@vgr: The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial, part two. He gives two examples of alternatives to premium mediocrity:
Unlike Maya Millennial, your friendly neighborhood artisan barista Molly Millennial actually cares enough about taste to log serious hours cultivating it. Molly Millennial’s condition is sincerely aestheticized precarity. [...] And at the other end of the spectrum you have the hustler, Max Millennial, arbitraging living costs and, with a bit of geo-financial judo, attempting a Boydian flanking maneuver around the collapsing middle-class script.
Four-hour workweek my ass. The Bali-based lifestyle designer people are the second hardest working people I know. Second only to hipsters avariciously collecting and hoarding TasteCoins.
Why not premium mediocre? Because they have skills. (I don't get it though.)
Both seek substance. One seeks financial substance within reach of non-exceptional individual striving far from white elephant student loans and high rents. The other seeks cultural substance far from centers of soul-sucking premium-mediocre consumption theaters. Both work hard at acquiring real skills. Max Millennial can actually market on the Internet and make memes happen. Molly Millennial can actually guide you to better coffee than Starbucks offers.
Except that @vgr claims their choices are actually worse than Maya's.
Neither Molly, nor Max, has accepted the bargain at the heart of premium mediocrity that Maya Millennial has, which is to refuse to deny either the need for meaning or the need for financial sustainability. Which is why — and this is definitely my attempt at supplying a redemptive account of Maya Millennial’s choices as being fundamentally the correct ones — she chooses to fake both for a while in the hope of acquiring both for good later.
Because Maya Millennial, you see, is the basic bitch. A risk-taker who wants it all. Meaning and money.
Molly thinks Maya has a taste problem; that she is a beyond-the-pale philistine. But Maya knows she actually has a long-term financial sustainability problem and refuses to be in denial about it.
Max thinks Maya has a skills problem; that she’s a bullshit artist who cannot deliver the twitter trends she pretends to understand. But Maya knows she actually has a long-term meaning problem and refuses to be in denial about it.
[...] Oddly enough, Maya, she of the consciously worn mask and obviously premium mediocre theatrical life, is the most real person in this particular glass menagerie. Molly and Max Millennial, so sure of their own authenticity, are in fact the robots with Real People Personalities,™ products of Sirius Cybernetics. It is their pleasure to serve a fine cup of coffee for you, with artisan pride. Or a finely crafted marketing campaign for your fundamentally shitty product, delivered from Bali at a quarter of your local costs, with stoic grace.
Hmmmm. "A finely crafted marketing campaign for your fundamentally shitty product" is something I can see myself doing. Proud of myself and not of the outcome.
What would the real alternative be?
Having actual goals. Trying to get something not because you want to have done it, but because you want it done.
From this point of view, "doing something and observing the consequences" is actually very much mediocrity. You're not trying to get anything. You just do something and look. It's easy. You aren't making a genuine effort. You aren't setting to "achieve the impossible", in EY's words.
It's not premium mediocrity, but it is mediocrity nonetheless. It is the opposite of not-half-assing things.
There is something about "Maya knows she actually has a long-term meaning problem and refuses to be in denial about it".
Molly (the barista) will never get comfortably rich. She's not even trying.
Max (the hustler) will never have a meaningful life. He's not even trying.
Intuitively, Maya has a shot at getting comfortably rich, and a half-shot at having a meaningful life. So, Maya wins. How did that happen?
Because Molly and Max became content. Each thinks "okay, I can do something". So they don't care about [the other thing]. They are unsatisfied-but-satisfied.