When I look at my boys, I am both excited and terrified. I am excited because their life has just started. They have no limitations no worries, and they are motivated to reinvent their world.
My youngest attacks each day he climbs he falls he cries and does it all over again. My oldest has a fearless imagination and is predisposed to telling wild stories of sea monsters living in the midnight zone.
Failure for them is not the end of the story it sets in motion a series of questions, learning moments and even goals.
Yes, you are unremarkably average
I am terrified because their journey must yield to the reality that they must become members of society. An ordered community that has little tolerance for the round pegs in the square holes and covets conformity above all else.
As my boys comply, they will gradually lose the voracity to forge their path and eventually graduate to what Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, defines as — the unremarkable average.
Guillebeau illustrates that the unremarkable average lives by a set of rules, commandments if you will:
- Accept what people tell you at face value.
- Don’t question authority.
- Go to college because you’re supposed to, not because you want to learn something.
- Go overseas once or twice in your life, to somewhere safe like England.
- Don’t try to learn another language, everyone else will eventually learn English.
- Think about starting your own business, but never do it.
- Think about writing a book, but never do it.
- Get the largest mortgage you qualify for and spend 30 years paying for it.
- Sit at a desk 40 hours a week for an average of 10 hours of productive work.
- Don’t stand out or draw attention to yourself.
- Jump through hoops. Check off boxes.
Does that life sound strangely familiar to you? Don’t be afraid to say, “Yes.” This what conformity looks like, and no one will ever challenge you to be different.
Why regret will lead you to live on purpose
Richard Leider, the author of The Life Reimagined, found that most people regretted living an average life. They wished they had a better life. They wished they lived on purpose.
Leider interviewed hundreds of people over the age of 65 and asked one question, “If you could live your life over again what would you do differently?” Three themes kept repeating:
- I would be more reflective; I would stop to enjoy the moments of my life.
- I would be more courageous; I would not be fearful of not conforming.
- I would understand my purpose; because my life needs to matter.
If this sample of people regretted living an average life, then does everyone have the same regret? Is the right question, ”Why are you living your life the way other people expect you too?”
Tony Robbins explains, “The difference with anyone that has followed through is that we are more afraid of what life would be like if we don’t follow through.”
Fear, if allowed, can retard your choices. Now knowing this, how do you leverage fear and start taking small steps to live on purpose?
Committing to new skills will lead you to success
You commit to the skills that will give you the most freedom. How do you know what skills you need? You ask yourself two questions:
- What do I really want out of my life?
- What will I give back to my community for supporting me?
Turn your dream into a project, and like any project, you begin by creating three lists:
- A list of everything a plan needs to be considered a good project.
- A list of all the skills you don’t have that are important to the project’s success.
- A list of everything you are afraid of and out of your control.
At the beginning of most new projects, you will lack mastery of skills that are critical for success. Understanding this issue is vital and will condition you to focus on those necessary skills.
You could focus on mastering all the skills at once. Experience has taught me that dividing your limited energy is counterproductive. Instead, focus on one skill that will create the most freedom.
Once you have mastered the new skills and you have achieved your goal — it becomes a game. Why, because progress is happiness. Therefore, you start asking yourself, “What else can I do to create more freedom and happiness in my life?”
The Iron Cowboy Story
A story that recently caught my attention is about James “Iron Cowboy” Lawrence. In 2014 Lawrence set a new world record by achieving a personal goal of the 50, 50, 50 — that’s 50 iron distance triathlon races in 50 consecutive days in 50 states.
If you are unfamiliar with what an iron distance triathlon is, here is the breakdown:
- A 2.4-mile swim
- A 112-mile bike ride
- A 26.2-mile marathon run
No Lawrence is not superhuman he is a regular guy married with five kids. So what separates him from you — his why.
James ran a 4-mile race on Thanksgiving, and during that race, everything hurt — lungs, heart, legs, etc. At the end of that race, Lawrence decided his life had to change. Why, because James was not going to allow that moment to define his life.
It’s not a matter of how to get to the other side of that mountain. It’s which way am I going to do it — am I going to go over it, am I going to go around it, am I going to go through it? But ultimately at the end of the day, I am going to make it to the other side of that mountain. Come hell or high water.
At the end become a better you
We spend a lot of our lives being average and focusing on the wrong thing. What if you took that same energy and concentrated on becoming a better version of you? What if you focused on helping others achieve their dreams?
Your goals may never get national attention like James “Iron Cowboy” Lawrence, but what if you helped one person overcome a challenge? Wouldn’t that be more amazing than living an unremarkably average life?