Yasuhiko Genku Kimura on the Causes of Mediocrity


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In response to the last post on mediocrity, style, and exquisiteness, philosopher and Zen Buddhist priest Yasuhiko Genku Kimura shared this passage he wrote on the causes of mediocrity, excerpted from his essay Self-Responsibility, Self-Integrity, and Freedom from the Guru.

He proposes the notion that mediocrity is not about being average, but about conforming to the average, and genius is not about living up to an external comparative standard, but about cultivating self-responsibility and self-integrity. This presents an empowering narrative that geniushood is about bestowment rather than endowment, leaving the matter of embodying it a choice solely ours to make. Reprinted with permission.


What are the reasons for this sorry state of affairs? There are several different ways in which to answer this question. First, we will approach this question from the point of view of the conspiracy for mediocrity, as this sorry state of affairs is an exemplary case of the all-pervasive conspiracy for mediocrity existing in the world.

What is mediocrity? Mediocrity is the state of being in which desires, aspirations, and inner strivings for one’s highest value and meaning in life are suppressed or dormant. Mediocrity is not the average but the conformity to the average in the absence of desires, aspirations, and inner strivings for one’s highest value and meaning in life. Since no human being is born with an intrinsic desire to be mediocre, but, on the contrary, with a desire and aspiration for greatness, a mediocre person has either to justify or to ignore his mediocrity in order to be and live with himself. That is, he has to live a life that is untrue to and out of integrity with his own deepest desire and aspiration. Shakespeare’s famous lines in Hamlet (I.iii.17), “… to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man,” remind us that not being true to one’s own self is also being false with other people. Therefore, a mediocre person is untrue to and out of integrity not only with himself but also with other fellow human beings. Here lies the inextricable link between the culture of mediocrity and the culture of inauthenticity.

What is the cause of mediocrity? Statistically in any field of human endeavor there are more people with an average talent than with a higher to exceptional talent. If we equate genius or greatness with what an aptitude or talent avails us, then most of us are doomed to be average with a slight, insignificant give or take. This is the situation in which the great majority of people find themselves in the course of their lives—that is, so long as they define genius or greatness according to external comparative standards—so long as they fail to realize the incomparable singularities of their being, the singular cosmic destinies that they are. The being of an individual is a whole. It is not a quantity but a quality; not quantitatively measurable but qualitatively knowable. Two individuals are different only qualitatively; quantitative differences between them, such as height or IQ, apply only to certain aspects of their being, abstracted from the wholeness that they are, measured by some external comparative standards set by the society to which they belong. Quality belongs to individuality; quantity belongs to commonality. Therefore, the cause of mediocrity is our mistaken identification of our worth and greatness with an externally measurable and comparable commonality, and our failure to recognize our worth and greatness in the light of the cosmic singularity that is our being as its-own-most-unique-ability-to-be.

When Walter Russell states that genius is self-bestowed, he means by the term ‘genius’ the finest quality of individuality that any human being can attain through his own effort in self-development. At the core of individuality, there lies creativity and a creative vision. Therefore, the finest quality of individuality means the finest quality of individual creativity in action for the fulfillment of a creative vision that summons an individual to the untrodden path of his singular cosmic destiny. The ability to respond to this inner summon is what self-responsibility means. The ability to live one’s life in a manner consistent with one’s creative vision is what self-integrity means. Thus, self-responsibility and self-integrity are the hallmark of authentic geniushood.

When Russell states that mediocrity is self-inflicted, he means that if a person fails to cultivate self-responsibility and self-integrity, and thereby fails to awaken and live from his inner genius, he is likely to succumb to the dictates of the external world and its commonality- standards, and thereby to be afflicted with the pervasive conspiracy for mediocrity, which affliction is tantamount to self-inflicting mediocrity. Thus, the difference between self-bestowing genius and self-inflicting mediocrity is that of looking within or looking without, of having an inner standard or having an outer standard.

People are created free and equal but they are not born free and equal. There are significant differences in conditions and talents in and with which people are born, the reason for which is explainable by the law of reincarnation. As we think so we become. Our present conditions, talents, and other external and internal endowments are the results of our individual thoughts that have been thought throughout many lifetimes. The issue of reincarnation is beyond the scope of this article, but there is an important lesson to be learned from it. That is, your spiritual, mental, and physical endowments are the product of your thought that was thought throughout your past lifetimes, and therefore your thought today will inexorably impact your future spiritual, mental, and physical endowments as well as the external conditions of life into which you will be born and in which you will live. Further, even more importantly, regardless of your past, you have within yourself the power which is your thought that can significantly alter you and your life within this lifetime. Reincarnation misunderstood leads to fatalism; reincarnation understood leads to freedom.

