Typical Produces No Heroes

An excerpt from “Life Is What I Say It Is” If Malcolm Gladwell is right, that expertise comes from approximately 3 hours a day over 10 years, and if we spend that amount of time working, you will become an expert at what you do. Do you want to be an expert in something horribly boring? If you are going to be an expert, be an expert at what you love.

What is the definition of an “average” person?

That’s a hard definition to pin down because it relies on the fact that there are people who are superior and others who are inferior to compare them to. They are stuck in the middle — nor ying nor yang, nor great nor terrible. They inhabit the middle zone of nothingness, of insipidness, of blandness.

An “average” person is bland and lives a bland life. Who wants that? Certainly not anyone reading this.

When I think of an “average person”, this is what come to mind:

  • unaware of emotions
  • works a job they hate to pay the bills
  • paid just enough
  • creatively void of any expression
  • living life in a daze
  • submissive to what presents itself

To be “average” is to be “typical”, and to be “typical” is a very bad thing.

When someone does something negative or off-putting, a common comment is: “That’s so typical of her.” As humans, we categorize the bad stuff as “typical”, but I can’t recall the last time someone used the same language (not to mention the same annoyed tone of voice) to describe their spouse bringing flowers?

“Typical” is used to describe negative behaviors, but rarely the positive. That’s never what I’ve wanted for my life. If you use the word “typical” to describe anything I’ve ever done to you, I apologize — profusely — because I bet it wasn’t good.

I can’t think of any other adjective that is so commonly accompanied by an eye-roll. I can’t think of any other adjective that I hate more.

What would the world be like if every single person throughout history had been typical?

The dreamers, the revolutionaries, the mad ones that really changed our lives as we know it have been the opposite of typical. Take Steve Jobs or Galileo, for instance. Sure, they lived in different centuries and revolutionized our world in incredibly different ways, but they share this one trait: they were never typical.

It is an absolute exception to the rule of humanity to create immense change and wonder for the rest of the world. The outliers, the anomalous, the extraordinary — they are all what has moved our world forward at an incredible pace.

If we had all been “typical”, I wouldn’t be writing this book on a portable computer, and you wouldn’t be reading it on your mobile phone or tablet. If we had all been “typical”, my words would never have gotten to you — because they’d be stuck in physical notebooks somewhere in Nicaragua. Thank the “exceptional” ones for the Internet.

Our “typical” state of being is nowhere near heroic.

It’s rare to hear about someone saving a baby from a burning building, or a celebrity visiting a sick child in the hospital. There’s a reason beautiful stories like that makes the evening news — they are news-worthy only in that they are rare.

Those that do stand out, and maybe even make the evening news, are the best examples of our humanity at work. We are inherently social beings, and putting in the extra effort for another human is not only appreciable — it is also heroic.

Being a hero isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly worthwhile.

Very few people put themselves out there. Very few people think they can be heroes.

It’s sad, but undoubtedly true. Considering just how short the human lifespan truly is, very few people step up to take incredible action. Our lives are cut off from possibility at ever turn, all due to a little word called “fear.”

We are so afraid of what other people will think of us, avoiding ridicule and judgement like the bubonic plague, as if our very survival depended on our ability to please others. Not one of us is free from it…

We’re afraid of our parents’ and our siblings’ judgements. We’re afraid of how we look before the friends we’ve made. We’re afraid our bosses will not consider us worthy of a job. We’re afraid our significant others won’t like a new side of us we’ve started developing. We’re afraid to show many new things, even real parts of our identity. Damn the person who invented the word “approval.” We’re even afraid to succeed.

It’s a web of fear that surrounds the interpersonal relationships that inhabit this world. Each person sits around avoiding any true heroic action, fearing judgement and ridicule, while every person they are afraid of feels the same way.

I was afraid back then. I am still afraid now. I will be afraid for the rest of time.

But I am still a hero.

An “average” person feels fear, and it envelops them. It holds them down, planting them even more permanently in the status quo. The demanding job, the rotting friendships, the tepid creativity…fear whirls and whirls around them, forming a protective barrier against any sort of change. A “typical” person is stuck inside a tornado of fearful emotions, unable to move a finger.

An “extraordinary” person also feels fear, but it moves them. It lifts them up, spurring action more concrete and decided than ever before.

The heartbreak, the people suffering, the grand opportunity…fear lights a spark inside them, launching them forward to face any kind of obstacle. An “extraordinary” person enters the ring daily, fighting fear at every point in the path.

I always knew I wouldn’t be bland. I couldn’t. Bland is too painful, too boring. It’s not the way I choose to live.

Fear is always present — that’s not going to change. What changed is what I did with it. Instead of holding me back, it helped me. With fear’s help, I went from bland to extraordinary, from “typical” to “hero.” It’s time to shed the fear and move society forward.