The Unremarkable Path to Remarkable.
I’m reading more books than ever. I have a long list in the not-yet-purchased queue, and a good 8+ that I’ve started but not finished. I wander between books rather than hunkering down with one at a time. It’s a bit of my wiring, I suspect. My style has always been to maintain a plethora of options, to ride each wave to the next wave to yet another wave, rather than riding one crest all the way to the comfort of shore.
But I’m loving these elegant teachers, these learned and lived experts on all sorts of things that fascinate me – from positive emotions to limiting beliefs. Juicy topics like creativity, fun and awe. Challenging concepts like unwelcomed transitions, facing fears, and life in the cocoon – everything from leadership to mindfulness and lots of gooey life in between.
What I find, though – and there’s no judgment in this – is that many of these experts have been at their particular game for decades.
They were Ivy-leaguing in the 80’s, completely on point, while I was floundering clumsily between the dual uncertainties of Jesus and gayness. They were publishing academic papers in the 90’s, while I was exploring the underbelly of the East Village. Their papers became best-selling books in the Aughts as I was petering out on one career and efforting toward another. They were giving Ted Talks and Oprah interviews in the Teens while I was adulting in the form of home ownership, a long-awaited wedding, and “sort-of” conquering the 9-5 world in a role that “sort-of” suited me.
Comparison. Such a joy killer, and yet I find myself at times thinking about what could have been had I the clarity of purpose and drive for achievement that others had in early adulthood.
I was a striver in different ways. I wasn’t bored and I wasn’t lazy. I was either out adventuring or plotting a future thrill or the next international vacation. I wasn’t exactly the ambitious doer that found identity in work; and yet I worked hard, I suppose, to enable identity discovery elsewhere. Yet a subtle knowing was always scratching away inside, meekly hinting that I was keeping my essence under wraps, an essence which seemed powerful in ways that frankly scared me.
It seemed easier to rant internally about how other people’s youthful lucidity was the norm, telling myself a story about these magnificent minds, whose rich, empowered purpose was realized early and lasted a lifetime, and how great it would have been. If only.
But now, at 56, I find myself reading books, launching a career of my own making, shedding the hairshirt of obligation and the quest for worth in a surpassed quota. The past year has been robust with alchemy that keeps bubbling up with remarkable discoveries.
You could call it an unremarkable path to remarkable.
But has it really been unremarkable, or is that just a story?
These inspiring teachers quite likely have lived more ordinary lives than I imagine: and conversely, perhaps I’ve lived a more remarkable life than I choose to acknowledge.
The truth is that there are many, like me, that bottomed out on the first half of life in ways that felt unexceptional. Not everyone gets there riding blades of glory straight into a brick wall.
There are many, like me, that found their way to a rich midlife transition quietly. Not everyone arrived with a Made-For-TV plotline and a pocket full of cash and regret.
There are many, like me, that are dipping into the well of a purposeful encore career that’s finally from essence. It’s okay if it came a bit late, if my expertise in an area of passion is measured in months and not decades.
There are many, like me, that still hear inner chatter cautioning that “it’s safer to stay small, even now big boy. Calm down, Dreamer.” I suspect the teachers I admire have all suffered their own inner demons harkening similar warnings.
The inclination for most of us, when not in the grip of maladaptive narcissism, is to discount our path as less remarkable than those we venerate. We fail to acknowledge that countless others have learned from us, and they’re much better for it; and that we now – yes, especially now – are ourselves wise teachers, having made remarkable discoveries which have crystalized at exactly the right time.
And so, we honor where we are now, feet planted on whatever plot of earth we find ourselves.
We honor how we got here – the ache and the awe, the sweet and sour perfection of it all.
And we honor with humility and readiness whatever days lie ahead, and however we are so lucky to offer our remarkable stories to the world.
Daniel Booz is a Transition Coach and Trainer who founded The KinShift this year as a vehicle to help transform lives. Formerly, Daniel built and scaled global Sales Development organizations for early phase, high-growth SaaS companies. He is a certified Enneagram practitioner for both individuals and teams, and will soon launch a workshop to help people establish the habits and mindsets that enable the transformative experience of everyday awe in their lives. He will unsurprisingly be making his 2nd trip to MEA Baja in December for the Dacher Keltner workshop.