can comment now, later or not at all.

For on balance, and with good faith,

I believe we’ll succeed in

the end.



| Founder & Senior Writer – The Feisty Empire

  • Every day has no name. Well yes it does. Today is it’s name and that’s the only day you get to do anything. So today you do a little bit better than you did yesterday. Perhaps the difference is a little better facility with the task or it may be a little more focus on the attention to detail.

    Supposing we give just 5 percent more effort into the things we do… that’s not much is it. That’s doable.

    Every today has a different load of things that we do. On one today we may be writing an article. On another today we might be spending time with the family and bringing another level of ‘being present’ to the table. We may listen a little more fully. We may put aside what we might want to do so that we may be more attentive to those around us.

    Small bites.

    Compounding to better results in everything we do.

    • Thank you kindly, Lindy. I do like getting your take on things. Guess you could call it … compound interest! And we know how powerful that is … :)

  • Call me crazy, but why must there always be a WINNER? Why can we all just do our best and enjoy ourselves, rather than go for broke and end up like this?


  • Hiya Paul,

    Here’s my take on all of this.

    1. Since you are already the BEST Paul Hassing that there will ever be, you can never come second in that. When you try and be someone else that you are not, there is someone who is already at being that (them!) so don’t get a shock if the best you ever do is come second! Therefore the aim is simply to continue to be the best version of yourself that you can be, according to what you value and what you see as your greater purpose.

    2. Life is a process of accumulating skills and experiences. No matter if you attempt to do absolutely nothing, you still have that experience, and by definition, have become ‘better and better’. You can’t not have experience, so this happens every day. Therefore, no matter what you do, you ARE getting better and better every day. Life is a journey, not a finish line.

    3. If you find reaching your goals an issue, then you are perhaps setting them badly, nor empowering them, or finding self sabotage strategies. If these are not helpful, you can change them.

    4. There has to be a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’ when you run a ‘black or white’ view of the world. Only two choices – how limiting is that? What if there are winners, losers, and everything else as well? How you define who wins and who loses will decide a lot about who really wins and who loses.

    5. Overwhelm is a major impediment to achievement. I like your analogy of the baguette – sometimes you just need to know how to slice…

    6. The middle ground may feel safe, but the fun happens at the edges….

    • That is a real good take, Phil. I’ll take it!

      I must be saving a fortune by not having you tell me all this in private sessions.

      Many thanks for your wisdom, opinions and advice! 😀

    • Nice post Chris . . . mmmhhh don’t like the idea of missing the fun on the edges :)

  • Leunigs cartoon is certainly a good fit for your post today Paul (as always it’s thought provoking).

    I’ve been doing some thinking myself during and after a recent holiday in Indonesia. I think I agree with your ‘middle path’ . . . it’s about finding the balance and what is doable in one given day.

    I read this quote this morning by Lao Tsu: “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”

    My formula I think would be something along the lines of: A better me is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out without comparing and competing.

    Small Improvements + Consistency = Success/Progress or ‘A better Me’

    Gosh, it sounds simple but it ain’t easy :)

    • That was a pearler you flagged, Irma; many thanks.

      I’m really digging your addition to the positive vibes we’re getting.

      It has taken me decades to get a sense of who I am. Sometimes I wish I’d found out much earlier, so I could’ve made a better fist of things sooner. But maybe you have to endure the cacophony to find that one pure pentatonic tone that’s truly you.

      Your formula is a beaut. And from what I’ve seen, you’re calculated efforts are achieving fine results.

      Thanks so much for being with us today! :)

      • My pleasure Paul, I did find comfort in what Chris said that ‘life is a journey and not a finish line’ . . . makes me feel I have plenty of time to find myself :)

  • The way you write about that saying Paul – you had me believing (dare I say) every word and rethinking how I look at goals and achievement. Improving everything everyday is exhasuting just to think about so middle ground does make sense.

    But if we just settled for middle ground in all cases would we be running our own businesses? Would we work togive clients the best words for their purpose?

    Seriously, I don’t think there’s much I can add to what Phil said :) WInner/loser/in between is up to how you set the rules. Needing to rethink how I go about setting goals – there is a challenge!

    • You’re very kind, Tash. And you make a great point. I confess I thought I might be seen to be encouraging a mediocre approach to business – which is fatal.

      I agree we must give our clients our best. But perhaps, like a cheetah, we can let ourselves recharge after each high-speed chase.

      You’ve reminded me of an earlier post in which I tried to convey the importance of focussing one’s efforts:


      As you say, Phil nailed it.

