that little extra

This quote says:

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.

This one made me think a lot, too. I don’t really know if I agree with it. Is it really just “little” extra or is it a lot. Maybe it’s better to say a little extra every day. Because I think it takes a lot of work to be extraordinary.

I am a firm believer that we can all be extraordinary in pretty much anything we want to be (okay, yes there are some exceptions but fewer than people make it out to be.) and that the trick is consistent and persistent effort. And not just blind effort but concerted effort. Effort that involves critical thinking, growth, and forward progress.

When people tell me that they don’t have the brain for languages, I have to stop myself from calling them out. The fact is, languages might come a bit more easily to me now that I know many of them but, in the beginning, they were just as hard for me. I studied. A LOT. to get to where I am. When I learned English, I read incessantly in English. When I was in Japan, I spent hours every single day practicing. Just to get mediocre at it.

It wasn’t luck or genes. It was hard work.

And yes maybe some things come easier to some of us on a fundamental level. But it still doesn’t mean you can’t get extraordinary at math, it just means you might have to work harder than the other person. Which is something you choose or don’t choose.

But saying it’s not in my genes takes the choice away from you. It puts you back into the victim mentality and I dislike that. It also feels like a cop out. Like “too bad for me, i guess i am just not wired that way.” when it really is more like “aren’t I lucky, I have this excuse so I don’t actually have to put in the time and effort. I can just say I am not wired that way.”


If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine by me. I think there’s freedom in owning that. Just don’t confuse it with “can’t.” IT’s not that you can’t, it’s that you don’t want to do what it takes.

Which is fine. And takes me back to the quote. It’s not a “little” extra in my opinion. Extraordinary requires passionate amount of extra. Consistent. Disciplined. Obsessive. Truly, deeply, joyfully doing something enough to get really good at it.

Maybe if you’re passionate enough it feels like it’s only a little extra?

4 comments to that little extra

  • I agree — a little extra isn’t enough to become extraordinary at something. I remember the 10,000 hours estimate quoted in one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books as the point at which you become really proficient at something, whether it’s playing the piano, training in a sport, or computer programming. (This piece – – gives a more complex and nuanced view of this concept. Worth a read.) I love our country, but it’s a real failure of ours as a culture that people with certain skills are lauded and others are derided. If only intellect was as valued as athletic skill.

  • Julie B

    You comment about languages hit home with me. After taking a semester of French, my “teacher” told me that that it might be wise for me to consider taking up another language. Imagine my surprise. I may not be able to speak it well but it was interesting that I could understand more than my husband could on our various trips to Paris and he had taken French in high school, college and self study. Maybe it is time I revisit the French language again.

  • Christine

    I also thought of the 10,000 hours estimate from Gladwell’s book. I remember when I read that. I did the math and it was basically 40 hours a week for 5 years. That’s not a little.

  • Teresa

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your beautiful art on your blog. I am amazed at ALL of your ArT!!! It truly is beautful and inspiirational!!!!
    I am also taking Life Book 2014 class. Love watching everyone create. It’s magical!!

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