I don’t know about you, but there are days when I am perfectly content to just be average.
As I achieve this goal pretty much every day of my life, some are undoubtedly wondering what triggered this epiphany. The short answer can be found in two words: “email” and “delete.”
It’s my own fault. You see, as average as I am, much of the time I want to be un-average. I want to be thinner and smarter and more productive and awesome and to punch fear in the face and to do work that matters and to be bold and creative and wealthy and self-employed and widely-read and, in short, just the best ME that can possibly be. I want to be Awesome, because absolutely anyone can be average.
There’s just one problem. Awesome takes a lot of work, and I already have a full-time job.
But this does not stop me from signing up for pretty much any email list which claims to have the tools to make me awesome, and a few extras besides. I subscribe to freelance writer blogs, motivational blogs, health blogs, daily comics, daily book excerpts (in four genres), and then either spend too much time trying to climb my way out of the pile, or not enough, causing it to loom ever larger.
What finally set me off on a “Stop the Madness!” deletion spree last week was the realization that I just don’t multitask all that well. I know it is socially unacceptable to admit this, but in my defense scientists are finally discovering that the human brain really isn’t wired to multitask, despite Americans’ best efforts to prove the contrary. I do better when I concentrate on making one part of my life more awesome at a time. Right now I’m at least four days behind on my “30 Days to Get Out of Your Rut” emails. I was set on finishing that list in the month of June, because June has 30 days. I gave up on the 21-day plan to eliminate toxic thoughts on Day 2 when I couldn’t muster the necessary mental effort at the end of the day, which was when I found myself having time to work on it. After the nine hours I spend at an office five days a week, there is still cooking, cleaning, errands and exercise to fit in – which doesn’t leave much time for yet another email task. There isn’t a great deal of value to reading out of a sense of duty, then discarding the messages and promptly forgetting what they were trying to help me accomplish.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that these people are in business – it’s their job to cast lures promising free this or that, discounted this or that, the latest and greatest mind mastery technique. That’s how they get more readers. Make more money. I get it. I’m as much of a capitalist as the next person.
Butt I haven’t even mentioned my efforts at applying multitasking to writing. A couple of weeks ago, feeling rather virtuous (which should probably have been a warning), I embarked on a new writing schedule: Monday night would be dedicated to my blog. Tuesday night was for “education.” Wednesday night was earmarked for my languishing novel. Thursday night was for article research and writing. Friday was for developing an ebook concept. I’m not sure what the weekends were for, aside from the usual necessities of life.
I didn’t last a week.
And at first I felt bad about that, until I finally admitted that fragmenting my time in such a way was simply shortchanging all those projects. I also had to admit that I’d been attempting to “keep up with the Joneses” in my literary circle, some of whom had not only blogs but books or book contracts and speaking engagements. I pitched that schedule but haven’t figured out a new one yet.
But back to those 700+ emails. Oh, didn’t I mention that there were over 700 of them? In a single email account? That’s right. And let me tell you, there is tremendous freedom in hitting the Delete key, with a click on “Unsubscribe” ranking just behind. Yes, I did me some “unsubscribing” last week, and I’m a better woman for it, even if I end up a little less awesome as a result.
However, the spirit of honesty nags at me as I write this, forcing me to confess that my efforts at becoming Above Average/Awesome are not limited to an email account the size of the national debt. If you were to take a tour of my bedroom right now, you would see health and fitness tomes and CDs by Matt Furey, wealth-building books by Wallace Wattles and Napoleon Hill (because who doesn’t want to “Think and Grow Rich”?), change your brain and change your life books and DVDs and CDs by Wayne Dyer and Caroline Leaf and “Magic of Believing” guru Claude Bristol, and…oh, let’s not forget that boxed CD set by Tony Robbins, or the other change your brain and change your life/health program by Daniel Amen, which is sitting next to the box containing a set of materials from Writer’s Digest Books designed to turn me into a successful, self-supporting freelance writer, which is right next to a tote bag containing a favorite author/blogger’s latest book that debuted on the New York Times bestseller list, and which I’m three-quarters through, but haven’t opened in a couple of weeks. Last but never least is that online writing course I started over two months ago, an eight-week course that has now ended but of which I’ve thus far completed only the first two weeks, and the fact that at some point I’m really supposed to be figuring out how to promote my blog and create a free Kindle version of my first poetry chapbook to attract readers, and all the blogs I’m trying to follow because their owners were kind enough to stop by mine, and then there’s that book marketing course I signed up for after a free phone call, that I just seem to keep forgetting about until I get another email reminding me of yet another phone call… (Don’t even get me started on my multitudinous Facebook notifications.)
Is there a 12-step program for people like me? “Hello, my name is Lucie, and I’m a joinaholic.”
I hear you out there, shaking your head and agreeing that “It’s your own fault, kid!” Oh, how I hear you. The problem is, I can’t seem to help myself until I’m confronted by over 700 emails with more arriving daily.
And let’s face it, I really do start out with the best of intentions. But when it came to wealth-building, I couldn’t seem to suspend skepticism long enough to get through too much of Wallace D. Wattles “The Science of Getting Rich.” (You had me at “science,” Wally. How could I lose with the forces of nature on my side? But those terms you keep using, such as Certain Way and Formless Stuff and Original Substance, along with a few other things, keep tripping me up. ) I plugged along faithfully with Napoleon Hill until I got to the chapter that said the program wouldn’t work unless I used it as part of a mastermind group. I’d never even heard of such a thing, and I sure didn’t know anyone I could recruit. At least I’ve returned to rising a half-hour early to perform Matt Furey’s “Magnificent Seven” exercises – for the month of June. Maybe the entire summer. I’m learning to start smaller.
I’m also betting some of you can relate to the problem of eventually getting bored with so much self-improvement. It seems to take much of the fun out of life…at least if you try to do too much all at once, like me. But there remain the bigger questions: what does “awesome” look like? What does “above average” look like? How high can any individual really go? How high do we need to go?
Not long ago I came across this quote from William Stafford (hat tip to Matt Appling): “Do big dogs have more importance than little dogs? Do loud sounds mean more than soft sounds – on the street, in music, at night, in a talk? They call some people ‘great’ and make their monuments large. What does this show about where our allegiances turn?”
I’m still trying to figure that out. The good news is that, with a little help along the way, I think I eventually will.
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How about you? Are you a joiner? Do you need a 12-step program? Do you think I need one? If so, where can I find it? Does average still have value? Do you strive for above average or even awesome, and if so, how do you strike a necessary balance? I’d love to hear your success stories, or, if you haven’t figured it out yet either, let’s commiserate over a virtual cup of tea.
Next week I’ll be talking about the importance of preserving old photographs and letters…and the sometimes surprising emotions they can elicit. I hope you’ll join me for “Tales From the Family Vault.” See you then!