There’s a lot of helpful how-to content online, and I’m often thankful for it. If I want to fix a broken appliance or learn a new skill, there’s bound to be a video tutorial posted somewhere that I can follow. In some ways it’s sad that our first place to seek advice is now Google instead of a real life social network of family, friends, and neighbours. However, my friends and family have almost certainly never replaced a ball-bearing unit on a Hotpoint X350KW. So I am thankful for strangers who make online tutorials.
They certainly make a lot of them. You can get how-to content on pretty much anything these days. One popular genre, which I’m sure you’ve seen, is successful influencers and millionaires posting about how they made their money or gained their audience, and how you and I could do the same if we would just follow their five-step fail-proof system. First, they talk about how they started with so little (showing their common, ordinary origins), and then they describe their ascent to greatness before coming back around to their humble beginnings and finishing with an encouraging comment like, “If I can do it, anyone can!”
Are you encouraged? Because I’m not so sure I am. It seems to me that the phrase has a bit of a backhanded bite to it: “I’m just an ordinary person. I’m just like you. Except I’m fabulously wealthy, and massively successful and influential. And you could be, too, if you just get moving and do things like I did. What are you waiting for? You’re already behind! You could be living in luxury enjoying your millions already if only you were more like me!” Which might very well be true. But I wouldn’t call it encouraging.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against success or wealth or influence. I believe in hard work, and I do think we all need good examples to inspire us. I am, however, against the idea that being ordinary is just a shameful starting point that we should all be trying to move away from as quickly as possible. I’m against the idea that bank balances and wide platforms are the most important measurements of a meaningful and significant life. The hidden assumption underneath this kind of content often seems to be that my ordinary, unnoticed life is something I should be dissatisfied with, and that their luxurious wealth and influence are clearly much better and more desirable than anything I might think I am enjoying where I am.
I know I am small, ordinary, and emphatically average. Just one more face among billions. But this face is smiling. When I look around at my ordinary little life I see a wealth of blessings. I feel the richness of relationships and the love of my Creator, who designed me for a purpose in his kingdom that is more significant than any bank balance could ever be. So maybe the influencer millionaires are right—if I was more like them, I could have more of what they have. Maybe I could be rich, or famous, or fabulously successful. Maybe. But I’m aiming my ambitions in a different direction. I want to use my time and energy and hard work and yes, even my money to store up “treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” I don’t need to be rich to have a life rich with meaning. I don’t need a big platform to have a big purpose in God’s kingdom. The most important things in the world are right in front of me, right now—loving God and loving the people he made, as Jesus said. I don’t need to wait for a big break, or discover a secret key, or follow five fail-proof steps in a helpful video. I can invest in eternal treasure today, right here in my ordinary life.
And if I can do it, anyone can.
These thoughts are developed more fully in my book Dream Small
5 thoughts on “If I Can Do It, Anyone Can”
An encouraging and entertaining read. Hope you managed to fix the washing machine!
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Thanks Matthew, and yes, it’s working! The video was very helpful!
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That was awesome. We do need to be concerned about which treasure is most important.
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Estuve en estos días pensando en las genealogías de Jesús. Tantas personas que apenas se nombran al pasar; ellos vivieron vidas sencillas pero cumplieron con lo que Dios quería.
Me parece una excelente reflexión que animará a muchos.
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That’s a good point, thank you!