At around age 12 or 13, in early highschool I was called the worst insult of my life …’normal’…
Normal, ordinary, nobody special.
In a world full of people trying to prove themselves, the pain of being seen as normal or ordinary was enormous.
If we look around our world today, the fear of ordinary is all around us. People everywhere trying to be remarkable in some way. Trying to be a hero. Trying to go down in history as ‘the greatest’, ‘the richest’, ‘the smartest’, ‘the bravest’, ‘the uniquest’.
You see it in high school students with their rebellion against the norms of the world.
You see it in the pursuit of concrete awards – gold medals, world records, peace prizes.
You see it in the race to the top in academia.
You see it in social media and who can get the most likes.
You see it in the endless striving for virtue. Who can display the most mental toughness, who can express the most outrage.
You see it in burnout and perfectionism and comparison with others and the constant striving for the impossible.
On one hand this drive to be noticed, to be different, to be exceptional serves us and humanity well. We advance as individuals and as a society.
But sometimes I think this striving for exceptionality is our undoing.
In trying so hard to stand out from the crowd we lose sight of ourselves and what we really have to contribute to the world.
We lose sight of the fact that we are all unique anyway – and in striving for recognition we miss some fundamental opportunity to really give to the world.
Perhaps true courage and true greatness and true exceptionality comes from letting go of yourself and focusing on what needs to be done.
Maybe true greatness is in all those small and hidden kindnesses we do for others that will never make the front page.
Possibly the best way to be ‘the best’ is to stop trying and turn your attention instead to what needs to be done in this moment.
Focusing on what life needs of you in this moment and fulfilling that meaning wholeheartedly.
Being unusual or extraordinary ceases to be special when everyone wants it.
Consider instead the awesomeness of the ordinary …the mundane…the small things fulfilled in service of another.
All these show our uniqueness and specialness within our ordinary.
When I’m at my best I’ve forgotten about myself and striving for exceptionality.
In letting go of all of that I have room to breathe. Room to act. Room to discover the extraordinary within the ordinary.
So maybe it’s when we let got of this relentless pursuit is when we’ll accidentally find it.