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I would love to tell you all of the things at which I am naturally great. To create a magnificent curriculum vitae encompassing the skills, abilities, and talents that just came to me as naturally as breathing.
But I can’t.
This isn’t humility or modesty. It’s not that I don’t take pride in things that I’ve accomplished, or that I would never try to impress people with cool things I’ve done. No, it’s something else entirely.
You see, I’m not naturally great at anything. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I’m great at anything at all. I know that right now I have friends and family members who are reading this, feeling an urge to protest. Already, I can read their arguments in text message or e-mail, or hear what they’ll say when they call.
“But you’re a natural at research and writing! You’re such a smart guy.”
I am good at research and writing. In fact, sometimes I’m even great. But none of that came naturally — I just wrote a bunch of stuff until it started getting better. If you look at some of the early articles on this site, you’ll see a much different level of quality back in 2015 than you see now.
“You’re a natural public speaker! You’re never nervous, and always seem to know what to say.”
Again, I’m not naturally that way. It’s something that I learned how to do. I’m naturally terrified every single time I have to speak in front of a group.
“Well, you’re so naturally positive and optimistic — that’s incredibly important.”
Wrong again. Not about positive attitudes being important — that’s true — but about me being naturally positive. In fact, my internal compass needle naturally points toward negativity, cynicism, selfishness, and laziness. I’ve worked hard to become a positive person.
I’m not a natural
The truth is, I’m not a natural at anything. I’m decently clever and have developed a pretty good work ethic — mostly thanks to my parents. I’m extraordinary in only one way, and that’s that I’m extraordinarily average.
And that’s okay.
Seriously, it’s fine.
I can always try to improve. Strive for greatness. Work on being the best possible version of myself. But if I’m never truly “great” it’s not the end of the world. It’s enough to just be me.
So who am I?
Well ain’t that the question? I don’t want to get too far into the philosophical weeds at the moment — we’d wander out there for days — but when we start digging into defining ourselves outside of the concept of competition and success, things can get a little weird.
Which is, I suppose, a decent enough place to start. Because I am a little weird.
While I haven’t mastered the Delphic maxim, “know thyself,” I have learned a little bit about Wade over the years. And part of that has included coming to the realization of who and what I am. And what I’m not. More importantly, it has included accepting who and what I am, and who and what I am not.
I’m not a gold-medal winner, but I’ve come home with the occasional bronze.
I’ve never been the hero, but I’ve always been a pretty solid sidekick.
The spotlight doesn’t focus in on me, but I’m usually better behind the curtain anyway.
I’m not a master of anything, but I’m reasonably competent in a lot of areas. Hell, I’m even good in more than a few.
In other words, despite the fact that I’m a little weird, I’m actually pretty ordinary.
Here’s an uncomfortable truth
Most of us will not be Olympic athletes or action heroes. We will likely need to have jobs and won’t be independently wealthy. In most areas of our lives we won’t be amazing. Or great.
Sometimes we won’t even be good, merely competent. And sometimes we’ll suck.
These aren’t character flaws. It’s simply part of being human. Our books, TV shows, movies and comics have many of us convinced that we should be experts in multiple fields, mastered at least two fighting styles, traveled the world and look like a supermodel by the time we’re in our late 20s.
Of course, that’s all bullshit. It’s simply not how things work. In most areas of our life, we’re just going to be ordinary. Like pretty much everyone else.
So what now?
So we’re all pretty much ordinary. It’s still what we do with our lives that matters. Accepting that we’re not exceptional doesn’t mean that we have to lead boring lives. You can rage that you’re not the best damned runner in the world, or you can just shut up and try to be the best runner you can be. You can bemoan that you can’t backpack around the world, but it’s remarkably more effective to just pack a bag and spend a weekend in the woods.
Complaining is easy — doing shit is hard.
So do you want to complain about the fact that you’re ordinary, or do you want to shut up, lead an adventurous life, and become the best possible version of yourself that you can be?
Because in a world where we’re all mediocre, striving to improve is, well, extraordinary