I'll admit it, I hate that word. Normal. Call me ordinary, I can take that. At least there is potential in ordinary... to be extraordinary.
But sometimes we need to look at what we don't want to be, to drive us in the direction of what we want to be.
I'm rejecting normal!
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Now in my late 40's on the slippery slope to 50 I'm becoming accutely aware of the span of my life and a deeper sense of purpose. You might say it's the beginning of a mid life crisis but it's not that simple.
I don't have a sudden desire to be young again but I have the perspective to now see what the younger me could not. Even better, I still have time to do something about it!
From a young age I sought the mysteries behind the veil of life. I was fascinated with the paranormal when I was 11. I loved playing with Ouija boards, and I became the youngest ever committee member of a local Psychic Research Society at 15! My favourite place was Pathfinder Bookshop (name says it all).
I was not normal.
Looking back, I never discovered or experienced anything profoundly supernatural, it was merely the idea that there might be something else to this strange life we live. Despite the name, it was actually a well balanced group who would approach everything with a degree of skepticism and question every probable cause.
It taught me if nothing else, to consider all the angles and to question.
My own daughter from age 5 would stop and look at the world around her and say "It's so strange that we're alive!" I don't ever want her to lose that sense of wonder.
She is not normal.
Even to this day I'm both terrified and fascinated by the infinite expanse of the universe. I can't help but be aware of how insignificant I am in the larger span of time.Is that normal?
Rebellious by Nature
None of us are born normal. We are born rebels, every single one of us. We learn by pushing the boundaries. Trust me, the creative penmanship of my 2 year old across every surface of the lounge and kitchen yesterday was testament to this!
Many successful people in this world are not those who followed expected path to success. They have been the rebels and the misfits who find their own way. Of course it depends how you define success, but in my view it is being able to make change in the world, for the better.
The script from Apples 1997 Think Different campaign sums it up nicely.
"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
But then reality hits, I'm not pushing the human race forward. I went and bought the latest iPhone... but I/m still just... normal?!
Damn you Apple!
Rejecting Normalcy: The Path to Being Extraordinary
As humans we've always loved the rags to riches stories or success out of adversity. But that's not the only story, it's not my story.
I'm from a good family and from relative privilege compared to so many. I don't for a minute forget how lucky that makes me in this world and I wouldn't change it.
Sometimes though, it does make me feel a bit ordinary. So I remember to embrace that inner rebel... even if it just takes me from ordinary to extraordinary. It's a start.
I don't go around drawing on the walls... but the temptation to be an artist who throws paint at a canvas is real.
I don't go and paint the town red either... binging and brawling is not the rebels fight. You have to pick your battles to win the war of identity.
We all struggle with our identity at times in life, particularly in our teenage years and then again mid-life. The pressure to conform moulds us all in different ways and some of us learn to question, resist and rebel.
The Emotionally Intelligent Rebel
My kids are yet to become teenagers, but a part of me hopes they learn to rebel, with purpose. I can set them up with emotional intelligence... and in the process improve my own ability.
Deep Diving Information:
Forget math and spelling homework! The greatest skill we can teach the next generation is Deep Diving. When my 7yo asks about something, I try to help her learn for herself and to dig deeper.
Instead of a short distracted response, I tey to sit down and research it with her using google, wikipedia or ChatGPT. This way she starts to value the idea of deep diving into a topic.
Deep Diving into Information and Emotions:
The second part to this is deep diving our emotional responses and reactions. This one is more complex to navigate, and timing is key. Trying to discuss reactive behaviour in the heat of a moment never works. Finding time to sit down later and talk is key. But transfer some power, let them choose when that happens, as long as it happens.
We have a great book called 'Raising Good Humans' by Hunter Clarke-Fields, and occasionally I'll find our 7 yo sitting there reading a page. I'll ask her to read a section out loud and then we discuss it. The knowledge that truly sticks in life is what we discover for ourselves. So instead of lecturing kids, create opportunities for them to learn for themselves... or even better, get them to teach us!
The art of intelligent rebellion.
If kids can 'learn to learn' from a young age, they will have the discipline to apply that to their rebellious reactions too. If there is something they don't like, guide them to find out why. Help them understand their feelings, to consider all the angles through deep diving. Document and communicate it, then find ways to take action.
Read-Write-Execute (r-w-x): A Strategy for Life
I can also apply my new framework to this, an Operating System for change that I'm calling 'Change Modes' or rwx777. See the sneak preview below of what I'm developing into a full system.
I've begun to show my daughter how to become the Superuser (she prefers Superhero).
Inspired by the old school Unix operating system, where you can change file permissions with command line prompt Chmod 777 (Change Mode) for full Read-Write-Execute permission.
Read: Deep dive the subject or feelings.
Write: Document and communicate what you're learning.
Execute: Put into action solutions you have learned.
They've now upgraded their OS! We are no longer 'Normal Playing Characters' in this game, we are becoming self-aware rebels seeking to find gaps in the code!
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