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4 Reasons To Keep Believing In The Extraordinary

4 Reasons To Keep Believing In The Extraordinary

Last week, I learned about Jane Aldridge (above), an extraordinary young girl from Texas who writes a blog called Sea of Shoes. If you are under 25, or if you are very into fashion, you probably already know all about Jane Aldridge and her recent trip to the Crillon Debutante Ball representing Teen Vogue, or about J. Aldridge for Sea of Shoes, the shoe-design partnership she forged with Urban Outfitters. But on the off-chance you haven’t yet heard of Sea of Shoes, please check it out, because even if you are not particularly into clothes or ogling the trappings of Texan oil wealth, this young girl’s story is extraordinary, both because of her preternatural luck and her curative talent. Her story got me thinking about how what we have to do, in order to be successful in life and in business, is to allow ourselves room to believe in the extraordinary — even (especially?) when it confuses us, or prompts us to doubt. Because there is nothing quite like the dream of the extraordinary in its ability to capture the attention, hearts, and minds of people, regardless of what business you are in — I’ve tried to list reasons for this below.

  1. Ordinary People Are Inspired To Do More, Be Better, By Witnessing The Extraordinary.
    For all of our collective cynicism as a society, there is still nothing like an shared moment of witnessing the extraordinary to wake us all up and spur us to action. I was reminded of this last Friday, as the Lakers struggled to maintain a few points of a lead against a decidedly lesser-skilled opponent (the Miami Heat). In the last few minutes of the game, somehow the Heat was ahead, and the Lakers were facing a loss in a game that they should have won. This wasn’t a particularly important game, in the grand scheme of things, for the Lakers but they certainly would prefer to win it.

    Still, somehow — one part luck, one part coaching, one part talent — the Lakers managed to pull out a win against the odds, in the last 5 seconds of the game by pasting together a few good plays and a penultimate game-clenching shot, a three-pointer thrown up by Kobe Bryant, who was balanced on one leg and had two defenders in his face at the time. Kobe Bryant practices shots like this over and over again, and lives for these kinds of moments, but even he is surprised when they actually go in and manage to win a game that should have been lost.

  2. NBA players are notorious for being very blasé about feats of greatness on the basketball court — they see what is greatness by ordinary standards it all the time. But this was different: even for them, this was extraordinary. But their reaction is like they had just won the Championship all over again. Why? Because it’s extraordinary. There is just nothing like like the extraordinary to get people motivated, or get people inspired. People just eat that shit up, even superstars.

  3. Extraordinary people need ordinary people to guide them.
    The thing with being an extraordinary person is that you start losing sight of reality, because your reality as an extraordinary person, is just totally different from that of the rest of the world. You start thinking you can do crazy stuff and get away with it. Sometimes you can. But sometimes you need to be smacked back to reality. Again, a reference to the NBA is instructive here.

    Even if you are the reigning MVP of the NBA, you want to keep a connection to the real world. You need highly paid ordinary people around you to keep you grounded. You need ordinary people who are not afraid to say, “Hey, hey, LBJ: how many fashion faux-pas you make today?” or “Either a toggle-coat or a letterman’s sweater, LeBron, but not both, and not with your own initials on it.” Or, “How about this time we don’t jump on Oprah’s couch, Tom?” Or “A three-year affair with a cocktail waitress, Tiger? When you have a former Swedish model waiting for you at home?” Extraordinary people need ordinary people around to save them from themselves. And they need to pay those people well for the trouble. Because . . .

  4. Extraordinary People And Things Represent The Work-Product Of Many Hands. It is tough to make something or someone extraordinary all by yourself. Figure out how you can contribute to something extraordinary, and you’ll have a job for life. Britney Spears, the person, has assaulted us with her ordinariness for many years now, but before that, when she had handlers and people controlling her public image, we might have been fooled for a while, even if just for a few minutes, that she was something special. And, even now, if you ask a certain subset of younger girls, they’ll tell you that Britney is something special, but only because many many talented people helped to make her so. And those people all found their paths in the construction of something extraordinary.
  5. The Need To Believe Is The Most Extraordinary Thing Of All.
    Returning to Jane Aldridge for a moment, shortly after I discovered her blog, I shared it on Twitter. Several people replied because they, too, were amazed by the blog. Inevitably, the topic of authenticity was broached, because as is the case with all things internet, we had a general distrust of all things we could not confirm with absolute certainty based on our own experience. In the process of this discussion, I made the following tweet expressing my skepticism about the possibility of a 16-year-old, even an extraordinary one, using the phrase, “cupidity of my generation”:

    I just kept stumbling on that phrase — keep stumbling on it — because for someone so young to use it is foreign to my experience. And even though Jane Aldrdige responded to me on Twitter about the authenticity of her blog, it was one of the more “trollish” responses that made me realize that I had missed the point wholesale.

    That the fact that this kind of word usage, or this kind of precociousness, or this kind of wealth being made accessible to someone so young is foreign to my experience is at the essence of what makes this blog extraordinary. If she had not used that word, perhaps I wouldn’t have found the blog so remarkable. And more importantly, it does not matter if it is “true” or not, because it — whatever it is — makes people believe, and that is what is most powerful. Tap into that belief, and you can make something remarkable yourself.

Comments (5)

  1. Dec 7, 2009

    I had vaguely heard about the Crillon ball, but until I went to her Sea of Shoes blog, I didn’t realize that she’s the blogger behind They Don’t Call Them Lovers in High School, Leeland. Whoa, I’ve been looking at that off and on for a long time. She is a talent.

  2. Dec 8, 2009

    Sea of Shoes is amazing, and They Don’t Call Them Lovers in High School is beyond amazing. Just look at this one post:
    Colors indeed! I want to believe that this is all coming from the mind of an extraordinarily talented 17-year-old, but my initial “the new Audrey Hepburn” impression is wilting a bit after viewing the other blog’s images.

  3. Andrew Stevens
    Dec 9, 2009

    You keep stumbling on the idea that a 16 year old with a blog might use a thesaurus? Because that’s all you need here. Any 16 year old can think the phrase “greed of my generation” and then find that cupidity is a synonym for greed. I certainly knew the word cupidity at the age of 16, though I wasn’t so pretentious that I’d have ever written the phrase “cupidity of my generation.” (It is not the wording I find pretentious, by the by.)

  4. Dec 9, 2009

    @Andrew for some reason, it never occurred to me that she would have used a thesaurus, I guess because it’s just a blog post. But you may be right. If it’s not the wording that is pretentious, then what is it?

  5. Andrew Stevens
    Dec 9, 2009

    Well, the phrase can be used, I think, in one of two contexts. 1) To decry the greed of one’s own generation in a “but I’m not like that, of course” sort of way or 2) to decry an older generation’s assumption about the greed of one’s own generation in order to insist that they’ve got it wrong. Either is fairly pretentious, especially for a 16 year old who is far too young to have grand generational theories. However, I was stimulated to look up the post in which she used the phrase and it’s actually not as pretentious as all that so I take it back.

    Many of the 16 year olds that I knew when I was 16 would have known the word “cupidity,” but that’s probably only because I took Latin in high school and cupidity is a cognate for the Latin cupiditas, so it’s literally foreign to your experience if you weren’t a Latinist. Do we know if she’s taken Latin? Or French where the word for greed is cupidite?

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