Out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, perhaps twenty people can write a book in a year. Some people lift cars, too. Some people enter week-long sled-dog races, go over Niagra Falls in barrels, fly planes through the Arc de Triomphe. Some people feel no pain in childbirth…There is no call to take human extremes as norms.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (emphasis added)
I took piano lessons for about a decade, but I’m not naturally talented at it. While I can play passably, you’ll never see me sitting behind a concert grand in Carnegie Hall.
The vast majority of children who take piano lessons will not become concert pianists. Very few T-Ball players make it to the Major League. And yet the skills and discipline learned make these activities worth pursuing. I derive a lot of happiness from plunking around on the piano and playing catch with my kids even though I’m only average (OK, below average in baseball, I throw like a girl).
And yet, in other areas of life, I get so transfixed by the people who seem to be perfect that I let it paralyze me and keep me from action if my best isn’t going to be THE best. I get sidetracked by all those people lifting the proverbial car and fail to see that while we all have our strengths nobody, nobody, does it all. And even if I’m not extremely gifted at something, I can still bring happiness and blessing to myself, my family and others with my efforts.
“There is no call to take human extremes as norms.” It’s good to look to talented people for inspiration and challenge, but if I set the prodigies up as the norm, I’ll just get down on myself for not measuring up.
- So I’m not Martha Stewart – I can still show hospitality.
- So I’m not Julia Child – I can still make healthy and reasonably tasty meals for my family.
- So I’m not SuperMom – I can pray and be diligent in parenting.
And no, I probably won’t finish my novel in a year, bench press my minivan, or fly a plane through the Arc de Triomphe, but that’s OK. I’ll finish the book eventually, keep toned with the 30 Day Shred, and settle for walking through the Arc de Triomphe.
Do you ever find yourself setting unrealistic expectations? How do you overcome that?