Why Being An ‘Average’ Freelancer Might Just Be Enough
As a business-focused freelancer, how do you feel about the area of personal development? Have you found it useful in reaching for success in your freelancing business? Or do you switch off or cringe when you hear Tony Robbins’ gravelly voice start to speak?
If you’d asked me this as a hard-nosed strategy consultant 4 years ago, I’d have scoffed in your face. Ask me this today and you’ll likely get a very different response.
I understand why it provokes the response it sometimes does … the advice you read is usually centred around the notion that “you have special and unique talents that no-one else has and you can do anything you want”.
Fluffy clap trap? Quite possibly. Does it help you in your freelancing business? Not always.
There is one concept I read recently however that makes so much sense that every freelancer should read it and remember it…
The story comes via one of the world’s leading “success” coaches, Michael Neill, with whom I studied NLP.
He tells us how one of his mentors, Steve Chandler, once said to him “Have an average day!” – something which took Michael aback. Steve explained to Michael about a scientist, Lyndon Duke who studied “the linguistics of suicide” – studying suicide notes looking for linguistic clues to try and predict and prevent suicidal behaviour in teenagers.
What he found was something he called “the curse of exceptionality”.
In a society where everyone is trying to be exceptional or remarkable, the outcome is likely to be one of two things:
- Nearly everyone fails because, by definition, if too many people are “exceptional”, then exceptional becomes the norm
- The few who do succeed often feel more isolated and estranged from their peers than before
Therefore you have a group of people who never quite feel good enough, hold themselves up to those who are exceptional and will always find themselves wanting; and you have a group or people who are exceptional yet often feel misunderstood and consequently are often lonely!
Do the following sound familiar?
- You sometimes look around, compare yourself with peers in the design-, writing-, blogging-, developer-world and despair because you look at their success and wonder why you aren’t up there.
- You feel like you’re playing catch-up with Jane, John, Steve or Kelly because look what they’ve achieved in just 3 short months and you’ve been plugging away for months with nowhere near as much success.
Lyndon Duke realised that a lifelong desire doesn’t have to be for anything exceptional, it can be for a very simple form of joy and comfort. He said, “Happiness and a meaningful life come from making differences. But this is the most important rule to follow: Always make the differences you can make not the differences you would prefer to make but can’t”.
A life of cumulative ‘average’ acts and successes doing what you love can culminate in an exceptional life.
Think of the backing singer who never makes it big time as a solo artist but spends their life doing something they love, travelling the world and meeting the ‘stars’.
Think of the web designer who creates websites for non-profits without ever getting major design credit but is indirectly responsible for helping process millions of dollars for charity.
Think of the writer who writes a column for the local paper which connects, entertains, directs and informs their local community but never wins a Pulitzer.
The next time you’re reading around the blogosphere lamenting why your blog doesn’t have several thousand subscribers, or you’re wondering how to fill your portfolio with the likes of Nike or Apple, or pondering why you haven’t managed to write a New York Times bestseller, remember this…
You don’t always have to be the best, the most high profile or the most well-connected freelancer to be a success; being average can be more than enough. It can even be exceptional.
Note: A few times a month we revisit some of our reader’s favorite posts from throughout the history of FreelanceSwitch. This article was first published February 4th, 2008, yet is just as relevant and full of useful information today.