If I introduced you to friends of mine by saying, “Hi, I want you meet my friend, Chris.  He’s an ordinary person,” you might be offended.  If school handed out bumper stickers that instead of reading “Honor Student,” read “Ordinary student:  Struggling Hard, Learning Lots,” would we be inclined to put that on our cars?  It’s totally acceptable for the winning team to chant, “We’re number one!”  We might look with pity if the loosing team chanted, “We tried our best, we tried our best!”

There is an understanding in our culture that you can only be proud of yourself and be admired by others if you win, if you are in the top few percent of your group, or you have established yourself as being at least well above average.  The accompanying myth is that to be average or ordinary is not good enough, not something to be proud of.

We tend to dismiss people or performances that are ordinary or average.  Often this dismissal is in the form of a pleasant, though condescending acknowledgement such as, “That’s nice” or “I’m sure you tried your best,” but it’s a dismissal nonetheless.  Average is not sufficient.  We should be better than average before we can be proud of ourselves or be recognized by others.

But what if we really are average in some things?  What if even with our best efforts, we are not able set any records, win any competitions, or be designated as the top performer?  What then?  Do we keep looking for something at which we can be the best, even if we have to make up a category?

The fact is, most of us are average in a great number of things.  Most of us are pretty darned ordinary, even if we excel at one thing or another.  Is that OK?  In our culture of competition and excellence, can we feel good about being ordinary?  I hope so, because most of us have no choice.

This is the first important principle in this series of articles; that we find ourselves to be incredibly ordinary in the midst of a culture that stresses excellence.  Since we have no choice about our ordinariness, how can we be OK with that?  In fact, can we be more than OK?  Is there a place for delight in our being ordinary?

Read on:

The dilemma of being extraordinary

The remarkable father

The joy of being ordinary