Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

June 2013

When Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

Growing up, my Dad taught my brothers and me the importance of being special. It made little difference to him what we excelled in—as long as we excelled. I was a late bloomer. While both of my older brothers were exceptional students from the moment they entered school, it wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I found my niche: art.

My Dad had our best interests at heart; he wanted his boys to be successful. What he didn’t know was that he also taught us that self-esteem had to be earned, and one had to be extraordinary—rather than ordinary—to earn it. 

I’ve felt special for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s because I was the youngest child by twelve years, or because I grew up with certain social and financial advantages, or my Enneagram type (Three). Whatever the reason, feeling like a stand-outserved me well during the first half of my life. My confidence contributed to a successful career in public relations. In the second half of life, however, my “specialness” is more of a liability than an asset. I have come to realize that if I am special, then I am separate from others; and nowconnection has become more important to me than career success.

For most of my life, I’ve felt like an outsider. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons, I collected outsider art. I’m now experiencing a sense of belonging that I’ve never felt before.

Being ordinary has become extraordinary. When comparison and competition give way to compassion and empathy, and my focus shifts from what makes me unique to what makes us the same, I’m happier and more at peace.

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