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What is an Extraordinary Life?

Extraordinary Life. Two simple words that beg a lot of complex questions. The most obvious one is: So, if there’s such a thing as an “extraordinary life,” then there must also be such a thing as an ordinary life. We may typically say we have ordinary days (e.g., I wake up, eat, go to work, go home, eat, watch TV, sleep; do it again), ordinary cars (the ubiquitous 4-door sedan or mini-van), ordinary tasks (laundry, pay bills, take a shower), ordinary homes (2 or 3-bedroom house, 2-car garage in an “ordinary” suburban neighborhood). Job types can be considered ordinary: sales clerk, waiter, banker, gas station attendant, accountant, construction worker. We all can easily generate a common image of each one of these people, things, or situations.

Of course ordinary or extraordinary is all relative. It’s relative to an individual’s life situation, dreams, aspirations, history, experience, education, or background, among other things. A shift in any of these characteristics can result in something ordinary becoming extraordinary; and also the reverse!

According to the dictionary, ordinary is defined as “of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional.” Can the accumulation of frequent ordinary experiences add up to the conclusion that some of us simply lead ordinary lives? Perhaps; or perhaps not.

Some might say there is no such thing as an “ordinary” life. As human beings we live a unique individual existence, with personal dramas full of unique elements: strengths, skills, failures, opinions & theories, suffering, triumph, folly, love, pain. Anyone’s portrait or biography could be created in a profound and touching way — a prospective work of art, triumphant or tragic. Thus, we could conclude that no one is ordinary — life itself is too infinitely complex. Even the guy we call (or who even calls himself) “just an ordinary guy” has a unique and compelling story to tell.

Then comes the next obvious question: so if no life is ordinary, then is every life extraordinary? I believe the answer is NO. It’s not that simple.

At the most basic level, the word “extraordinary” means “ beyond the ordinary,” “beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established;” or instead: “exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree; noteworthy; remarkable.” Extraordinary lives, however, are not simply the manifestation of inflated scale or amplified presence — bigger, better, faster, louder, shinier! Those qualities, though possibly present at the surface, are not the hallmarks of extraordinary lives.

Many of us achieve peak performance, we reach the top of a summit — from a lifetime of aim, effort, conviction, sacrifice, and persistence. We have the honors & medals, the degrees, the awards, and the bank accounts to prove it. Excellence is not only expected, it is just simply how we operate. Impressive? Definitely. Extraordinary? Not necessarily. There are countless ordinary super-achievers in the world! For those who have reached a peak of success, many are left with wondering “Now what?! I checked all the boxes, jumped through all the hoops, and reached the top.” They have achieved success, but not with any real awareness of why and to what end.

There is something about a person whose life we would agree seems extraordinary — something compelling, something intangible about their life that stands out, that emits a certain attracting energy that communicates wisdom, power, and truth. Theirs is a level of success beyond the summit, success defined differently from the usual perspective of achievement hallmarks.

I assert that a true Extraordinary Life is generated by the dynamic intersection of Life, Leadership and Legacy. Extraordinary is a state of mind and a state of being (vs. doing) — marked by confident yet selfless leadership, knowing at your core why you are here, and the contribution and impact, unique as your thumbprint, that you leave behind. An Extraordinary Life touches lives, inspires, and leaves the world a better place.

Extraordinary living doesn’t happen by accident. It is a deliberate act of rising to meet your challenges from the power of knowing who you are, what you are here to do, and what you want from and for the world.

It is about embracing the ordinary of who you are as a human being, your shared experiences of being human, and filling the longing to understand why you act and think in certain ways, in order to get clear about what you need and want from yourself and others.

Knowledge is power, and power allows you to rise to challenges and to manifest your vision and purpose. What is left is your message to the world and the reflection of your impact — your legacy. The act of powerful leadership and purposeful living is the activating mechanism that takes one from ordinary to extraordinary.

Ordinary is life by default. Extraordinary is LIFE BY DESIGN.