Each of these has some merit, although in my mind, fame in and of itself does not necessarily equate with being extraordinary, just look at reality TV stars who rise to infamy, UGH! Back to the Real World - reality TV series pun intended - I readily admit that this question of greatness does not have an quick, simple answer. There are clearly a number of characteristics and factors that contribute to being regarded as extraordinary.
Let's get personal for a second. Do you consider yourself extraordinary? Think about it. My guess is that answers will range from no to maybe, possibly to yes and then back to an exasperated I HAVE NO IDEA!
The good news is that someone much wiser than I am has an amazing thought about greatness that I have found particularly inspiring in my own journey.
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny - C.S. Lewis
I believe this statement with all my heart. I believe that each of us has within our DNA, the potential to be extraordinary! Many things can draw greatness out of us, hardship happens to be one of them. Hardship also happens to be a universal part of our human experience, we all go through it. So does knowing this change anything for us? YES! I believe that understanding the value of hardship in our lives can absolutely affect our path to being extraordinary.
I know that I am outright bad at a few things. Off the top of my head I am terrible at math, building things, especially from IKEA, and have an embarrasing habit of getting lost without my GPS. Don't feel too sorry for me though. I also acknowledge that I am decently talented at a few things, and even show flashes of greatness in one or two areas. But how do I move from stumbling through life experiences to excelling in the midst of them?
My first thought is to stop. Stop doubting yourself. Rather than questioning IF you are extraordinary, the question you should be asking yourself is HOW will you be extraordinary? What will your platform for greatness be?
Here's the secret that gives our hardships purpose. Our challenges change us, profoundly. The nature of that change is contingent entirely on the decisions and choices you make before you can even see the finish line.
If you do not take control of this process, then all you are doing is merely surviving, nothing more. When you make the conscious decision to overcome adversity at all costs, there is a rush of energy, optimism and clarity that gives you a new perspective on your life. It also instills in you a new sense of urgency. To have direction for that urgency and new-found perspective is key! Surviving my neck injury, years of pain, making it through my spine surgery and working at recovery and being unable to work traditionally for over two years has filled me with urgency and new perspective that NOW is the time to thrive, tomorrow is never guaranteed. Out of my hardship I have thrived in many new, exciting ways. Professionally I have done things I've only dreamed of and always feared like starting my own business, creating a website, becoming a paid motivational speaker and even writing a book! Hardship has actually unlocked some of the greatness in me that had slowly been simmering and growing in my life up to this point. And I know it can be the same for you!
So how do you harness this new found energy and urgency in your life? How do you thrive during adversity instead of just survive? The first step is simple, just decide to do it. Reframe what you are going through as an uncomfortable, but necessary part of life to get where you are supposed to be. It's amazing how powerful a decisive, daily shift in your perspective is to your overall health and wellness.
The phrase, 'do what you love', is great, but it doesn't leave you with any direction. Now that you have decided to thrive in whatever situation you find yourself, I want to leave you with three actionable steps you can take to start finding your platform for greatness, your path to living an extraordinary life and making an impact on the people and world around you. This road map has helped me immensely in finding my extraordinary calling.
i.Your Top 3 Gifts: Ask a number of people that know you well and care about you, what they think your top 3 gifts/talents are (try to have some family, some friends and someone you have a professional relationship with weigh in). Look for any specific gifts that are confirmed by multiple people in your survey.
ii.Your Skill Transformation: Credit to Chris Guillebeau's fantastic entrepreneurial book "The $100 Startup" for this powerful concept! Write down your last three jobs. For each job, record the top 3 skills you have that made you excel at that specific job. After doing this for all three jobs, you will have 9 key skills/gifts identified. Scott Adams, the successful cartoonist who created the "Dilbert" comics illustrates this concept humorously, but very accurately:
I succeeded as a cartoonist with negligible art talent, some basic writing skills, an ordinary sense of humour and a bit of experience in the business world. The "Dilbert" comic is a combination of all four skills. The world has plenty of better artists, smarter writers, funnier humorists and more experienced business people. The rare part is that each of those modest skills is collected in one person. That's how value is created. (Scott Adams, "How to Get a Real Education at College,” The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2011)
iii. Your Unique Secret Weapon What ONE thing has a recent difficulty or a recent achievement shown you about yourself? If you are in the middle of a challenging or limiting circumstance, whats ONE thing you can still do that you are gifted in and find immense fulfillment in?
Make sure you write this out, in my experience drawn maps are easier to follow than the directions we keep in our heads (especially true for me). You should have before you....
12 gifts (witnessed by others). Highlight and focus on any gifts that show up more than once.
9 skills (past job experience). Pick your top skill in each job and put them together. What pursuit would maximize all 3?
1 new, enlightening, unique-to-you observation about yourself, or life in general that you have taken away from a recent struggle or achievement. This is something you would not known had you not just gone through a recent, transformative experience.