Thus, your geniushood, your greatness, does not depend on your endowment; it is not a matter of endowment but of bestowment. For instance, Antonio Salieri was likely to have been less musically talented than Mozart according to accepted standards, but his individual quality was distinct from and incomparable with that of Mozart. Assuming the movie Amadeus was historically accurate (which is doubtful), had Salieri recognized his own genius in the quality of his individual creativity, the finest attainment of which in its own way would have been as splendid as that of Mozart, he would not have succumbed to jealousy and envy as he did; rather, he would have celebrated the incomparable geniuses of himself and Mozart. By outwardly comparing himself with Mozart, one of the most talented composers/musicians of all time, Salieri fell into the trap of the conspiracy for mediocrity, and ended up self-inflicting mediocrity instead of self- bestowing genius. It is well to remember that you can never be the genius that Leonardo da Vinci was nor can Leonardo da Vinci ever be the genius that you are. You, like da Vinci or Mozart, are a singular cosmic destiny, utterly incomparable, uniquely significant, and sui generis.

image found on pinterest

on mediocrity, style, and exquisiteness


Architectural Renderings of Life Drawn with Pencil and Pen by Rafael Araujo

Architectural Renderings of Life Drawn with Pencil and Pen by Rafael Araujo

you might say our society suffers from a conspiracy of mediocrity.

it conditions us for sameness, instead of supporting the blossoming of individuality.

in principle, it celebrates heroism, creativity, and genius – but in practice, it actively discourages these things, either through subtle disincentivization, or downright punishment.

while it claims to offer structured systems designed as tools to serve us, the unspoken tradeoff is that it captures our sense of inner authority, masterfully externalizing it into itself.

society’s eyes watch us, tell us what to want, what to deem meaningful, how we ‘should’ live, and what we need to do in order to achieve a particular state, or become a particular thing.

how little room this leaves for free thinkers, or for the spontaneity of creativity!

society likes mediocrity.

in fact, it thrives on it. to keep itself running, it requires us to propagate the norm, to follow the well-trodden paths.

but maintenance is different than evolution.

and we did not arrive here to live as machines.

we came to express our true nature, to cultivate our style, to be exquisite.

be yourself. the greatest quest. follow your unique rebellious spirit out into the world.

in mediocrity, we fear believing we are capable of being distinct, or the repercussions that might follow as a result. we capitulate, taking all our cues for how to be from outside ourselves.

but there is no need to be victim to this unfortunate circumstance. the gift of style is self-bestowed.

Like nature, style is given shape by a wild, organic and unpredictable energy.

what does true style look like?

you, at your most natural, your individual uniqueness shining brightly and freely. no hiding or faking.

it’s the creative process itself, expressing itself through you.

the mind will try to control it, tame it, direct it, label it. it will look for repeatability. it will try to create models to neatly structure and package it. it will try to tell you how to do it, how to be. if you listen, you are lost.

be vigilant!

ruthlessly cut away every creeping trap that wants to trick you into imitation. don’t look anywhere outside yourself. even not (or especially not!) to the comfort of your own mind. if it’s simulation, or even emulation, it’s mediocrity.

stop trying to be something and just be! how frustratingly simple.

tuning to the creative source is not a doing so much as an allowing. a letting go, a surrendering to a process that is beyond the control of your mind, yet is somehow the essence of yourself. more you than the you you typically associate with. more you than the roles and identities and stories and shoulds and expectations.

pure, wild, unadulterated. love this expression you are. how could you not? when it comes out of you, you cannot help but be awed and surprised by yourself. the truth of you is vast.

you are incomparable.

there is nothing you ‘should’ do. there is nothing you ‘should’ be. there is no one outside yourself who holds the answer. don’t be fooled into simulating your life instead of living it.


you are exquisite, and the world needs your light.


meditations on the 8th gene key, by richard rudd

quote on style also by richard rudd.

i was first introduced to the phrase “conspiracy of mediocrity” by Yasuhiko Kimura

first words after a year in transition

it’s exactly a year ago today since i started a new life.

on this morning, i said goodbye to my soon-to-be ex-husband, climbed into my yaris amongst the possessions i considered most cherished, and began my journey across the country to an unknown future in california.

i went mostly silent on social media. it seemed a time to honor reflection and contemplation over broadcast and interaction.

the themes of self-authorship, integrity, and responsibility have been fundamental for the redesign of my life.

as have creativity, playfulness, openness to discovery, and love.

i feel a yearning to re-engage here now, though the content will likely be different, as will the voice.

this note is mostly to give myself permission to celebrate that.

onward and upward.

