In defense of being ‘ordinary’

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” ― Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Do you see yourself as “ordinary” or “special”?

Likewise, do you see people who have achieved incredible things — people like Michael Jordan, Beethoven, and other seemingly godlike figures — as “ordinary” or “special”?

Interestingly, if you see yourself and/or others as “special,” then you fall into what Dr. Carol Dweck calls a “fixed mindset.”

Special implies some inherent trait that separates or draws a line between yourself and others.

If you view people who have achieved brilliant things as “special” or “different” rather than “ordinary,” then there is no way you can become like them.

If you view yourself as “special” and “different,” then that mindset will at some point paralyze you from being seen as anything otherwise. Your fear of not being viewed as special will stop you from trying bigger stuff that might fail.

You’ll plateau very quick with this mindset.

When you dig into the psychology of those who have achieved greatness, more often then not, they view themselves as ordinary and trying to get better. They aren’t obsessed with their skills. Instead, they are focused on their goals and the efforts it takes to achieve them. They aren’t thinking about the past, but the future. And their future is fundamentally bigger than their past. As a result, they are HUMBLE about where they are.

The highest performers in the world, those who are amazing — AND CONTINUE GETTING BETTER — are those who don’t see themselves from a fixed perspective.

In the words Condoleezza Rice, the American political scientist and 66th United States Secretary of State, “I firmly believe you should never spend any time being the ‘former’ anything.”

Success can actually lead to a fixed-mindset because at some point or another you begin to believe your own press. You begin to start believing you actually are different from other people, and that your success is the product of your difference, rather than your vision and action.

This is actually very common — more common than not.

It’s very difficult for people to get to the top and STAY ON THE TOP. It’s hard for people who have been successful to successfully pivot to something else after they’ve succeeded big in one area.

Most people plateau at some point and stop striving for learning and further development, and instead, begin seeing themselves a certain way and over-attaching to a particular status they have.

Ordinary = Transformable

“What on earth would make someone a non-learner? Everyone is born with an intense drive to learn. Infants stretch their skills daily. Not just ordinary skills, but the most difficult tasks of a lifetime, like learning to walk and talk. They never decide it’s too hard or not worth the effort. Babies don’t worry about making mistakes or humiliating themselves. They walk, they fall, they get” ― Carol S. Dweck

If you learned how to walk, then you are ordinary.

If you are ordinary, then you can change and upgrade yourself.

If you can walk and talk, then you’ve learned the hardest skills you’ll ever have to learn. Everything else is simply an appendage of these skills.

The moment you begin to believe you’re special is the moment you’ve fallen into the fixed mindset. If you’re special, then there is something inherent in you that you were born with and can’t change.

Being ordinary is far more fun.

It takes off the useless pressure of “perfect.” As Dan Sullivan has said, “80% is getting results while 100% is still thinking about it.”

It opens the door to learning and growth.

It allows space to breathe, not have all the answers, make mistakes, and pivot.

Be ordinary. But choose to create whatever life you want for yourself.

You don’t have to have an ordinary life or lifestyle. You can make millions of dollars, influence millions of lives, and essentially, do whatever you want.

But only if you’re ordinary and a learner.

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This article first appeared on Medium.