I once met a man who was a Nuclear Physicist. It boggled my mind to reflect on what it might take to earn the right to this title. It seemed to me that to be a Nuclear Physicist must be an extraordinary thing. I wondered if there was any chance I could be this extraordinary; if I could become so proficient in some area of expertise.
I have heard people say on occasion that “you can be anything you want to be.” This, of course, is absurd and discredits the movement to encourage people to become extraordinary. I will never become a Yoyo Ma. No matter how much commitment and practice I apply, I do not have the innate talent that he has. Nor will I become a Richard Feynman, or Michael Jordan. But I might just become an extraordinary Archie, whether that be a communicator, businessperson, or philosopher.
I thought about this again from time to time over the years. I’ve reflected on what it might take to become extraordinary.
Certainly it was possible for someone to wake up one morning to realize that they had become extraordinary, but it wasn’t possible to wake up to find that you had become extraordinary over night.
So the first lesson that I put on my list of how to become extraordinary was that it would take some time. It would happen gradually over the years.
“The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones.” This is a quote attributed to Confucius. It’s a simple lesson. I interpret it to mean that every process, every large achievement, is a series of tiny steps. If you want to become a Nuclear Physicist, you must get up everyday and learn a little bit more about Nuclear Physics. You must, each day, do some of what it takes to become a Nuclear Physicist.
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
— Dr. Seuss
So the second lesson of how to become extraordinary was that I could achieve it by taking small steps each day.
Nathan B. Weller in his Elegant Themes Editorial discusses the intersection of passion and values to determine your premise. If you find something you are truly willing to work at although there will be no external rewards, you have likely stumbled upon a passion. In addition, learn to understand the meaning of values and what yours are. Combine the two and you will have most likely found a purpose in life worth pursuing. I discuss this in “Ikigai-How Purpose is Essential to Happiness.” In order to sustain your efforts over time, you must be committed to your quest. The way to do this is to choose to become extraordinary at something you are passionate about.
So the third lesson is to find your premise at the intersection of passion and values.
I try to center each of my days around these three simple lessons. Maybe someday I will wake up to find that I’ve become extraordinary.
I hope you do too.