Guest Post: The Benefits of Being Ordinary

Tyler Durden's picture

Via Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

Being extraordinary is a terrific bother, truth be told, so please appreciate the benefits of ordinariness if you are so blessed.

Every hour of every day, we are persuaded that the benefits of being extraordinary in some way are equally extraordinary. This has two propaganda components:
1. If you buy this product or service (touted by An Extraordinary Person), you will feel the vicarious thrill of acting/looking like you're extraordinary.
2. Our society is a meritocracy, blah blah blah; if you are naturally talented/bright and if you make extraordinary efforts, you might rise above mere ordinary and start accruing all those fabulous benefits reserved for the extraordinary.
What if these benefits aren't as wonderful as advertised? That would hurt sales and the drive of those who bought into the meritocracy claim.
Let's start with those glorified twins, fame and fortune. Fame is actually a huge bother. You have to be polite to strangers or risk your sour rejection of fans being spread over the Web in short order. You find that acclaim wears thin very quickly on multiple levels: any comment might be taken out of context and used to undermine your claim to extraordinariness, and your human foibles are trumpeted as weaknesses.
People seek some sort of ethical-spiritual perfection in the famous, as if being extraordinary in some field automatically elevates a person to sainthood.
The demands made on your time and attention cannot possibly be met; all the world's a stage, and you are constantly "on." While the morbidly insecure come to depend on this diet of public adoration, those with any shred of inner security soon find the whole "fame thing" tiresome.
As for fortune: your focus shifts from reveling in wealth to worrying about protecting it. The average person has a "wish list" of stuff they would buy with a fortune: fancy autos, homes, tropical islands, etc. But all of these properties require maintenance, and so you become a manager--unless you hire a manager, which then opens you up to being ripped off or defrauded. (The list of actors, sports celebrities and rock stars whose wealth has vanished in dubious "investments" and outright fraud is long indeed.)
After you've spent whatever can be spent, then you have to concern yourself with capital preservation, and in this volatile world that is a major source of anxiety. No wonder so many lottery winners end up broke a few years after their big windfall: the constant appeals for cash and the hassles of managing wealth become too much, and squandering it is the only way to return to a sane, less anxious life.
Or your $300 million dwindles to $5 million, and the loss deranges you to the point you shoot disruptive neighbors or otherwise snap. Many a dot-com millionaire is haunted by what they didn't do with their brief but glorious wealth.
Now for the benefits of being ordinary. The temptations to stray are few for the ordinary; those of us with ordinary looks, brains, talent and wealth are not beset with the temptations of impossibly beautiful women/handsome men, nor do dealers approach us with offers of cocaine or other costly illegal substances. No one is willing to give themselves to us for access to our power, because we have no power beyond that residing in our bodies and souls.
Lacking power and prestige, we are not tempted to lie to protect our power and prestige.
Since everything we own is also ordinary, there isn't much worth stealing (except if we own older-model Japanese cars that are worth more in parts than as whole vehicles), so ordinary security measures are sufficient.
As ordinary people, nobody expects extraordinary results or behaviors from us. Expectations of us are also ordinary, which means that good work and politeness will go a long way to meet or exceed expectations.
The extraordinary, unfortunately, are constantly beset by expectations that are impossible to consistently meet. For example, if you are a top concert pianist, critics will be listening for any slight weakness in your performance, not just compared to others but to your past performances.
If a money manager generates extraordinary returns one year, he is expected to meet or best that return the following year, and so on, until he quits or expires.
Your very extraordinariness becomes a liability or a weapon used against you.
Trying to do extraordinary things is often dangerous, for example, snowboarding Denali. Mistakes can cost you your life at this level. Even in "safe" endeavors, any failure is potentially sufficient to ruin your career.
Thus academics without tenure must obsess over backstabbing rivals in the department or the "graduate student from Hell" whose parent happens to be a powerful, well-connected dean at a top university.
Those seeking extraordinary standing, position, accomplishment, recognition or returns are exposed to soul-numbing burdens and pressures as those chasing the same rarefied position will stop at nothing to undermine you or increase their chances by lowering yours.
The ordinary have no such worries. We tend to have jobs nobody wants badly enough to plot against us.
The extraordinary must maintain high internal standards that sap the joy from life. Music loses its fun-factor when your internal standards are necessarily performance-level. If nothing less than the corner office and a partnership will do, then life becomes a vacuous treadmill of overwork and anxiety about falling short.
The ordinary have far fewer such worries. Music remains a joy because advancement from a low level is rewarding, and the freedom from impossible job pressures is true freedom.
As you may have noticed, I am ordinary/average in every way, with the one exception being the quantity of words I disgorge on an annual basis. I am not sure this is something to brag about, as it may well be evidence of an unhealthy imbalance somewhere in my jumbled mind.
Otherwise I am blissfully ordinary in all other things: wealth (modest), looks (ditto), power (none), athletic ability (near-zero), musical ability (ditto), talent at learning foreign languages (ditto), stock trading ability (sub-average, constantly beaten by a monkey throwing darts), spiritual attainment (none), author (minimal sales) and so on. Everything I own is also ordinary, and the best thing I own (the Les Paul guitar) is just a production model--nothing custom, rare or fancy.
Being extraordinary is a terrific bother, truth be told, so please appreciate the benefits of ordinariness if you are so blessed. 

