— Mindset — 2 min read
The internet always highlights the first place winners, the billionaires, the award-winning artists, the best-selling authors, the largest philanthropists, the extraordinary. Their stories are ones of success, of inspiration. They show us what is possible, and push us to achieve more.
But I don't feel inspired when I see extraordinary. I feel disappointed, jealous. My constant exposure to these amazing stories of success has normalized the extraordinary. I started comparing myself to these "normal" extraordinary people, and wondered why I was not them. This disappointment would incite me to take action, but after a few days of hard work, I would just quit. Quitting was easier; it helped me avoid thinking about the extraordinary and the negative dark clouds that I had shrouded it with.
This mentality was self-defeating. No one starts off as extraordinary, so that meant I quit a lot in the past. Over time, I came to realize two things:
We need to redefine extraordinary. Extraordinary is often defined by the internet as a permanent trait someone has. They seemed to have been born with it, and extraordinary permeates their every pore.
But real extraordinary is nothing like this. Yes, it's exciting, but it also comes with sacrifices, limitations, and constraints. And it's not permanent. Extraordinary can disappear over time, just like you can achieve it over time.
Extraordinary also comes in many forms, and its value does not have to be measured in terms of money. You can be a tech giant who built their entire empire from scratch, just as you can be an amazing organizer who rallies entire communities together for a single cause. You can be a top-notch violinist player, or a inspiring storyteller. Extraordinary can be anything. Sometimes, when you realize what extraordinary really entails, you might not even want it. That's okay.
Extraordinary should not be the end goal. I like to envision the extraordinary space in society as a small ledge at the top of a cliff. It gives you a beautiful view and a sense of accomplishment, but is also tight and oppressing. The sheer physical constraints means that not everyone will reach it. But that shouldn't stop you from putting a hand on the cliff and lifting yourself towards that ledge.
Why? Because the ledge is not the only thing that exists. There is a vast amount of space under it, other ledges, crooks, and crannies, that most people forget about. That space is just as valuable.
For example, someone starting out on Youtube might be disappointed that they don't have millions of subscribers. They don't think they have what it takes, so they quit. But most people don't only look at the channels with millions of subscribers. Smaller ones are as valuable for viewers, and the creators can get just as much value out of creating their original content and connecting with like-minded people.
So instead of searching for an extraordinary that is distorted and unrealistic, search to climb up to some space beneath the top ledge. You will be less disappointed and jealous, and you will still maintain some velocity in the right direction. Climbing to a higher vantage point can also unlock new forms of extraordinary that you might have never noticed before.
By consistently climbing and reassessing which direction to take, you might just reach your own extraordinary as a bonus.