      Best regards and thanks! P. :)

  • This is a very funny post, Paul. I like it.*

    A wonderful antidote to the dog-doesn’t-return-other-dog’s-phone-call cut and thrust of modern life. And I agree with you about the winning and losing. Why can’t we all just play the game?

    Here’s another tip: Avoid the mainstream media. Stocks up today! Win! Stocks down today. Lose. House prices up this quarter! House prices flat this quarter. And on and on and on and on and on and on …

    Anyway, as my old Mexican fishmonger is fond to say, ‘Almost every day, I’m in Juan’s way, while he gets the batter’. I don’t know what he means, but it helps.

    *PS I’m getting my email notification too late to chip in in real time.

    • Hi, Ad! Thanks for using your loaf, fishes and chip. (The batter don’t matter, unless What’s on Second.)

      I’m always very grateful to receive your views which, luckily, are timeless.

      If only we could deem the cuts and thrusts to cancel each other out, I think we’d all live a lot longer. And prosperer.

      Best regards, Who. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfmvkO5x6Ng 😉

  • G’Day Paul,

    I’m far too old to offer advice to youngsters like you. Apart from anything else, I’ve done more self development stuff than Essendon has won premierships. This may not help very much but it’s worth thinking about.

    When I decided to start my business in 1978, I went to discuss my plans with my accountant. He was a very wealthy man of particularly modest habits. But he’d built a successful practice based on outstanding customer service.

    He said, “What are you doing this for?” I trotted out some of the normal stuff about “having something to offer” and “securing my families’ future,” and that I’d like to make a good amount of money. and similar truisms. “Yes” he added.” I understand that. But anyone can make money. It’s not that hard. Let’s say we look ahead say, 20 years, what would you like to have done in 20 years that you haven’t done or can’t do now.?”

    I answered that I’d really like to know a lot about Australian food and wine. “OK; do it for that then.” he replied.I should point out that he didn’t drink and regarded fishnchips as a gourmet meal.

    Paul, we’ve had lots of ups and downs since 1978. But we eat and drink well and have enjoyed some fabulous meals all over Australia.

    I recognize that my preferences would appal many people. That’s their business not mine. But I still regard Cedric’s advice—Cedric was his name– as some of the best that I’ve ever received.

    And, of course, make sure you have fun. That’s extremely important.

    Best Wishes

    • Dear Leon, I haven’t been called a youngster for so long, I’m personally endorsing whatever you just said.

      Having now examined your words, I can also endorse them professionally.

      Cedric sounds like a stout soul. No wonder they named a car after him!

      I’m elated that fish and chips have transcended the biblical to influence the commercial.

      I’m doubleplus unappalled at your contribution

      and thank you most sincerely for it.


      • G’Day Paul,

        A car called Cedric! Just for your information the Nissan Cedrics were a female singing duo who used to appear on one of those Roy and HG shows on ABCTV. One of them was , I think, named Gabrielle- or perhaps Danielle- Gaha. They were bloody good singers anyway.

        I suppose that if a fish called Wanda exists, a car called Cedric is possible……… Just don’t be diverted from having a bloody good time by all those self-evelopment experts. “That’s All”…… as Merryl Streep kept saying all through “The Devil Wears Prada,” which most certainly wasn’t an Italian coupe.

        Keep in mind what the discus thrower said to the lady of the night called Levity: “More levity……more levity please”



      • Now YOU are the youngster, Leon! It appears my memories* go back even further than yours!


        Nyuk nyuk nyuk … :)

        * Or research pertaining thereto.

  • I think its the AA organisation where attendees finish by repeating “If It Is To Be It’s Up To Me” and I think it comes from this poem….

    They say that trials come into our lives,
    That sometimes we even do some bribes,
    Which leads individuals to commit crimes,
    Because of being fully occupied by pride.

    But no matter what happens my friend,
    We should live life to the fullest ‘til the end,
    Our future lies in our very own hands,
    Strive hard wherever you will land.

    If it is to be it’s up to me,
    Should always be our mentality,
    We do not basically need plenty of money,
    So erase it from our vocabulary.

    Yesterday is history,
    Tomorrow is a mystery,
    But today is a gift,
    That’s why it is called the present!

    Charlette Gingosa

    • Great stuff, Winston! Ain’t nothing like poetry to elevate our debate from the everyday.

      I’d not seen this one, but I certainly recognise bits of it. Thank you kindly for tabling it. :)