20 comments for “Have an Average Day

  1. January 18, 2008 at 12:45 am

    I like it.

    I particularly like the part about the neigbbor singing while mowing the lawn. That’s an example to me of making the ordinary things enjoyable. It kind of reminds me of Alma 29, where Alma comes first wants to be an angel, then follows by saying he “ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath alloted unto (him).”

    The referenced link of striving to excel with suicide and depression is a good example of the truth that performance does not equal worth. Rather, worth equals performance. Excelling at something does not it and of itself make someone happy. But being happy just might make you excel at something, even lawn-mowing!

  2. queuno
    January 18, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Some of the best dissertation-writing advice I’ve received was to spend a little bit of time each day, and not to try to binge all at once (I had always been conditioned to try a virtuoso performance one day and week and whip out 8 hours in a stretch).

    I’m more effective when I’m not “in the zone”; I’m more effective when I churn out a little each day over a month.

    It came to me recently that the best Church leaders I know weren’t amazing paragons of brilliance. They’re average Joes who work hard try to do their best and after 4-5 years, they are amazing paragons of brilliance.

  3. Jones
    January 18, 2008 at 2:05 am

    In my experience, the quest for excellence in our culture/society deprives many people (most?) from focusing on those things of greatest worth and achieving contentment and satisfaction in the journey that is life. Students in higher education all want (demand, plead, etc.) an “A” and that is the focus (will this be on the test?) rather than learning to enhance their knowledge base or to strengthen their thinking skills. How can everyone be excellent? It just isn’t acceptable to be “average”. How can everyone be as beautiful or as well-dressed as the media portrays people who “matter”? I do wonder sometimes where all the beautiful people are.

  4. mlu
    January 18, 2008 at 3:10 am

    I live in a very rural place with mostly quite humble people, many of whom have much in the way of education. I’ve picked up a couple advanced degrees along the way and have always read a lot. It’s not hard for me to feel like I’ve “educated” myself into a weird sort of isolation. Sometimes nothing that it occurs to me to say seems that it would make any sense to the people I’m with.

    My father didn’t go to high school and I was still quite young when most of what was most important to me seemed impossible to communicate to him. I think it’s a common thing.

    Part of what I like about church is that it’s a common culture. We have a canon which it’s always permissible to quote, and a commonality of desire and of a shared awareness of our failures to match the Savior’s example that restores me to vivid sense of my own mediocrity, and which does leave me feeling less alone than I often feel elsewhere. There’s a lot more, but maybe you get the gist.

    I’ve wondered along these lines quite often reading in the bloggernacle (mostly other blogs) when it seems that someone has some learning–some knowledge of church history or a head full of authoritative quotes–that leaves him or her greatly bothered by the relative stupidity of some teacher or speaker. People sometimes get quite disgusted with what they have to endure in Sunday School. I read a blog post earlier this week that had the same tone. It was young hedonist’s lament about being stuck in a city where he couldn’t find the proper sort of coffee shop, and after hours of walking he was stuck having his morning drink in a Starbucks. Apparently it was quite horrible, being such a connoisseur and having to sit among the rabble drinking something so unworthy. The poor lonely soul.

    I’ve thought the complainers about church speakers seem in some sort of prison of their own learning, cut off, in a sense.

    I’ve often felt that the ordinariness of our church meetings–though certainly containing some challenges and certainly an area that we can endeavor to lift up in some ways–was also part of their brilliance. If we elevated all the intellectuals and put them in charge of all the speaking and teaching it would be a place inviting mostly to proud people looking for attention, looking to be the star, which is one of the ways of being all alone.

    I love learning and the sense of solitude one sometimes has alone with a text–the way consciousness of time vanishes and one almost glimpses eternity, just at the edge of what words can do. But I’m also quite pleased to come back home to the center, where we all know things we can’t tell, but where we also know the main things we feel are felt by everyone else who is there.

  5. January 18, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Sounds like good advice.

  6. Mark Brown
    January 18, 2008 at 10:33 am

    I read an essay by Arthur Henry King that I have remember for a couple of decades now. If I’m remembering it correctly, he advocates the position that we should not seek to be exceptional, but servicable. He gives as an example the ending of Little Dorrit, and emphasisizes how many times Dickens says _went down_ as a way of indicating humility.

    They all gave place when the signing was done, and Little Dorrit and her husband walked out of the church alone. They paused for a moment on the steps of the portico, looking at the fresh perspective of the street in the autumn morning sun’s bright rays, and then went down.

    Went down into a modest life of usefulness and happiness. Went down to give a mother’s care, in the fullness of time, to Fanny’s neglected children no less than to their own, and to leave that lady going into Society for ever and a day. Went down to give a tender nurse and friend to Tip for some few years, who was never vexed by the great exactions he made of her in return for the riches he might have given her if he had ever had them, and who lovingly closed his eyes upon the Marshalsea and all its blighted fruits. They went quietly down into the roaring streets, inseparable and blessed; and as they passed along in sunshine and shade, the noisy and the eager, and the arrogant and the froward and the vain, fretted and chafed, and made their usual uproar.

