It is said that she was a person who inspired many to go out and be the best that they could be with words that were poignant and accessible to more than just a select few. Yet when reading her biography it is also obvious that Maya was in many ways just an ordinary woman, making choices that led her to lead an extraordinary life.
Personally, it is people like this that I find particularly inspiring. Ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things.
However, contrary to popular belief, I believe that it doesn’t take that much to be one of these people. Keep on reading and you’ll see why.
ex·traor·di·nar·y [ik-strawr-dn-er-ee, ek-struh-awr-]
1. beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established: extraordinary costs.
2. exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree, etc.; noteworthy; remarkable: extraordinary speed; an extraordinary man.
3. (of an official, employee, etc.) outside of or additional to the ordinary staff; having a special, often temporary task or responsibility: minister extraordinary and plenipotentiary.
Above is Dictionary.com’s definition of extraordinary. As you can see, by definition extraordinary is all about going beyond the “ordinary”. It is, however, the classification of “ordinary” that I think often wreaks havoc with our ability to think that we are extraordinary. So let me ask you a few questions…
Have you ever travelled abroad?
If so congratulations, you are now officially super-duper-extraordinary as according to the Worldwatch Paper 159 only 3.5% of the world’s population travels internationally. By 2020 this is expected to double to 7%, but hey… that’ll still leave you as being super-extraordinary!
Do you have a college degree?
If you do, then wow! You’ve just managed an extraordinary feat that over 90% of the rest of the world will not be achieving, despite the fact that having a degree is often (in the first world countries at least) classified as a necessity and “ordinary” thing to attain if you want to be anyone out there in the big bad world.
Do you speak a second language?
Guess what? If you do, you’re actually not that extraordinary. Turns out that whilst it is often seen as a great feat to speak more than your native tongue in a number of Western countries, it is estimated that over 50% of the world’s population is at least bilingual and many of those multilingual geniuses are over in Africa. Talk about a surprising twist!
Can you swim?
If you can swim, you are really amazing! Apparently more than 50% of the world’s population can’t swim, so if there’s ever a need for an emergency rescue in the swimming pool or at sea there’ll likely be more than a couple of people who might just need your extraordinary skill to help them.
These questions only highlight a small number of the actions, accomplishments and skills that a lot of people already have that nevertheless make them extraordinary beings, but you don’t actually need to have accomplished any of those to be an extraordinary person.
So… what is extraordinary?
Extraordinary comes from that place inside you that makes you want to do something different.
Whether that means you prepare and distribute backpacks to homeless people, you launch a kickstarter campaign to support education in Liberia, succeed in reading 52 books in a year or set out to create the most expensive “free” Starbucks drink ever.
Being extraordinary is about setting goals for yourself, small or large, that take you out of your comfort zone and teach you to push the boundaries of your ordinary. Whether that means you end up pushing somebody else’s ordinary… well that remains to be seen!
What do you consider extraordinary? Do you feel extraordinary? Have you done anything you felt was extraordinary? Feel free to leave your comments below!