Sandra’s Review: Sandra has been rendered speechless after reading this post.
Disclaimer: I am in no way trained or qualified to give personal advice. This fact has never stopped me from doing so. However, if you really need professional help, there are tons of people who are licensed, certified or trained such as your local clergy person, psychologist, physician or life coach.
Hit that B in your Word font settings and you get something that stands out, if you remember to highlight the appropriate text. That’s what we need to do in life. Highlight the bold moves, delightful or disastrous, that accentuate our ordinary lives. I am an ordinary person, schlepping along in life, making decisions, taking actions, and crashing on the couch after a long, hard day of schlepping and making. This is the definition of an ordinary life. Sure, there are extraordinary people we admire: sports figures like Tom Brady, inspiring writers like Maya Angelou, and deep thinkers like Thich Nhat Hanh and Stephen Hawkings, but despite being brilliant in a way that fascinates us all, they are human beings who have to deal with the ordinariness of life just like the rest of us. We highlight their achievements and tend to overlook our own. There are many ways we rise above the ordinary yet we don’t take the time to appreciate them.
There is a tendency to look at your own attributes only when you write your resume or LinkedIn profile. I hope you have something great to say in this arena since many of us struggle to write narratives that will have potential employers salivating and diving for the phone. Put your resume away for now. There will be plenty of time to figure out how to convey that you survived a system shutdown by building an underground bunker and stocking it with canned sardines in a way that sounds both innovative and sane. It’s time to take stock of your overall being, looking at what you do well (or even what you do badly) in any aspect of life. Your resume may say you raised millions for homeless cats, but you used some aspect of your personality to do so. What is that? And…btw, were the sardines for the cats?
Examining my own existence, I find that there are two things in life at which I excel. The first is accounting. This is where the yawns come out and people hit the back button, multiple times. Yes, accounting is boring and most people desperately start searching for the nearest exit if I start talking about it. Hear me out. Doing accounting work is like being a detective, preferably one Agatha Christie would have written a best-selling book about. At my last accounting job, they called me Cherylock Holmes. Before you stab a pencil in your eye, think about who you would call if the numbers don’t add up and the IRS is at your doorstep. I would find what you need to correct or the appropriate culprit, if it takes until my dying breath, because I’m good at that and absurdly dedicated to a challenge. It’s safe to put your pencil down now. I have to update my resume. Those calls will surely start jamming my android.
The other thing I do well is remembering faces and the names that go with them (mostly). I have been known to stop people in the street and say, “I know you.” I assume this does not feel threatening to random, unsuspecting victims. I may be wrong. I can’t always remember the context in which I met them, so we begin that Name-the-Stuff-You-Were-Doing-Ten-Years-Ago game and sometimes shout out “Power Walkers Club!!” in that tone we use when we get all excited about being able to remember shit that happened ten years ago. Often, people are astonished that I remembered them. I don’t tell them it’s a gift. I let them believe that they are so fucking amazing that I could never possibly forget them. This makes both of us feel smugly happy. Win-win!
Let’s pause a moment to talk about the bad stuff, the disasters, FUBARs, fumbles and stumbles that are also woven into the fabric (just fyi, “woven into the fabric” is one of my favorite metaphors…or is that a simile?) of our human experience. Royally screwing up just might be the best thing that ever happened to you. (Probably not, but I’m just going to roll with it.)
Certainly, that old adage of learning from your mistakes comes into play. Filing away what you learned from your major gaffe goes a long way toward learning how to handle a similar situation in the future. If you want to really be bold, think of highlighting your flaws, ineptitudes and challenges. If you are terrible at remembering names, become the person known for your gushing confessions of poor name recall. Perhaps people will find it endearing and love you all the more for being upfront about your perpetual amnesia. Note: This never goes down well with family members, so don’t even try it.
My most glaring ineptitude (ok, one of many) is dealing poorly with technology. My son tires of telling me, “turn it off and then turn it back on.” I expect my tools and toys to be reliably compliant. When computer, phone or GPS won’t respond to my loving caresses, or to my teeth-grinding finger slams, part of my mind shuts down. Instead of continuing to cope with wailing and hair-pulling, I decided to use my lack of knowledge to make friends with younger people. If there is a millennial available, I’ll confess my sins and ask for absolution. “Teach me what to do next time,” I implore and they almost always come to my aid. I commend their mothers, who taught them to not blurt out what they are thinking, when I return to them two days later with the same problem. If no millennial is about, I’ll settle for a four-year-old and deal with the eye-rolling.
In his book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell explores how we can use our flaws and flubs to gain advantages and come out on top in situations where we thought we could never accomplish a good outcome. If you feel sturdy enough, start taking inventory of your weak areas that threaten spectacular failure with your plans, goals or upcoming public- speaking engagements, then brainstorm ways in which you can use these defects to your advantage. Ok, now is where I tell you to read the book because it is full of examples of how people used their disadvantages to save the day and you can translate these stories onto your own template. You may determine that figuring out how to use your ineptitudes to your advantage is one of your ineptitudes! If you get stuck, ask someone you trust to help you with the process. Conversely, boldly naming your incompetence can launch you into a plan of action to overcome it and make that flaw into a fab. Your local community college has a course in public-speaking.
I believe everyone who walks among us lacks in some ability. I also believe that all the ordinary people inhabiting the planet have their own inventory of super powers and potential to achieve. You are fabulous in all your victories and disappointments. Embrace them boldly, use them shamelessly to make the world a better place and your ordinary life will shine.
PS: I adore all the bold huggers of the world. If you are one of them, I have already proclaimed you a Knight of the Hugging Realm.
Sandra and I have been friends for nearly 40 years! We have had many running, cycling and outdoor adventures together. She is a professional technical writer who helped me tighten up my style a bit and make my ramblings slightly more coherent.