In Praise of Mediocrity

Tim Wu

Perfectionism. Performance anxiety. High expectations. Demand of expertise. These four things conspire daily to keep us from engaging new pursuits. Columbia law professor Tim Wu says that they especially keep us from hobbies. "We’re afraid of being bad at them," Wu says. "Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time."

What do we do instead of hobbies? Externally, we "retreat into the passive, screeny leisure that is the signature of our technological moment" while remaining internally trapped in the cage of our own self-judgment.

Well, that sounds awful. Wu encourages we instead rediscovering the "gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it."

Pouring Coffee