Do you want to fit in, be normal? I hope not. I hope you would never want to settle for normal!
Last weekend, Bret and I went to see Cameron Carpenter play the organ with the local symphony. We had never heard of this gentleman before, so we looked him up online and found that he is a very good organist, though not in a traditional way. Although I do not endorse some of his lifestyle and moral choices, his musical talent was clearly evident from the YouTube videos that we watched. So, we went on our date expecting a good performance.
Prior to the concert, the guest conductor and Mr. Carpenter were interviewed by the local conductor. Mr. Carpenter was asked the simple question of how he became interested in the organ. His answer took over 5 minutes and involved intricate details of how an organ works, physics, and many other technical terms that neither I nor anyone else in the audience understood. The audience actually started clapping when he was done answering. It was clear from that point on that he is not good … he is extraordinary!
During the concert we had the privilege of watching him play, which was just as entertaining as hearing him. His feet (glittering with bejeweled shoes) danced over the foot pedals like a leprechaun. I do not claim to be a great appreciator of music, but I was in awe.
There are a lot of good musicians. The symphony was good and I am sure that each musician there was above average with their talent. So, what’s the difference between good, or even really good, and extraordinary?
I think that extraordinary involves much more than ability. It involves heart, conviction and passion. There has to be a willingness to abandon looking normal and risk sticking out in a crowd. I think you have to sell out and go all in on something that really matters to you. I think that’s the problem. Most of us would rather look normal. Most of us are comfortable resting on our potential. We believe in our hearts that we could do something, but we don’t want to put in the hard work and risk failure. We would rather go with the flow and look normal.
I am reminded of the story that Bonnie St. John tells in her book, Live Your Joy. Bonnie had her right leg amputated at age five and became the first African-American to medal in winter Olympic competition. She won 3 medals at the 1984 Paralympics for downhill skiing. After a speech that she gave to children with disabilities, one mother looked at her hopefully and asked, “Do you think my son will ever be normal?” Bonnie says that her quick reply was, “I certainly hope not. He should aim higher.”