Ello, Meet Swarm



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this post originally appeared on Medium by @jgreenhall – https://medium.com/@jordangreenhall/ello-meet-swarm-3bf74b6a8c25

Indie darling Ello is starting to make splashes in the direction of Facebook. To be sure, the rush of techno-hipsters into the minimal design (and Ad-free) social network is as of yet merely a hint of a gesture. But to my ears, the sound is clear: Facebook is vulnerable. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Facebook is doomed. Perhaps not from Ello, perhaps not anytime soon. But sooner than most may think.

Zuckerberg and co have already moved profoundly onto the wrong side of the innovation curve with a focus away from what people actually want and need and ruthlessly on how to maximize shareholder value. The momentum of Ello is the result of an itch of many of Facebook’s users: anything else. These things end badly. I’m on the record: Facebook isn’t long for this world. So, what comes next?

Here is a sketch of some ideas that might power a next-generation Facebook killer. Continue reading

Moving to Sandbox House SF




I’m in the process of moving to the left coast from New York, and just wrapping up a whirlwind week of exploring the San Francisco bay area. Thanks to friends willing to host me and schlep me around the city, I’ve gotten tastes of many of the neighborhoods here…. which was great at first, and then quickly left me feeling overwhelmed by the range of choices. Every place has its pros and cons, and I realized I hadn’t gotten clarity for myself of what I want from the environment I live in so I can thrive.

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10 Principles of Evolutionary Culture




This morning I was flipping through the book Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, and came across this great list of principles for how to transcend ego and bring a group to greatness via collaborative thinking. The following passage is from an excerpt titled Thinking together without ego: Collective intelligence as an evolutionary catalyst, by Craig Hamilton and Claire Zammit.

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An Outsider’s Theory of Everything




reposted with permission via Ronin Institute


[Update (5/29): Eric Weinstein will be giving a follow-up lecture this Friday (5/31) at 2pm at Oxford’s Mathematical Institute in lecture room L2 (which, I believe, is at location 22 on this map).

Physicists and mathematicians in the area! I hope some of you will be able to attend, and will post your thoughts / reactions online. Note: if you are friends with an Oxford Physicist, please invite them to attend this lecture — this is apparently a necessary step. Update update (5/30): see also the update at the end of section 2, below.]

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3 Steps For Plotting Your Personal Future In An Uncertain World




this article originally appeared in FastCoExist

In today’s accelerating world of work, it’s easy to get distracted by the million shiny objects vying for our attention. All too often, we spend our time responding to the latest urgent priority, and forget who we are and what really matters to us. A sense of personal or professional mission fades, and our passion and potential goes dormant.

However, forward-focused people and organizations realize that a happy, productive workplace exists only when everyone is aware of their gifts and how to best align their contribution with a larger shared purpose.

 A happy, productive workplace exists only when everyone is aware of their gifts and how to best align their contribution with a larger shared purpose.

Below is a three-phase process to help get reconnected to your motivations, the unique value you offer the world, and a vision for your own long-term trajectory. Cultivating this foresight practice at both the personal and organizational levels can be a powerful way to develop our greatest assets: ourselves.

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62 Top Startup Accelerators in the US, Canada & Beyond




I’ve been working on a fascinating research project exploring the models and emerging industry verticals of startup accelerators around the world. The standard formula for accelerators is as follows: you bring your entrepreneurial spirit and an idea, and in exchange for an equity stake in your nascent company, you receive some seed capital and a 3 month program providing mentorship, training, advice and resources to help you build your business. The program ends in an Investor Demo Day, where you get a chance to gain the interest of VC and angel investors.

I’ll post something with a synthesis of my thinking around these alternate avenues to value creation soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share the roundup of some of the top tech-focused accelerators, as well as a list of some emerging industry verticals.

Thanks to those in the Next Edge community & on Quora who helped compile this info!


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