Nothing is more contrary to the modern notion of success than “Ordinary”.
BE SOMEONE! DO SOMETHING! ACHIEVE!
Are phrases screamed in our ears every second from all directions. Ads, the shows we watch, the self-help books we read. They all make the grand claim that we can do better.
We can do better. I agree with them. I believe life is a constant state of growth and formation, and the more intentional we are, the better we grow. It’s like pruning the vine to make the tree stronger, to bear more fruit. But what about when our pruning efforts distract us from the root of that vine? When we spend more time trying to produce an excellent life rather than just living it?
I kept churning in my stomach as 2017 passed into memory, and 2018 came into all it’s pessimistic hopelessness (for me). A new year is often just a chance to under-perform last year, and so my childhood glee has faded dramatically. In an attempt to gain some hope, I have been seeking an epiphany of some kind, something to grant me a shred of anticipation for the new year.
I thought it hadn’t come.
But as I have awakened early these few mornings, it has continued to be a common theme. Value the Ordinary.
Aren’t those the stories we harken to? The nobody kid who becomes famous. The undiscovered diva who is just singing along in a choir. The business man who is at his last penny and discovers the great solution to a problem. Why are we all so completely enamored with Warren Buffett? He’s an ordinary man doing extraordinary things.
And that’s the right order, albeit a counterintuitive one. Much like a golf swing, when you try too hard to crush it, you enhance your slice or fade, but when you swing easy, the errors soften and while the ball may not be perfectly straight, you’re in the left or right of the fairway, not in the river. That seems a better place from which to learn the game and improve. Buffett prioritized the ordinary. So when he achieved something grand, it didn’t ruin him like it does so many. It was a byproduct of his life. Something almost irrelevant to his focus. There’s something reassuring about a personality like that because it’s not riding the wave of fad. It doesn’t get hyped and then flop. It doesn’t care whether it’s a star or not, in fact, people like Buffett may rather be forgotten for a little while.
What does it look like to begin sinking deeper into the ordinary? Maybe it’s just taking stock of what you have and just using it while being grateful. Maybe it’s not shooting for some grand “grand success” and instead stretching yourself to serve the clients you already have with even more intention and clarity.It’s holding off on growing bigger in order to grow deeper. It may not be gratifying, it may not be cool, but it’s a long play.
Don’t hear me saying, “Check out” or “Be Lazy”. That’s not it at all. It’s just choosing wisely where you are putting your efforts. Do they all need to go into business or hobby-time or problem solving? Maybe it’s just re-budgeting some effort away from growing our own ego into something surrounding us. Spending some sweat on someone else’s dream rather than our own. Coming alongside someone with a vision and helping them with what they are pursuing, rather than constantly weighing out what you have to gain from them.
I don’t have an answer for what Ordinary may yield in a life like mine, but I can see what it has brought others. So for 2018, maybe it’s good to focus not so much on our ambition, but on our service. To become a little less and see who around us becomes more.
What would this idea of Ordinary change in your life today?
Want some daily-life thinking in your inbox? I guess you can sign up here.