The power of normal: Why most can, but won’t

Two sentences have been on my mind lately:

“I posit that most people can attain financial independence in less than 10 years and in less than 5 if they are truly determined. I also submit that many people are not willing to make the necessary changes.”

These are from the introduction to a series of posts about how to retire extremely early. Although I’m interested in the content of the sentences and what they imply, I’m also fascinated by the structure of what he said.

“I posit that most people can ____________________ if they are truly determined. I also submit that many people are not willing to make the necessary changes.”

While I think the first half is often true by itself – and I’ve certainly tried to convince people of it in the past – I think combining it with the second half provides a far more telling description of reality.

It isn’t the power of determination that’s important. Don’t we hear enough about “believing in yourself” as it is? To me, the important part to hear and understand is the second half: the power of normal.

Normal keeps us repeating. Normal lumps us together with everyone around us. Normal holds us to what we’ve done in the past, even the average of what everyone’s done in the past, as though we’re obligated to honor it by continuing it forever.

How many Americans will consider moving to another country? How many workers will consider free education online? How many couples will consider adoption?

“If it ain’t normal, forget it.” Or really, it’s worse than that. Most of us don’t even consider in the first place. It’s like we go through life answering essay questions with a, b, c, or d.

This bothers me. It bothers me because I’ve been the strange one frustrated by the normal ones who won’t break free. That, and because I know it applies to me too. As much as I want to pretend I’m a unique snowflake, more often than not, we’re in this together.

We don’t have trouble knowing how to accomplish things. We have trouble breaking our patterns to take advantage of the know-how. We have trouble living on purpose when “on purpose” isn’t normal.

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