Social Question

ETpro's avatar

How can you be normal yet extraordinary?

Asked by ETpro (34242 points ) December 4th, 2012

As Max Lucardo correctly observed, “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” Most of us want to be normal enough to fit in comfortably with our neighbors and coworkers. We’d like to think we’re a normal guy or gal.

At the same time, many of us want to be extraordinarily successful at one or more of our life’s activities. Have you reconciled both wishes? How do you personally attempt to resolve the tension between a wish to be normal and a wish to be abnormally good—to succeed above and beyond the norm?

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17 Answers

Unbroken's avatar

You always have so many excellent questions.
I almost don’t know how to approach this question which I suppose in itself is the answer.
I do have acceptance at work, a sense of normalcy through connections with people accepted topics and a certain amount of routine.

I also have done things outside of work, that have temporarily fulfilled me, or I thought they did None of these things have a truly lasting quality, even if I continue to do them and get better just in smaller quantities, or reject them.

Is it just the search that is programmed in the need to conquer, to know, to taste, experience and do as much as I can? Perhaps it is that I haven’t found my niche. I think it is a little of both. But I am learning and getting closer, though at times the ride feels tidal.

What about you? What are your conclusions on the matter?

cheebdragon's avatar

I’m normally extraordinary.
(...in my own mind)

bookish1's avatar

I’ve never experienced that tension. I’m mixed race, bicultural, and had to transition so that I could envision living to the age of 25. I couldn’t be normal if I tried and I have never wanted to try. I am glad to be in academia where I am accepted for being creative and diligent at what I do, and not for how mainstream I am.

burntbonez's avatar

Sounds like a koan to me. I shall dance my answer.

Dsg's avatar

I never tried to be normal because I’m not. Everyone is their own unique individual. Even when I was in high school I was always my own self and felt if people didn’t accept me for who I was….then screw them. If someone doesn’t like you because they think you are weird then they can’t really be a nice person and they certainly aren’t a friend. I want to be different and I like being different. Life would be way to boring if everyone was normal. I accept people for what they are and I try very hard not to judge how people look and act. I try to be open minded about all things. Life’s to short to get your panties all twisted up in a wad!

wundayatta's avatar

Normal is a statistical fiction. No one is normal. Everyone varies from the average, just about. Even if you are average on one measure, you are not normal everywhere. Extraordinary means you are far from the mean on some measure. Most of us are far from the mean in some way. I’m sure we’re all close to the mean in other ways. It’s probably pretty common to be normal yet extraordinary.

Does anyone care? Should anyone care? Is there meaning in this? I doubt it. I think it is a cool sounding phrase that means next to nothing.

Coloma's avatar

Who wants to be “normal”.I like being eccentric, and I am extraordinary in my own way.
We all are. :-)

Unbroken's avatar

Wow I love how everyone quails at the word “normal.”
My take is it is a relative term. In this question I view it as: Do you fit are you accepted in the realm where you work and frequent?
Would people pick you at as the odd person out?
Maybe I am wrong and @ETpro can elaborate on this further.

ETpro's avatar

@rosehips Regarding your original question I care about both, and often feel the internal conflict that presents. In fact, just thinking about how to answer you has me in a quandary. I care about being socially accepted, but not enough so to compromise my core values and certainly not enough so to deliberately slack off on things I know I am particularly gifted at doing. If and when that makes me unpopular, I’d prefer that fate to the humdrum existence of the good old boys.

@cheebdragon In my mind as well. In the interest of peace, I won’t say what it is I think you’re extraordinary at. :-)

@bookish1 Great Answer, and I am delighted for you that you have found a niche where the iconoclast is welcomed as a fellow traveler. Would that all could be so fortunate.

@burntbonez 公案 are us. Dance on.

@Daisygurl Would I sound abnormal if I admitted that sometimes in high school I did get my panties twisted in a knot? It hurt, too. Surely in your high school there was a lunch room pecking order. The jocks and cheerleaders and the socially connected occupied the primo table near the door. The nerds had their own table. The poor kids who were just socially inept and intellectually average to below were at the bottom rung of the lunchroom ladder.

If you are saying that you didn’t want to joust for that top table, then I’m with you. If you’re saying it didn’t exist, or that doing your best to sit at it didn’t have any impact on your high school social life, then I think you’re either kidding us or yourself.

@wundayatta It is true, but truth doesn’t always drive human behavior. Ephemeral values that can’t be grasped and firmly held often do.

@Coloma As do I. I always have. But it took years to come to grips with that.

@rosehips It is interesting, isn’t it. I am sure that all but a few do make efforts to fit in with their neighborhood. Those that refuse pay a high price.

thorninmud's avatar

You’re describing the tug-of-war between ego and the longing for unity. It’s a fundamental, existential human conflict.

On one level we seek to distinguish ourselves so that we can justify our sense of being an entity apart from others; this is the ego’s attempt to assert its independence and make itself stand out.

But the ego’s campaign of differentiation butts up against another fundamental drive: the longing to melt into union. Differentiation is a constant battle, because it isn’t sustainable without effort. In the grand scale of things, the individual gets lost in the awesome churning of the world, an insignificant blip. Where the ego is terrified of that insignificance, we also recognize that there’s a beauty in surrendering the battle for differentiation.

We get a taste of that surrender in our experience of love, which is a surrender into unity on a limited scale. We also taste it when music or nature momentarily makes the walls of ego fall away. So we know from these limited experiences that not being something special is a refreshing respite from the struggle of being separate. It feels like giving in to the natural state, coming home.

Unbroken's avatar

@thorninmud Beautiful. I think the struggle is much less a conflict then it appears on paper or in thought though. I think it is something that takes some time merely to find the balance and flow and then even amoungst the waves and tides of humanity we flash our tune. We distingush ourselves that may only impact those immediately around us. But it still happens.
@ETpro Or at least change their circumstances or environment. I think the world is far more accepting then we think and focusing on the areas of commonality we share as well as being kind, diplomatic and tactful, which you seem to be proficient it, is enough to keep us from being ostrascized in a painful way.

Is not true that there are far more members in the orchestra and only so many solos?

cheebdragon's avatar

@ETpro Personally, I don’t care about peace, but if I shared my opinion of you it would just be moderated as a personal attack.

FreshlyBaked's avatar

I’m days late for this question, yet no one has left this here. Extraordinary.

Shippy's avatar

I think people who do fit in and are extraordinary are the said extraordinary by default. It is a lot easier and requires a lot less talent to be an Einstein scribbling away in ones attic. I find excellence mixed with mundane genius in itself.

ETpro's avatar

@cheebdragon Yes, I know.

JenniferP's avatar

You may not be the most smart, pretty or talented but if you try at life and make good decisions, have a good work ethic and are a good person, then you are extraordinary.

ETpro's avatar

@JenniferP I suppose that’s right, because I know so very many people who don’t manage to rise to that level.

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