"Happiness and a meaningful life come from making differences.
But this is the most important rule to follow: always make the
differences you can make, not the differences you would prefer
to make but can't."

-Lyndon Duke

I was talking to my friend and mentor Steve Chandler once when
he said to me "have an average day!" A bit taken aback, I asked
him what he meant. After all, isn't the idea to have "great"
days, or even "exceptional" ones?

He then told me the story of one of his mentors, a man named
Lyndon Duke who studied something called "the linguistics of
suicide". After receiving a doctorate from two separate
universities, Duke began analyzing suicide notes to look for
linguistic clues which could be used to predict and prevent
suicidal behavior in teenagers.

What he learned was startling - that the enemy of happiness was
what he called "the curse of exceptionality". In a world where
everyone is trying to be exceptional, two things happen. The
first is that nearly everyone fails, because by definition if
too many people become exceptional, the exceptional becomes
commonplace. The second is that those few who do succeed feel
even more isolated and estranged from their peers than before.

Consequently you have a few people feeling envied, misunderstood
and alone and tens of thousands of others feeling like failures
for not being "______ enough" - "good enough", "special
enough", "rich enough" or even "happy enough."

When I was in the midst of the thickest cloud of my own suicidal
thoughts at university, I remember wishing I could run away
from my Presidential Scholarship and hide, perhaps changing my
name to "Bob" and taking a job at pumping gas at a full-service
station somewhere in the midwest. Only in my fantasy, sooner
or later people would start to notice that there was something
special about me. They would begin driving miles out of their
way to have their cars filled up by "Bob the service guy" and
exchange a few words with him, leaving the station oddly
uplifted and with a renewed sense of optimism and purpose.

Before long, someone would discover how exceptional I was and I
would have to run away from their expectations all over again.
I was, to my way of thinking, doomed to succeed.

Delusions of grandeur? Quite possibly. Depressed, hopeless and
miserable? Absolutely!

One of Lyndon Duke's major breakthroughs came when he was
dealing with his own unhappiness and heard the sound of a
neighbor singing while mowing his lawn. He realized then that's
what was missing from his life - the simple pleasures of an
average life.

The very next weekend, he went to visit his son who was
struggling to excel in his first term at university. He sat him
down and told him about his revised expectations for him:

"I expect you to be a straight "C" student, young man," Duke
said. "I want you to complete your unremarkable academic
career, meet an ordinary young woman and if you choose to, get
married and live a completely average life!"

His son, of course, thought Dad had finally flipped, but did
take the pressure off himself to be quite so "exceptional". A
month later he phoned his father to apologize. He had gotten
"A"s on all his exams, but it was OK because he had only done an
"average" amount of studying.

And this is the paradoxical promise of the "average day"
philosophy - the cumulative effect of a series of average days
spent doing an average amount of what one loves and wants to do
is actually quite extraordinary!

Let's put this thought together with another one of Duke's
discoveries - that many of the young people he studied felt as
though their lives had no meaning and made no difference to the
world or anyone in it. As a practical philosopher, he realized
that the meaning of our lives actually *comes* from the
differences we make with them. And that those differences need
not be huge to be profound in their impact on both ourselves
and others.

When we combine those two ideas we have what may well be the
ultimate goal for a happy and productive life:

*To be an average, happy person making a bit of a positive
difference and having a happy, average day.*

In doing this, you create the kind of "exceptionality" that can
be shared by everyone.

Today's experiment:

1. Choose an area of your life you have been trying to excel in.

Writing, Sales, Being a mom

2. What would constitute an average day in that area? Not
*typical*, but average (as in neither exceptionally good nor
exceptionally bad)?


Writing - 90 minutes a day
Sales - Speaking with 5 new prospects
Being a mom - Spending at least half an hour before school and
half an hour after school focused 100% on being with the kids

3. Project forward into the future - if you did nothing but
repeat your "average day" 5 days a week, how much of a
difference will you have made in 3 months? A year? 5 years? A


Writing 100 or so hours in a 3 month period would probably be
enough to complete an entire book; 400 hours in a year would be
2 books, some poetry and a screenplay; Over 2000 hours over a 5
year period would make me prolific!

Speaking with 100+ people a month about the difference I can
make for them would definitely lead to some sales; over 1200
difference making conversations a year would lead to numerous
sales (and an incredible amount of skill development); over 6000
difference-making conversations in a 5 year period would make
me rich!

Spending at least an hour a day with my kids seven days a week
is over 125 hours in 3 months; that's more than enough time to
really get to know them and tune in to their wants and needs.
500+ focused hours of time spent with my children over the
course of a year will create an incredible level of friendly
intimacy and positive familiarity; if I make even a tiny
difference in each one of nearly 3000 hours over a 5 year
period, the impact on their lives and sense of meaning in mine
will be anything but average!

4. Do 3 things today that make a small difference - they can be
as simple as a kind word to a friend, a warm smile to a
stranger or picking up your children's socks without secretly
wanting to kill them. :-) Repeat daily for as often as you

Have fun, learn heaps, and have an average day!

With love,


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