What is normal?

If we plot normal on a graph it would look something like this:

Typical Bell Curve

Whether we are talking about height, weight, personally traits, how high someone can jump–we will find a “normal”.

There is nothing exciting about normal. It’s invisible and yet it’s everywhere we go. We look for normal because it is familiar to us. It’s only when someone chooses to stand out of the crowd we even notice.

Normal is a statistic. A distribution. Not a person.

Do you really believe you were born to be normal?

Getting to yes

Whether you are selling kitchenware or asking for a donation for your nonprofit, there’s a gap between No and Yes.

Pro tip: It’s easier to make a sale when you are on the side of angels.

When you sell a product or service that you actually believe in, one that solves someone’s problem–you have nothing to worry about in asking for a sale.

[It took me a long time to understand this. Even after I got a sale, I would still try to convince people about it. Once I recognized my insecurities, it has been much easier to ask since.]

Rock in the shoe

Semi-rad makes a great point. A rock in our shoe is much smaller than what we think it is.

That’s what happens with persistent problems–small ones turn into big ones rather quickly if we don’t stop what we are doing and take care of them.

That thing we leave undone, the one that we dread, is it actual chronic pain we are avoiding or simply a rock in the shoe?

Perception isn’t reality.

Who we are isn’t what we do

“I’m not a writer.” So we ignore all the opportunities to be a writer.

“I’m not a rock climber.” As a result we don’t take a class or join a gym.

The opportunities to invent yourself are everywhere. More than we could ever fully capitalize on.

So many possibilities are flying by, it’s easy to turn around and say, “That isn’t me.” But when we do something new for the first time, we might just change the fabric of who we are.

We are not our work (or our job or resume). Who we are isn’t what we do but what we do can sometimes change who we are–if we let it.

Corn is not natural

At least the corn we eat today isn’t. It’s the product of selective breeding. Over the last 9,000 years, farmers have been selecting the seeds of the crops that were bigger and tastier.

And it isn’t just corn. So are peaches, apples, watermelon–every fruit and vegetable you can imagine. Pigs, chickens, cows are also genetically modified by drugs, climate control and artificial insemination. (Chickens actually have to be slaughtered at 5 months or the weight that they carry actually snaps their legs.)

We have a difficult time imagining how are food as evolved. We don’t like to think of it as engineering yet the mass supply of food the West indulges in was no accident. Food scarcity has plagued us for thousands and thousands of years. The domestication of food is one of the greatest technological feats in human history.

If you are reading this, you are probably not thinking about where you are going to get your next meal. That is a miracle.

This is genetic engineering and we might be seeing the limits of what can possibly happen. Mass meat consumption is contributing a large part of greenhouse emissions. A hamburger can take 660 gallons of water and 10 pounds of grain to produce. Not to mention the slaughtering, packaging, transportation for us to pick it up. And equity is still a problem. It is estimated that 811 million people each day are still going hungry. If we switched to a whole food plant base, we could use the excess food to feed the world.

Yet, most of us (including myself) have a hard time making that leap. One interesting answer is in the genetic engineering or plant based alternatives. The problem is many struggle to get past the meat made by plants or grown in a lab. But there is not difference in how we do it today. Food is grown in a lab when we think of the manipulation of plants and animals to produce what we have today.

None of us eat cows or pigs anymore. We are eating burgers and bacon. We continue to add degrees of separation and it changes the story of our food. Food is important part of our lives. We need it to survive but also it is the center of our culture.

The question going forward, what kind of story are we going to tell ourselves?

Why diets fail

There’s a difference in the mindset of eating something healthy and not eating junk food.

Most diets focus on the latter–don’t eat the marshmallow. Which in turn causes stress.

According to Science, “Changes in gene expression may help explain why so many diets fail. Dieting increases stress sensitivity, and stress makes us seek out rewarding things like high-fat, high-calorie “comfort” foods.”

Our brains are working against us. We are stressed we want to be comforted. If we are doing well, we want to be rewarded.

We know taking something away is far more painful than getting something in return. Understanding how the brain works and you can be better prepared for the challenge to come. (Not just with dieting.)

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

In 2007, Muhammad Ali started the Roshni Helpline–Pakistan’s first tip line for missing children. Ali has created a vast network of shopkeepers and confidential informants to get eyes and ears on the ground to save these kids.

Except this isn’t the same Muhammad Ali you are thinking of it. He isn’t a famous boxer. He’s just a regular person who decided to help kids who needed to be help. As a result, his organization has saved over 5,000 children.

How big of a badge do you really need to make a difference?

We speak as if doing important, extraordinary work is for the select few. But that is just another lie we tell ourselves.

Are you a good leader?

Notice when I say “good” it invoked a bunch of emotions.

“Compare to who?”

“Well, I am better than him but much worst than her.”

“I’m not a President or a General.”

“I’m just not that good at public speaking.”

Good causes us to squirm because we don’t actually know what good means. There is no measure for what a good leader is. We either see someone as a good leader or not.

Because there is no standard, no bar, therefore we can’t measure. And deep down, we know our flaws and imperfection. We amplify them to tell ourselves a story of insufficiency.

Yet, if I were to ask, “What makes a leader?”

We can describe someone as charismatic, a problem solver, someone who directs people, inspires others, can say something inspiring or profound…

Haven’t you done those things before? Of course, you have! At least once. If we did it once, we can do it again. We don’t see ourselves as good leaders because of the story we are telling ourselves.

No one is born a great leader. The doctor didn’t deliver you and say, “Wow, look at that, she’s a leader!” We learn to become good leaders by practicing. It’s a skill. Like most things, we can get better at it with opportunities and practice.

There is no such thing as a perfect leader. So go. Be the leader you are capable of being. Not the one you were born to be.

Layman’s terms

Layman’s terms derives from the 16th-century idiom “in plain English” meaning to explain something simple enough that a layperson (common person) would understand.

But there is a difference between speaking to someone like they are a five-year-old and speaking so clearly that even a five-year-old could understand.

A note to the audience: Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t make it less true.

Does your story have a happy ending?

Most of us gush over fairy tells with happy endings. We are often quick to believe that our favorite sports team can pull off the big upset or the nice guy gets his girl in the end.

At the same time, we struggle to believe in the outcome of our own story. We often default to things not breaking in our favor. We call it “being realistic” or bad luck as a way to temper our expectations.

If we keep our expectations low than we can’t be disappointed. Right?

Just because we are not going to win the lottery it doesn’t mean the universe is conspiring against us. And hoping for things to be better is different from seeing the world as it currently is.

Each of us has an opportunity to build a bridge from the status quo to possibility. It starts with the belief in a world not as it is but what can be.

Imagination. Possibility. Connection. Dreaming big. It may sound like a fairy tale for someone else because we don’t imagine ourselves being the agent for change. Deep down, we know our flaws and we amplify them. Creating a narrative of insufficiency.

You can change all of that. It’s easier to imagine running a marathon once you’ve done it. Go make your ruckus. You don’t make the change until you be the change.

Narratives evolve after action. Not before.