My new book Why Things Are Falling Apart and What We Can Do About It is now available in print and Kindle editions--10% to 20% discounts.

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mac768's picture

Fuck the maniac happiness machines and just say no

MillionDollarBonus_'s picture

The truth about wealth, success and happiness is that some people have it, and some don’t. Libertarians cling to the idea that people can influence their circumstances by exercising choice over their thoughts and actions. But this completely misses the fact that most people simply cannot exercise control over their actions. Some people just need to get stuff without having to work for it. Consider a homeless person who is crippled and has brain damage ... how do libertarians expect this person to help himself? Now that I’ve demonstrated my point, I think it’s fair to put the majority of people in this category. There is no 'personal responsibility' - it's just a myth used to make ordinary people feel guilty. Also, there are no universal principles and there is no such thing as truth. Purist libertarians are far too simplistic, which is why they manage to get everything completely wrong.

Itch's picture

Dont muddy the waters by bringing libitards into it, dont be such a cunt.

CH1's picture

You guys get it that MDB is 100% sarcasm, all the time, right?

Not my preference, but so it is.

Itch's picture

Trust me, MDB is always a joke with a jag. 

Real Estate Geek's picture

That's not the real MDB (see underscore appended to MDB name)

MillionDollarBonus_'s picture

I've always had an underscore. Search my profile if you don't believe me. It appears I've created such cognitive dissidence with my criticism of the flaws of libertarian purism, that doomer ZHers have simply run out of arguments. 

El Viejo's picture

Life is like a box of chocolats ...

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

It was ALIENS... As some ancient econonaut scholars theorize...

LawsofPhysics's picture

So you want to starve one family in order to feed another?  Good luck with that.  Not very familiar with the laws of Nature are you? Sorry, I'll be betting on Nature troll.

Blammo's picture

"Some people just need to get stuff without having to work for it. Consider a homeless person who is crippled and has brain damage ..."

Get a gig as a politician............problem solved..........

formadesika3's picture

Crippled, you say? I got nailed one time for using that term. You of all people, MDB, should know the PC term is 'disabled' or better, 'ambulatorily-challenged.'

formadesika3's picture

Enjoy this life you have and accept what you have. You may come back as a naked mole rat.

CPL's picture

Binary decisions always seem attractive until examined and scrutinized.


As far as the semi retarded and crippled hobo, in a libertarian environment they would die.  Just like they do now with a social safety net.  The reality is their life expectancy is already limited, their contribution to society is nil except as reforcement to GDP in a government program somewhere.  Unless you are suggesting that we adopt hobo's as house pets? 

...Reminds me of the bible humpers at Church, they are so very much against abortion in every way shape or form.  Mention that they should be there with a catchers mitt for every unwanted pregnancy and take the unwanted MASS of children for the required 18 years.  Well, it shuts them up pretty quickly. 

