The only thing differentiating the extraordinary from the ordinary is frequency, quantity and volume. If you were a Sherpa climbing Mt. Everest every day, helping tourists get their one minute at the pinnacle. What would the value of summiting Everest be to you?
I remember reading Bernard Moitessier’s “The Long Way”, where he describes being in a Round the World Race for single handed yachts. This was a man who was leading the race, had all the difficult sections behind him, and instead of coming back through the Atlantic Ocean to Europe to claim his prize, he kept circling the globe in his vessel.
What kind of person decides to enter a race to sail a yacht, by themselves, around the world to show that it can be done? What kind of person, in the middle of this race, decides that the race is less important than the journey of the race, and then continues on for the experience and abandons the race?
It’s an extraordinary moment. But, in that moment, he was living in the ordinary, the repetitive existence of sailing in the open sea. The extrapordinary intruding on the ordinary, and vice versa.
Reflect on this long enough, and the inevitable conclusion, at least it seems to me, is that there is no difference. That extraordinary moments are no different from ordinary ones, the difference is the story that we end up telling to ourselves.
Ultimately, we can decide which story to tell. If you want your life to be extraordinary, then change your story to an extraordinary one. Everyone wants to believe that they are unique. That they matter. And they only have to decide which story to tell that highlights that narrative.
But, perhaps, therein lies an extraordinary opportunity. To identify with the ordinary, to continue on as not the first person to accomplish some feat, but in the commonplace repetition that makes up the bulk of our lives and that truly defines our experience.
Is being an astronaut more extraordinary than being a sailor of the high seas? The answer depends on the perspective of the person judging, usually from within the context of the historical moment. Two hundred years from now, assuming humanity doesn’t destroy itself in the interim, there will be far fewer sailors than astronauts. And, the opposite, two hundred years ago, the idea of an astronaut was largely unthinkable. Does this shift change the experience? Is one truly less or more extraordinary than the other?