What defines an “extraordinary” individual?
To you, is that someone who saves lives, like a doctor or first responder? How about an entrepreneur who completely transforms our lives for the better, like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk? Maybe it is something much simpler than that, such as a friend or neighbor coming through for you and clearing off your driveway when your snowblower won’t start.
The dictionary defines the term “extraordinary” as “very unusual or remarkable.” Isn’t that interesting? In reading that, does being extraordinary suddenly take on a negative connotation? It shouldn’t! Digging deeper, the term “unusual” is defined as being “not commonly occurring,” making it special or unique.
But how we decide what defines an extraordinary individual is extremely subjective. Yet the common thread that my Anticipatory Leader System highlights about those who are extraordinary is that they have moved beyond success and into significance in whatever it is they do, placing heavy emphasis on helping the greater good through a business, organization, product, or service.
The process of becoming extraordinary will always come with barriers and roadblocks. Some of the most extraordinary individuals in history faced unbelievable difficulties that most others would succumb to.
For many, these barriers include age, gender, race, or location, whereas others may have physical or mental disabilities alongside health struggles. No matter what you feel stands in your way of an extraordinary life, it can be overcome using my Skip It Principle.
A cornerstone to my Anticipatory Leader System, the Skip It Principle indicates that your problem or roadblock is not your real problem or roadblock. It’s all about perception. Let’s take one of those aforementioned barriers mentioned in the paragraph above that has become such a limiting factor to many in our times: age.
Are you too old to do something extraordinary? The answer is simple: no, you are not. Age is a Hard Trend; we all get older every day, and there is nothing we can do to change this future certainty.
However, we can change our perception of the aging process, and often, our perception of aging is the real problem, not the aging itself. Therefore, someone who feels they are too old to be extraordinary at what they’re trying to accomplish can simply skip that thought altogether!
This same principle from my Anticipatory Leader System can be applied to all other aforementioned roadblocks, while admittedly in different ways. Are systemic issues a cause for holding back women or those of different races? Absolutely! Does being blind complicate pitching in the major leagues? Of course!
But are there ways to skip those problems and be extraordinary by finding the real problem you’re facing? Always! Click here to read an article I wrote about Sam Schmidt, a quadriplegic race car driver who found a way to skip his biggest obstacle: complete paralysis.
Another common thread found in extraordinary individuals is their undying desire to build a legacy around significance instead of perceived success. Just like defining what being extraordinary means to you, identifying how you measure success is vital in this journey.
A large portion of the population weighs success by how much money they have. But money comes and goes, and if that is your sole measuring stick, you will feel excessive and unnecessary setbacks.
For example, many view Elon Musk as an extraordinary and successful individual; however, few would feel the same way if they looked at his financial history. After founding and selling PayPal, he dumped his personal fortune into Tesla, which nearly went bankrupt when the first iterations of the Tesla Roadster were delayed. Then, once Tesla was at about breakeven, he founded SpaceX and nearly went bankrupt again!
Musk’s unshakable passion for the products and services he’s been part of are rooted in another competency I teach in my Anticipatory Leader System: moving beyond whatever success means to you and into significance in helping the world. If Musk rooted his success in his finances, he would be largely forgotten by now, or perhaps he would have thrown in the towel when Tesla was floundering.
Instead, Musk’s focus on the significance behind his companies, such as reducing carbon emissions or space junk by inventing reusable rockets, makes him extraordinary in the eyes of many. Do not measure your success on your finances; they will always fluctuate, and you will always have bills to pay. Focus on the significance behind what you’re doing.
You are in the driver’s seat of becoming extraordinary; however, never forget that it will take work and, along the way, you will skin your knees. My Anticipatory Leader System is a great place to begin in building a framework to how you go from ordinary to extraordinary.
Take my Hard Trend Methodology, for instance. What are future certainties the world faces that cannot be changed? Then, identify some Soft Trends; that are merely future possibilities that are open to influence? Anyone can influence a Soft Trend, so why not you? Remember, if your “why not” in that equation is your age, gender, race, or any of those aforementioned barriers, those are not the real problems, so skip them!
Then, as they say, “there’s nothing to it but to do it.” Be extraordinary, and don’t forget to enjoy it along the way!
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.