By Larry Feinstein

Larry Feinstein

Larry Feinstein

Well, it looks like the title gives away a long held secret of mine. However, it is not what you think and has everything to do with its opposite, the state of being ordinary.

Now, there is a word that bothers the hell out of me.

We are in this gumbo of life together and we are each exceptional in our own way. Yet, so many of us are quick to abdicate our own sense of self-worth.

Having a sibling or two is an early way to get some hint of what’s to come. In addition to measuring myself against my older brother, there were issues like my height and the fear of being shorter than my friends.

I waited patiently for muscles to show up, hoping to keep pace with the gorillas in the midst. Brilliant students surrounded me and I managed to squeak into the bottom of the top, feeling intellectually insecure as a result. Athleticism was also not one of my strengths and I usually got chosen close to last and played right field or even worse, catcher.

It is hard to outrun this mindset. As I got older, those festering, early insecurities matured to the point where I believed there were people more extraordinary than myself. It made me self-conscious, like making sure I didn’t slurp the longer strands of pasta that refused to wrap around the twirling fork properly. I was dreadful with tools and hammering a nail was a game of chance. My guess is most of us harbor a growing list of shortcomings, always assuming there are others who are far better off than ourselves.

My perspective began changing when I realized I was being penalized professionally in the Mad Menesque, Madison Avenue environment, with coworkers far less talented getting promoted. I was perceived as an iconoclast. I had started growing my hair a little longer, audaciously splayed over my collar! I would actually wear a sport jacket on occasion! I moved on to media sales because as long as you hit your goals, you walked on water, miss them and you drown.

Before leaving New York City, I started dabbling with meditation and slowly opening up to a more spiritual way of engaging the world. My best memory of that time was spending summer weekends in Honesdale, Pa. in a rented farmhouse. I’d get up early each morning and sit cross-legged in the acres of grazing fields. Through half-closed, unfocused eyes, I would see the sun rise, blowing the doors off the hazy greys and blacks of early dawn. I even experienced one weekend there at the Himalayan Institute, forbidden from speaking to anyone. Imagine being surrounded by people for two days and not saying a word.

Larry Feinstein

Larry Feinstein

I started looking internally, viewing my life as a journey and appreciating its value. I now try hard to avoid judgment or measurement, but I blow that one with clock-like regularity. An inevitable consequence of ripening on the vine is thoughts of one’s mortality and that can be a game changer. I have accumulated a library of experience and I enjoy continually stepping back and streamlining what matters to me. I don’t want to spend my precious time separating myself from others because of an overdose of self-importance, theirs or mine.

I wonder about those people who actually believe they are extraordinary, better than the rest of us and entitled to everything. We do live in a culture of celebrity, but it is the rest of us who make it possible. The deal is, we are all different, but it should never be confused with being less worthy than anyone else.

By the way, every one of those people we exalt has their own list of neurotic shortcomings and that is what we all have in common. We invest far too much time in measuring our differences, when what we all share is what makes each of us extraordinary, including me.