I was one of the best tennis players during my time in High School. But then I went to College, majored in Mathematics, enjoyed poring over proofs of propositions, became a Nerd and forgot all about sports.
After I bought my first car, a top of the line 1987 Honda Accord LXi with all of the trimmings of luxury in the United States, I realized I really was very good at finding space to pass other cars, albeit safely on either of one or multiple lane Highways. On a trip from Dallas to College Station in Texas USA, I got a kick out of passing trucks on one-lane highways driving a rental four cylinder that required some coaxing to get to passing speed. Given I owned then a six cylinder 2007 Toyota Camry (power enthusiasts understand what this means), I had to adjust my timing of passing relative to if I was driving my own car. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.
In different circumstances of timing and place of birth, I could have had a really good career as a pro tennis player (really I was that good). Not saying I would have won a Grand Slam, just saying I would have made very decent money playing tennis professionally. With different circumstances of time and birth, I also could have made a decent living as a race car driver. Even now, I see how I have the sort of skills successful race car drivers utilize to find space to pass other race car drivers.
At 45 this year, neither of a career in tennis or racing are realistic. Let’s face it, it is nigh impossible at this point in time for me to become extraordinary at racing or playing tennis. The timing just won’t allow for it to be possible. Roger Federer is younger than I am and is not as good as he used to be.
What exactly is the point of all of this history?
The first step to having the chance to become extraordinary is to accept those areas of life in which extraordinary just is not realistically within reach.
I know for instance that I never will be extraordinary at keeping my apartment perfectly spotlessly clean. I never am able to justify the amount of time required to achieve that objective.
I know its not likely I can be extraordinary at performing the sort of nurture Christian pastors engage in; no, I am more of a teacher than a pastor. Teachers have patience to teach, they hardly ever have the patience necessary to nurture those struggling to put in practice what they have been taught. This is why a PhD such as I am struggles to teach at lower levels of education such as Elementary School or High School, perhaps even struggle to teach undergraduates in response to advances in career and knowledge. When you know a lot, the less your students know, the more you need to nurture in order to teach effectively. The less of a capacity you have, however, to nurture in order to teach because you have so much you have to pretend not to know in order to nurture. Pretending not to have knowledge you actually do have sometimes just is not feasible.
If we will identify areas of life within which realistically extraordinary cannot be regarded as feasible, we already have made progress towards extraordinary because we know where not to focus our energies. It is up to us then to exert the energy and will power to ensure identification of where not to direct our energies does not translate into wasted effort and time.
Extraordinary is within reach of everyone. Some people are extraordinary at living by themselves. Others are extraordinary parents or extraordinary children. Some people are extraordinary at making others feel comfortable, others are extraordinary at preventing a group of people from becoming complacent in their achievements. The list can go on and on, suffice it to say extraordinary does not have to imply being famous, known, or popular.
We do not become extraordinary by seeking so to be. We become extraordinary by living life with purpose and seeking to do the things most important for achievement of purpose to the best of our ability.
David Beckham is known for free kicks. Steven Gerrard is known for being a box-to-box midfielder who had a knack for scoring goals. Same to some extent as Frank Lampard. All three became extraordinary because they learnt to do a specific set of things to the best of their ability. Either of Gerrard or Lampard might have sucked as a defender. Without the free kick skills, Beckham perhaps does not look as good as we remember him to be because he does not get to play as nearly enough as he did. Having a knack for scoring free kicks gives you a pass to be on the team during days your form is not very good.
Whether you become extraordinary or not, striving to be the best you can at the things you value the most means no matter what, you attain to the very next best thing, which is,
You will be able to look yourself in the face in the twilight of life and declare without any guile that:
I gave it my best shot.
Hopefully, your best shot and mine turn out to be good enough.