Mediocrity and You

A Jamaican animator’s letter to the industry

Jenille Listenmi
May 30 · 5 min read

Hello fellow Industry Person.

You might have noticed a recent wave of state funded workshops, festivals and institution building programmes that are creating a space for us all to be animation students. Compared with years gone by, now is a good time to be part of the new animation industry here in Jamaica. As a self-taught animator working at ListenMi Caribbean, I try to soak up free and affordable knowledge wherever I can. So I’m glad we are learning the craft, the business, the value of communication and teamwork.

But I am going to say something with the best of intentions:

Be awesome, please. 😔

As we begin to set up shop in a tiny corner of the global animation industry, I want my future colleagues to stand among the best that the world has to offer. That means not being mediocre.

Mediocrity. The thing we can’t afford.

Mediocrity is being satisfied with and validated for being average, passable, and just OK. As amateurs, mediocrity is a natural part of the process as we learn to create without fear. But if we become satisfied with validation for just passable animation work, we may not feel the need to produce at global standards.

Mediocrity can lower our chances of joining others across the world who have mastered their skills. It can prevent our nascent animation industry from ever making it past puberty. We don’t want the work from our budding animation industry to be branded as ‘lame.

Instead, I believe it would be in our best interest to ‘done the place.’

So here are 3 thoughts on understanding mediocrity and side stepping it gracefully: Mediocrity is a Mindset. Encourage Excellence. Don’t Half Ass it.

Mediocrity is a Mindset

Most of us are new at figuring out what we are good at, which is cool. We won’t start off being amazing because mastery is a process. The problem isn’t passing through that stage, it’s staying there. That can happen when we get too comfortable too quickly with what we’ve done.

I get it. As an animator, sometimes I do the work and I feel great that I actually did it. I just want to stop there and celebrate, instead of going a little further and trying harder. It’s easy to accept what I’ve done when I get that little bit of satisfaction… but that doesn’t mean that my work is actually good. I could probably do better. And I have to try.

This doesn’t just apply to animators either. The mediocrity mindset can set in at any level: as trainers designing programs to teach skills; business owners envisioning what they want for their creative companies; or government officials who help to determine the direction this industry goes. If we aren’t willing to ‘done the place’ in all these areas, we are shooting ourselves in the right hand (or whichever hand you use to draw). ✋🔫

Encourage Excellence

Don’t let your friends or colleagues be mediocre either. Share constructive criticism and take critique well. Be the best you can be at your job. What you don’t know, learn it.

Hone your skill and let your team trust that they can give you a task and you’ll do a great job. ‘Team’ really just means ‘group work,’ which you’ll never really escape if you want to be an animator working on big projects.

As members of the new animation community, we don’t have time to waste half assing anything if the industry is going to work here.

My hope for us is that our teams are awesome in every way. Every member a superstar. We will individually be good, but we will be amazing together.

Don’t Half Ass It

To not half ass it you have to continuously improve your process. I’ve found that this often means a lot more hard work than I wished was necessary. And it definitely means not letting my ego get in the way of improvement.

Leveling up requires constant study and practice to train your eye and improve your hand. This could look like seeking mentorship, investing in workshops or internet lessons. It means sacrifice; staying up later to get some minor detail right.

Not every sketch or exercise needs to be finished and fully rendered. Sometimes you’ll have to work out whether it’s worth the time to continue or to stop where you are and get better at something else. There are limits to what we can do after all. It is a balancing act.

The bar is being raised every day we see amazing work on screen. We have to rise to meet it before we can even consider raising it ourselves. All of this is a lot of hard, labour intensive work especially to get us started.

Nuff a wi aguh bawl ova dis and stress out ‘bout not being good enough. But I think that’s a better place to be than mediocrity. Working on it means we’re passing through it. Mediocrity will never let us be part of the best that the world has to offer. But consistently doing your best even when it’s painful allows you to improve what your best means.

So go forth and be great!


This was contributed by Jenille Listenmi. She doesn’t talk much but when she’s passionate about a thing (like we 👏 can’t 👏 be 👏 mediocre👏 guys!) she can be pretty vocal. Give this post a👏 👏 if you’re thinking about this stuff, and share it with others who do too.

‘Just writing this article kicked my butt guys. Every point I made here came back to haunt me. Sometimes this stuff can be hard to swallow’- Jenille

Jenille is a character designer and animator at ListenMi, an animation preproduction and design studio for culture based content. Find more of her work on her instagram, ListenMi’s instagram and ListenMi.com.

Thoughts on animation, culture-inspired storytelling, technology and social change from a Jamaican animation studio and design lab.

Jenille Listenmi

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Thoughts on animation, culture-inspired storytelling, technology and social change from a Jamaican animation studio and design lab.

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