People want to put their energy and money into something, let them.  Regulating someone's social responsibility is a bit much.

I am not my brother's keeper.

CPL's picture

In a flash sparky, we'll grab Mum as well.

formadesika3's picture

The great majority of homeless people are only temporarily homeless. The hardcore homeless are for the most part drug addicts which is another problem altogether.

The plight of homelessness was created by urban renewal in the 1960s. Before their flophouses and flea-bag hotels were eliminated in that era, they had affordable housing.

Cathartes Aura's picture

actually, it's that popular legal substance, alcohol, that puts many on the streets, and from there, the substance use climbs in order to numb that reality.  agreed on the "flophouses" though. . . gentrification from the 80's onward.

a search on Reagan Thatcher 1980's homeless mental institutions - that sheds some light on an agenda.

Dr. Engali's picture

Hey my parents tell me I've been brain damaged since birth and I'm doing okay. That homeless slacker needs to get up off his ass, pull up his bootstraps,and get to work. I'm sure there is some roll he can fill. I hear the carnies are always looking for somebody to sit in the dunk tank.

GAAPpreNixon's picture

Defining monetary wealth in terms of whether a person has it or not is ridiculous, infantile and rather transparent because it is simply predicated to produce envy.

In the old book "Robinson Crusoe" by Defoe, the protagonist's father counsels  him about the blessings of being ordinary in exactly the same way the above EXCELLENT article does. It is a truth that rings with every decent human being.

There is no "problem" with being wealthy beyond the difficulty many have with perceiving it as it actually is, period.

An ordinary person can turn off concerns about money; a wealthy, like a poor person, cannot. If you can handle that, fine. But don't come here claiming wealth is the be all, end all of ambition and existence because the actuaries in health insurance corporations will calmly explain to you that you do not know what you are talking about.

Happiness and wealth do not correlate nor is wealth the main causative factor in happiness. Wealth is often the casue of family strife and unhappiness. This is the TRUTH screamed out from health insurance corporation stats.

But I do admit the hospital will treat you wealthy folks very nicely at your triple bypass operation.

Have a nice day.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

For those too disabled to work, nature is clear: we let them die or we CHOOSE to make each one live on a case by case basis.

We can't afford to change evolution itself, forcing all workers to pay for all non-workers, or we'll have all non-workers then a system collapse.

It's unkind but it's more unkind to doom the entire species.

Silver Bug's picture

Live in the real world and work towards something meaningful, such as protecting our liberties and freedoms. You will have a much more fulfilled and thus happy life. It may not be the easy road although. So few will take it.

Henry Chinaski's picture

If you were born in a western civilized country in the last 60 years, you already won life's lottery.  Stop complaining and get what you can and enjoy it.  It doesn't hurt to fly below the radar, though.

GraveyardSpiral's picture

I can't believe no one else posted this, I can't be the only one here THAT old.....can I, Bueller....Bueller....?

sink critically's picture

You are most assuredly not the only one here THAT old. I think Ol' Joe tried too hard to maintain his ordinary status, it's not his best work imneho (in my never ever humble opinion).

pufferfish's picture

Suberb, recomended watching for everyone...

1835jackson's picture

So what you are saying is it's better to be ordinary than exceptional? 

CH1's picture

Appear ordinary to the world; be exceptional to those you trust.

Popo's picture

..which is why entire generations of American men have picked up their ball and gone home to play Xbox.   Why labor for the tax-regime?   The problem with the Soviet Union was that it wasn't worth it to get off your ass -- which is why the shelves in the supermarkets were bare.  The state provided for everyone regardless of contribution.  And in many cases it provided enormous amounts for political insiders.  The relationship between actual productivity and wealth became weaker and weaker.  The same is increasingly true for the USA, Japan and Europe.  The more the nanny state promises (and takes) the less incentive there is for anybody to do anything -- including reproduce.  And the more the parasitic elites destroy the relationship between actual productivity and earnings, the less incentive there is to play the game.   Who wants to play in a rigged match, anyway?    As the productive percentage of society shrinks,  the impossibility of sustainability grows and grows.

