THE BLOG

Escape Mediocrity: a Takeaway From China

01/08/2014 17:39 BST | Updated 30/09/2014 10:59 BST

Escape Mediocrity: a Takeaway from Chinawritten by Maite Baron The Corporate Escape Coach

Can you escape mediocrity? Not surprisingly perhaps, given that what I do is help people create new lives for themselves by doing something different, I'm always interested in a good 'rags to riches' story... though not the instant X Factor fame that comes from winning a talent show. I'm more interested in success that is the result of hard work, application of effort and the harnessing of talent.

Fortunately in the UK you don't have to look far to find people who are achieving success this way. You can see them on Dragon's Den, or read about them in the press, or even follow their evolution in real life, if it's one of your clients, colleagues, friends or family.

This can happen because we're living in an increasingly vibrant entrepreneurial society. That's reflected in the latest statistics from the ONS which show that 90% of new jobs created in Britain in the fourth quarter of 2013 were classed as self-employed.

To me that's a real positive and yet more evidence of people wanting to take control of their lives, rather than a sign of desperation, as some sceptical journalists would have us believe.

I'm sure that starting up your own business and working for yourself is increasingly the pattern of things to come, and I believe it will provide us with opportunities, not just in terms of wealth creation, but also for social mobility and individual well being.

So though not perfect, the environment for business here is pretty good, particularly when put in an international context.

Take a look at China for instance.

Since the 1990s, when the Communist Party began to introduce 'free market' principles, the country has undergone a dramatic transformation to become one of the world's leading economies.

In the first three months of this year alone, its economic growth was 7.8% - a phenomenal figure. Here in the UK it was 0.8% and we're considered to be doing well.

And China is now said to be second in the world billionaire rankings with 152. Only America has more, with 492.

So surely this economic revolution must be fertile ground for any would-be entrepreneur in the country?

There's no doubt that many Chinese are far better off than they were just a few years ago (in fact higher wages may already be eroding China's competitive manufacturing advantage). However, life for a great many is still about being stuck at the bottom, unable to escape from where they are... and we're talking not about the traditionally disadvantaged, but well-educated professional workers.

This section of the population even has its own disparaging name that's used by others and themselves... diaosi... or loser... which actually translates as, and I can't put this delicately, 'male pubic hair' in Chinese.

Figuratively it is a declaration of powerlessness in an economy where it is getting harder for the regular guy to succeed.

And the term isn't confined to just a few disgruntled employees. In fact, last year a survey of office workers by a Beijing-based research company found that 90% of programmers and journalists and around 80% of those in the food, service and marketing sectors classified themselves as such.

They feel their lives have no meaning and that they live just to work. Often not in relationships, and living in tiny spaces they can barely afford, when they're not at work they spend their time watching TV and playing video games. For them, life is a mind-numbing drive on a motorway with no exits, that's heading nowhere.

So it seems that China's economic growth, rather than enabling people to move upwards, is actually keeping them trapped as worker drones, watching as the gap between themselves and those at the top - civil servants, government workers, Communist Party officials, the 'second generation rich' and 'the privileged' - gets ever wider.

In fact, there was probably more social mobility 20 years ago.

I've drawn attention to this 'China Syndrome' because so many of us in the West feel similarly trapped and dissatisfied. However, unlike our Chinese counterparts, we do have the opportunity to escape from where we are. And though we may feel stuck, in reality we aren't stuck at all. Most of us could almost certainly extricate ourselves from where we are by choosing to do so, and finding the courage to follow our dreams.

But before you can even start to make any personal change, you have to believe that you can. In China, the diaosi don't believe that they can. Lost in what they see as an ocean of faceless drones in a vast workforce, it's exceptionally difficult for them to feel that you could stand out and break away.

These Chinese workers also don't have the means to make the transition easily. There are no real mechanisms by which they can break free from the millions of others who are in a similar position.

This isn't to say that no one in China is free to rise up, only that conditions don't make it easy.

Of course, even here in the UK, we're often our own worst enemy by doing nothing to change our situation, and just putting up with what we've got because somehow "things will get better".

However, those who choose to do something differently can create richer and more meaningful lives for themselves and you can do the same. You just need to see life as an amazing opportunity to be who you were born to be, and not just a small expression of your full potential.

Now I'd love to hear from you.

Which opportunities are you ignoring that could help take you to the direction you want to go?

Let me know.

Be generous with your comments and your experiences to inspire others.

Thank you for reading and sharing in the comments below.

And if you have enjoyed this article, then please share it with others.

Double Award winning book, Reader Favorite Gold Award and Nautilus Silver Award Maite Baron Corporate Escape The Rise of The New Entrepreneur

Looking for more inspiration from the Award winning author, speaker and coach Maite Baron, then download 2 free chapters from her Nautilus 2014 Award winning book Corporate Escape The Rise of the New Entrepreneur. With the bonus that you will receive her weekly thought provoking updates. Get your download here.

With gratitude,

Maite