The Abnormal Climb
“You can’t be normal and expect abnormal results.” – Naval Ravikant
There’s nothing wrong with normal; the pursuit of normal usually offers you an average, lovely life. But if you want to be ultra-wealthy or a washboard abs model or win the Olympics or be an astronaut or a Nobel Peace Prize winner, well, be abnormal. They don’t just give space suits to the guy ahead of you at Starbucks. Unless that guy is a Navy pilot with a Masters in Astrophysics anyway, and even then his odds aren’t great. Nope, be different than the billions of people marching through life…. or embrace the beauty of average. We all have that choice.
I’ve dabbled in the pursuit of excellence in athletics, and frankly I opted out early. Pursue Olympic-level rowing? Thought I’d give it a try. Learned quickly that it was a very steep and long climb. I opted to be a big fish in a smaller pond. Regrets? I’ve had a few. Pursuing elite rowing isn’t one of them. I’ve known several Olympians over the years, one rowed out of the same boathouse as me. She won a silver medal! Olympians seem average on the surface, there’s an abnormal core there – a focus, that I deeply admire. But I knew it wasn’t me.
We all want to be excellent at something, if we’re lucky we figure out quickly what we shouldn’t attempt to excel in. Sometimes great or pretty good still sets us up for an exceptional life. I was a pretty good rower back in my time, but not willing to do the “abnormal” work needed to be world class. I smile thinking about the lecture I heard from the National Team Coach emphatically telling a friend and me that the work needed was far beyond what we were doing at the time (and we were very fit). I appreciated his time and candor, assessed my willingness to execute on the plan and opted out. In a different pond I might have pushed through, but the pond I was in seemed good enough.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain
This quote on the surface is funny (or scary in this political climate), but peel back a layer and there’s truth in the message. In the context of pursuing the abnormal there’s magic in Mark’s clever quip. Find your unique path, work hard and be excellent at it. Don’t be the majority, be something more. I’ve long since hung up the oar, but hey, maybe the writing will take off. At the very least I owe it to myself to become a better writer. There’s honor in the pursuit of excellence, even if we never reach it. Somebody once said that “never” is a belief, it doesn’t have to be shackles. I saw that in rowers who accepted the same challenge I opted out of who eventually wore Olympic hardware.
“Blah, blah, blah, blah. DO THE WORK.” – Jocko Willink
At some point you get tired of regurgitating excuses and you find something to be singularly focused on pursuing. We’re all running out of time, get up and do something already. Balance is important but it’s also an excuse. Prioritize, focus and do the work. Want to be a writer? Do the work? Ab model? Do the work. Olympic athlete? Do. The. Work. We arrive at excellence by what we focus on, and by what we say no to along the way. The day offers the same opportunity for all of us living in a free society, so why exhaust that day coming up with excuses for why you didn’t do something? Get fit, work abnormally hard at your chosen craft, whether writing or astronaut or parent, be consistently, abnormally doing the work, and you’ll reach a level of excellence – or at the very least, be well above average. Seems a worthwhile climb after all.