Central Bankster's picture

Completely agree. No incentives to save, get married, kids, or work beyond what I plan on consuming. The system is designed to steal from the young and default on them later.fuck this fascist system. 

edifice's picture

I'm still relatively young (mid-30s), and see absolutely no need to get married or have children; especially knowing what is coming down the road for this part of the world. Why would I want to bring someone into that?

CH1's picture

There's a lot of shit in the world - for sure. But, don't let it stop you from living your life.

Kids are awesome, JUST DON'T RAISE THEM LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD DOES. That's what you want to protect them from. Life is good, even though the current ruled-world sucks.

So, don't play their game. Get separate, find a nice girl if that makes you happy, and have a kid or three if it makes the two of you happy.

But by all means get out of the Slave Game first.

mc_LDN's picture

If we're honest life for most on this planet is mostly bad and even if it is good relative to the others and if we live in the West we spend most of our life struggling with the idea of what others have and what we do not have. In a sense you could say it is worse and more difficult for this in the West because we are more blinded. Sure we convince ourselves were happy and dont need much but the reality is most of us are envious of our neighbours new car, amazing house, more attractive wife. The reality is were all attached to the idea of what were not and what we dont have for most of our lives and in flights of fancy yes we're happy. If we're brutal about it though we would throw off this materialsm utopia but thats the problem with being born into this world you have no hope from the moment youre born into it. Convincing ones self that a revolution of elites of all stripes is a grand and noble idea and it is needed to better balance the world right now but the reality is we need to realise that the seeds of destruction are in all of us and new revolutionary political models will not address this fact. The problem is a spiritual one not a political / hierachial one. It might takes us another 600 years to realise this. In the meantime getting out of the slave game is a good start :-)

fonzannoon's picture

Edifice you may be missing the big picture As big as this whole drama is, the bottom line is (I think) you only get one shot at this so make the most of it. Besides if you were to have a child  (cue triumphant music) you can teach them the right ways and later on feel like you did some small part to help fix this shit.

fonzannoon's picture

Popo I agree with you that the masses are going to check out and sit on their ass. I actually think this creates an opportunity for anyone willing to break from that and bust their ass and become good at a skill or trade. I understand it's probably the equivelant of walking up an avalanche. But I remain hopeful.

CH1's picture

An opportunity ONLY if you do it via the invisible economy, or offshore. Otherwise, you labor for the state.

LostAtSea's picture

But that would be extraordinary.

Sextus Empiricus's picture

At some point, what if the system gets so corrupt you simply don't agree with working in it anymore?  Can't take any job without someone telling you how to walk, EXACTLY what to say, when to eat, when to piss, can't move up unless you're willing to work 16 hours a day, can't move up unless you engage in shady practices... Sometimes I just say, "Sorry, this isn't the world I was told about growing up.  I'd rather not take part."


fonzannoon's picture

I don't think we are there yet. But at that point I feel pretty good that a lot of people on here would dust off their guns and put a hole in someone. I am not being funny or sarcastic either.

Cathartes Aura's picture


.which is why entire generations of American men have picked up their ball and gone home to play Xbox

best excuse for cheetos fingers evah.  you really think the scores of men, from teens to their elders, have thought it all through and decided to be gamers?  guess that does play right into the demographics link:               see:  audience also likes.

gonna be a collective scream when the electric gets interrupted/disappears, and the mind-traps close.


derek_vineyard's picture

boehner is an ordinary chain smoker and obama is an ordinary baller

Perdogg's picture

I don't want to be famous, I just want to be rich and have sex with a lot of women.



Cathartes Aura's picture


roll a goblin on World of Warcraft.

1835jackson's picture

Man I am so tired I barley managed to read this article now I am going to go away and have a wank


fonzannoon's picture


So this assumes that every "ordinary" person lacks ambition and is perfectly resigned to not wanting to accomplish more? Not wanting to be remembered for something other than being compared to a door knob?

Michelle's picture

The sublimity of mediocrity, the new American dream.

Resigning oneself to this low expectation level IS the problem, that and being lazy.