You Can't Tolerate Mediocrity and Expect Excellence!

May 5, 2021

Your success is largely predicated on what you tolerate... and what you don't. What do you tolerate that's holding you back?

The success one achieves in life is heavily predicated on what one tolerates.

This is so true on so many fronts and it becomes truer as I age. In fact, I think you have to come of age to really understand what this means.

Whatever dreams you have in life, the gap between you and achieving those dreams is made up of the things you tolerate.

It’s equally as true for business. Because business, like life, is a series of choices.

If you want to achieve certain levels of success in business, one of the biggest obstacles is always self-inflicted: It’s what you tolerate… and in many cases, it’s your mindset. What you tolerate is based on your mindset…

There’s a pattern forming here.

In business, if you tolerate mediocrity, your level of success will be mediocre. This is as universal as “what goes up must come down.”

If you have a low tolerance for mediocrity or failure, it’s the opposite. If you don’t tolerate B level players, your business culture will start attracting A level players.

People tolerate a lot of BS in their lives and then wonder why things don’t work out. What is that tolerance saying about you as a business leader? If I tolerate people being late to every meeting, what does that say about me as a leader and the company as a whole?

Steve Jobs famously made a point of surrounding himself with smart people, capable of challenging him when he made mistakes or pursued dead-end projects. But he also refused to tolerate people who didn’t care about the strength, growth, and vision of the company.  

At Roma, we don’t tolerate people who don’t care about living the core values of our company. While we are all different and celebrate our differences, our culture has often been strengthened as much by the people who are terminated for culture as it has by those we onboard.

The lowest common denominator can make or break a company. Tolerating a weak link in the chain allows the chain to break.

Where there is a low level of tolerance there is a high level of success.

We expect surgeons to have a zero tolerance for failure but in other areas our expectations are much, much lower.

Take theme parks, for example. Many theme parks treat customer experience almost as an afterthought. Attractions are allowed to look shabby. Employees aren’t held to a standard much above that of a Wal-Mart checkout clerk.

The notable exception, of course, is Disney Parks. They have zero tolerance for anything less than a magical customer experience. Which has put them in a class so far above the rest of the industry that you can’t even compare them as competitors. There’s Disney, and then there’s everyone else.

I hope the connection between low tolerance and success is becoming clear.

Consider this over the next few days: Challenge yourself to really pay attention to details you might otherwise overlook; to behavior you tend to step over or tiptoe around.

What are you, as a leader, walking around tolerating without even realizing it?

You might not like what you find…

The good news is, we all have blind spots and uncovering that tolerance blind spot is a huge step on the path to success.

What you tolerate tells people, both inside and outside your company, a lot about the essence of the company.

Great brands don’t have some secret to success squirreled away, hidden from the rest of the world. They simply do not tolerate sub-par performance. How you handle sub-par results defines your company’s trajectory and ultimate probability for success in the long term.

At Roma, our tolerance for poor customer experiences is extremely low because our expectations for exceptional customer experiences are extremely high.

Our company is great because of our people, specifically because we have zero tolerance when it comes to our core values. If a person doesn’t embrace and live Roma’s core values, that doesn’t mean they’re a terrible person, we don’t hold any ill will towards them, it just means it’s not a culture fit and they likely won’t succeed in a career here at Roma.

The consequence, of course, is that it may take you longer to find the right people.

It took a long time to get the right team together to put humans in space, because it’s an incredible feat of engineering that would never have happened if the people at NASA had tolerated mediocrity.

The people that got us there were crazy in all the right ways! And they attracted their tribe. In their early days, NASA attracted people so passionate, they were willing to sacrifice everything, even their lives, in pursuit of an advancement greater than themselves. That team aligned in values and mission, and therefore were able to fulfill their vision of a successful space program.

Ultimately, we are either standing in our own way or pushing ourselves forward.

What you tolerate is really always about you. That’s the key to anything you hope to achieve in life. If you tolerate a lot of BS and give yourself a lot of excuses to not move forward, you’re stuck.

Take your own tolerance success test:

1. List 2 or 3 business goals and 2 or 3 personal goals

2. List out everything you’re doing to help get closer to achieving those goals (This the tough part… be honest!)

3. Beside each goal, list out the reasons you’re on track to achieving them or not.

4. In many cases, half of the reasons why you aren’t achieving your goals are related to what you have tolerated.

Example: If you have a personal goal of swimming five days a week but you only managed two, what did you tolerate standing in your way? Fatigue? Work? Feeling bloated? The hockey game you wanted to watch?

5. Now, list out 2-3 things per goal you’re not going to tolerate going forward.

6. Check in with me in 30-60 days for progress… and believe me there will be progress!

Low Tolerance = High Achievement

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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