  7. gecko
    January 18, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Great article. I actually try to live my life as described – being average. But what do you do when your spouse or loved ones expect you to be exceptional?

  8. Brad Kramer
    January 18, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    “I notice people when they get a vacation from work, always go on a plane trip somewhere. Why don’t you take a vacation in the life you chose? Why are you paying a lot of money for a travel agent to travel far away from the life that YOU chose for yourself?”
    –Bill Hicks

  9. East Coast
    January 18, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    A close associate of mine has always enjoyed the advice given to Robinson Crusoe by his father. It is too long to include here, although it is certainly worth reading and thinking about, so here is an excerpt:

    “That the middle Station of Life was calculated for all kind of Vertues and all kind of Enjoyments; that Peace and Plenty were the Hand-maids of a middle Fortune; that Temperance, Moderation, Quietness, Health, Society, all agreeable Diversions, and all desirable Pleasures, were the Blessings attending the middle Station of Life; that this Way Men went silently and smoothly thro’ the World, and comfortably out of it, not embarrass’d with the Labours of the Hands or of the Head, not sold to the Life of Slavery for daily Bread, or harrast with perplex’d Circumstances, which rob the Soul of Peace, and the Body of Rest; not enrag’d with the Passion of Envy, or secret burning Lust of Ambition for great things; but in easy Circumstances sliding gently thro’ the World, and sensibly tasting the Sweets of living, without the bitter, feeling that they are happy, and learning by every Day’s Experience to know it more sensibly.”

    I really enjoyed mlu’s comment #4 and have been enjoying his blog as well, as an insight into how making a choice of the kind being discussed here can result in something really extraordinary.

  10. Kevinf
    January 18, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    In our competitive and overscheduled society, I think we have mistaken this living life by the averages with Thoreau’s “lives of quiet desperation”. How unfair.

    I used to think of the exceptional things I could do with my life, and now I find my greatest contentment in making my wife smile. That really should be enough.

  11. January 18, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Julie, I love this. Esp. the part about conveying parental expectations.

  12. January 18, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    There is an old Chinese curse that says, “May you live an interesting Life.”

  13. January 18, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    An interesting article. At first I thought it was about being mediocre and not “going for it”, or slacking from “being the best you can be”.

    But then the “still small voice” said, “Joseph Smith was an ordinary boy, who became an exceptional man by living simply, humbly and asking God.”

    Ordinary can become extraordinary simply by obeying the Savior’s invitation, “Follow me.”

  14. queuno
    January 18, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    One of the most intelligent academic researchers I know would continually insist that there he found it more interesting to read a detailed analysis of a failed research project than a successful one. He would then proceed to lament how hard it was to publish failed results.

  15. queuno
    January 18, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    (hit return too soon)

    The obvious implication was that since we learn so much more from failure, we should strive to push ourselves to fail and learn from it.

  16. Matt Donaldson
    January 18, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Reminds me of a quote from President Joseph F. Smith, “To do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness.” (Gospel Doctrine, Pg. 285.)

  17. deb
    January 19, 2008 at 2:53 am

    This article may have saved my daughter~! She’s been an overachiever her whole life; puts way more pressure on herself than I ever would. Graduated high school early, earned AA degree at age 18. Daughter is at college, taking 21 credits, all math and science classes. She has called home in tears every day since the semester began, certain she is failing. Yesterday was the worst… she said “if I drop a class or two, I would do better and feel better, but my great grandchildren will laught at me.” I pointed out the obvious; 19 year olds don’t have great grandchildren! I sent her this article as soon as I noticed it. She called again today, laughing. She said “I decided it’s okay if I only get A- in my math class. I told the teacher today I cannot devote 9 hours a day to that one class anymore. I have a date tonight, too!” Her voice sounded normal , healthy, sane, for the first time in 2 weeks!

    I firmly beleive we need to do our very best, and not one bit more. Obviously, daughter missed that concept.

  18. Ray
    January 19, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    When I posted a few things here a while ago, I wrote a tribute to my father when my niece died that addresses exactly this point – consciously choosing to live an ordinary life and becoming an extraordinary person. It is the best example I have ever seen – and it shaped my life in more ways that I can list.

    Here is the link:


  19. Melinda
    January 20, 2008 at 12:08 am

    I suppose this admission makes me extraordinarily gullible, but I believed all those people in my teens and early twenties who told me I was amazing, gifted, brilliant, the leader of tomorrow, full of potential, I could do anything I wanted to, and God saved the most faithful people for the last days, and I was one of them! It took me quite a bit of effort to finally shuck off the weight of all those expectations and just be normal.

    I try not to tell teenagers how amazing they are, because of my own experiences with believing the people who said that to me. Like anyone needs the pressure to save the world. We think praising people to the skies helps build their self-esteem. Maybe it just scares them to death because now they think you’ll despise them if they fail.

    I like my ordinary life much better than the life I lived when I was trying to be exceptional. That was a good article, and very true.

  20. January 21, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    What do you think, Julie?

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