Time and time again, I’m reminded that a purpose-driven life requires one key sacrifice: giving up normal.
Even when I’m not seeking them, I see examples of this principle everywhere. (Guess there’s something to that cliche about the master appearing when the student is ready.)
Yesterday, MMA Champion Rich Franklin spoke at our church and shared that he’d never taken a drink of alcohol. Why? It didn’t align with his goals.
Sarah Peck recently explained why she says no to most meetings or getting together for coffee. Instead? She raised $29,000 for charity: water and swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco – in her birthday suit.
Author Jim Collins and his wife gave up television decades ago.
“The power of removal can be immense. A few years ago I set a goal of reading about 100 books a year. So I embarked on a vigorous program of doing. I made lists. I set aside a room as a library. I bought reading chairs, desks, lamps, and stacks of books.”
“Yet in spite of all that energetic doing, too many of the books remained unread. After a tiring day I’d get sidetracked. In my left hand, War and Peace; in my right, the TV clicker. Faced with long passages on the burning of Moscow in 1812 or short quips on Monday Night Football, I’d flick on the TV and lose a couple of hours. So my wife and I unplugged and jettisoned the TV. My reading productivity soared.”
Since then, he’s written three ground-breaking bestsellers and become the authority on business leadership. His wife? She’s won an Ironman Triathlon.
We know this.
Achieving our purpose isn’t normal. Society doesn’t conspire to keep us focused. Our brains don’t embrace the thought of facing our fears.
In his book, Ikigai, Sebastian Marshall opens with people-watching at a train station in a Japanese suburb. He describes the ordinary, happy lives of the other passengers. And then two lines jump off the page. “I think, this is what I’m giving up. I don’t get to have this.” He admits to crying at the realization.
We can’t really define “normal,” but as Justice Stewart said, “we know it when we see it.” Or, perhaps more profoundly, we know what’s not normal when we see it.
Here’s author Haruki Murakami’s daily routine.
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength.”
Normal? No. Neither is having your work translated in 42 languages and being awarded the Frank Kafka Prize for furthering humanity.
How about gymnast Gabby Douglas?
“Something clicked in my head that said, if I really want to make this happen I need to get better coaching,” Gabby explains. Following that feeling, a 14 year-old Gabby moved by herself to Des Moines, Iowa. She was home-schooled by her host family to make time for her intense gymnastics training schedule.
Normal? Hardly. Neither are the Olympic Gold Medals hanging around her neck and the inspiration she provided to an entire nation.
Back to that note about seeing this everywhere. Here’s an excerpt from a post AJ Leon shared just this morning. (!!)
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element of democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…’We are governed. Our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of’.” – Edward Bernays, 1928
That to have compliant masses quietly leading lives prescribed to them by those who know best is preferable to the anarchy that would ensue if each individual possessed the cerebral authority to chart their very own destiny. . . .
In some ways, I agree with Bernays. Society does indeed demand compliance. In fact, maybe it necessitates it. Maybe if there weren’t submissive and conciliatory masses, filing one by one, to tastes and ideas and careers they don’t question, then maybe the planet itself would stop turning.
But no one ever changed the world by conforming to the ideologues that run it.
So, what do we do?
Sojourn beyond the boundaries.
Recognize that every minute of every day someone, somewhere is using their money or influence to try and convince you of what you should think and buy and eat and dream and do with your life.
And recognize that while at times this System takes on the form of television producers and politicians, most often it takes the form of well-intentioned teachers and friends and parents innocently luring you into a complacency and conformity and compliance that they acquiesced to long ago.
When’s the last time you hung a poster of a “normal” person on your wall? When’s the last time you shared a quote from a “normal” person?
Normal people don’t change the world.
You were meant to change the world.
You can’t be normal.
What “normal” will you give up in the pursuit of your purpose? You can tell us in the comments.