Forget the extraordinary. Chase the ordinary.
Here’s the thing: unless you make actual time travel a reality sometime this century, nothing you’ll ever do is going to be remarkable enough.
If that’s news to you because your mummy told you that you could do anything, I urge you to rush to the nearest mirror and have a serious conversation with yourself.
And I’m not even talking about insignificance in the grand scheme of things. I’m talking about insignificance in the average, it’s-all-been-done-before scheme of things. Because even that is pretty hard to beat.
We often worry about being remembered for some humanity-altering legacy. Or, if it’s not for contributing to a great cause, we – at least secretly – may sometimes wish to be remembered for something relatively substantial. After all, it’s in our instinct as competitive creatures to want to stay ahead of the game and leave our mark.
And while it’s of great use for us to push our own boundaries and seek greater experiences in life, this thirsty search for the exceptional is distracting us from the one thing that is truly extraordinary: the ordinary.
The regular days.
Maybe what makes us extraordinary has nothing to do with a grand achievement – be it intentional or otherwise.
It’s the ordinary days in which we can find some of life’s most breathtaking moments. For some, it’s lying under a tree for hours one ordinary afternoon in July. For others, it’s making time to exercise. Or read. Or be at the party everyone is still talking about three days later. Or maybe it’s laughing copiously at a friend’s failed attempt to throw a frisbee over a fence. You name it.
It’s these regular moments that make life be worth a damn. Because all of these non-singular moments – together – make for the stories worth telling.
So try and notice more of the things and people and experiences around you. If you see a goddamn rainbow, stop and look at it (just know that doing so in the middle of a busy pavement will make other pedestrians want to murder you.) Smile without a reason. And live life like a puppy golden retriever. Even on an average Tuesday.
After all, the extraordinary is never really that extraordinary anyway. No matter what you achieve, someone, somewhere, will be able to go even further than you. No matter your IQ, someone’s IQ will be higher. Someone’s music skills will be better and someone’s business idea will redefine the industry in which you’re just planning to start out. And that’s not something to which we can attribute a degree on a scale from good to bad. It’s simply a fact. Like the fact that humans have nipples.
Perhaps it’s time we stopped worrying about legacies and quantifiable success. That is by no means to say that hard work, talent and passion count for nothing. Those things have made progress possible in its most encompassing sense. It’s not the hard work and determination we should reconsider. But maybe it’s worth shifting the conversation from the extraordinary being achieved through superhuman success to one where the extraordinary is in the way we live, regardless of our so-called success. A conversation in which we pay more attention to those moments that sound rather common but feel pretty spectacular.
So if you’re an entrepreneur worried about triggering whatever craze is next after the iPhone; or if you’re a scientist trying to make commercial rockets to Mars a reality; or even solve the Riemann hypothesis after almost 160 years of failure – never stop. Just stop and look around you. The extraordinary isn’t in an abstract future. It’s in an ordinary now.
If life’s for living – if life really is about making the most of now, with all its regular, unplanned moments – then the ordinary beats the crap out of the extraordinary. And who knows, the ordinary might even surprise you.