How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary

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Article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

Elon Musk has been quoted as saying, “I think it’s possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.” Now, whether you view him as the real-life Tony Stark, most of us view him as an exception among the humble stock of this planet. But even Elon Iron-Man Musk believes that any ordinary person — you included — can become extraordinary.

As someone who was far below average, I had to scratch and claw just to reach mediocrity. But by that point I had put so much effort in that I figured, “Why not just go all the way?” So I improved my skills as a writer and coach with a goal of never-stopping, and I succeeded in making an excellent living doing what I loved most.

I like to call this process extraordinification. And if you’ll stick with me for an article, I’ll teach you it to you. Spoiler alert: You definitely won’t turn into Musk/Stark, and you probably won’t amass a hundredth of his fortune. But that’s not the point. The point is to maximize your God-given talents to create an extraordinary impact in the ways that only you can. This might involve millions of dollars; it might not. But it will lead to the happiest and most significant version of you possible.

Phase 1: Choose extraordinary thoughts.

People who set themselves to changing the world and making the most of their talents are not different than you — they just cancel ordinary thoughts. Extraordinary living starts with a simple shift in mindset.

Every person on Earth has thoughts like these, I’m not good enough, or I’ll never make it, or I can’t do it. But people who behave in extraordinary ways separate themselves by the wholesale rejection of negative thinking. When negative thought comes in…Bam! They call it out as disempowering BS and revert to extraordinary thinking. Thoughts like, I can, and Life is good, and I am extraordinary and capable of accomplishing whatever I set my mind to, become normal if you initiate phase one of extraordinification.

Start early.

You can force yourself into the most useful and extraordinary thoughts possible by making a morning routine of these mantras and affirmations: I am and always will be good enough. Or, I am making the most of my talents today and giving my absolute best effort today. Or, I can do whatever I want and be whoever I want if I believe in myself and support myself with positive thoughts.

Related: Multimillionaires Share 7 Steps to Structure Your Day for Success

If you repeat these mantras to yourself as soon as you wake (literally, the moment you regain consciousness), you will not only flood yourself with the confidence and positivity you need to do extraordinary things but you’ll also automatically wall off all the negative thinking that used to make you ordinary. Shoot for five to ten minutes. And it’s helpful to write out a list of 40 affirmations that you need most.

So you must stick with a morning routine involving some kind of focused, positive thinking. Non-negotiable. But to ensure that you stick with extraordinary thoughts throughout the day, you have to remind yourself to choose positive thoughts all day.

Plan for self-encouragement.

I’ve found the most effective way to do this is to plan out 10 checkboxes every day next to this goal: Encourage yourself. Dead simple, right?

As you accomplish your tasks throughout the day, all you have to do is flip open your blank-sketchbook-turned daily-planner and applaud yourself for your efforts. Anytime you’re aware of blank encouragement boxes that need to be filled, you repeat your extraordinary mantras and affirmations.

Keep this habit up for a week and life will be incredible. One month and it’ll be unbelievable. One year? You and your life will be extraordinary. I promise. You’ll notice extraordinary improvements after just one day.

Phase 2: Do extraordinary things.

More than 95 percent of people won’t persevere in their commitments — whether those are for health, career, relationships or whatever. They’ll always find some excuse to take the easy way out. And, even more universally, they lack the daily plan and reminders to actually do what they set out after. So if you do positive things consistently, and you plan for those things daily, then you’re automatically extraordinary.

This won’t be a problem for you, if you’ve adopted the habit of extraordinary thinking. You’ll have the self-confidence to keep grinding even when things look bleak. And, if you start the habit of planning your self-encouragement, you’ll be all set to plan out the concrete actions you need to excel in every other area of life: in your career, in your personal life, and in your health and fitness.

After your morning routine of extraordinary thinking, take ten minutes to plan out the physical actions for an extraordinary day. The best way I’ve learned how to do this is to decide what five-to-eight goals you can accomplish just for this day — work, fun, learning, etc. Top five goals go on top; the rest go on the bottom of the page. In the middle, you’ll write daily recurring goals: things like meditation, self-encouragement, reading, etc.

Advanced planning.

To expedite this process, and to make sure you’re not scratching your head for extraordinary things to do each morning, you’ll want to reflect on a weekly planning sheet every morning. All you have to do is spend 10-20 minutes every Sunday drafting out a full page for the next seven days: career, health/fitness, fun/self-love, self-improvement and giving. Having these prebuilt goals and habits will make selecting your most relevant goals in the morning a breeze.

If you want to make the most of your weekly and daily planner, you’ll take an hour to sit down and define your goals for the entire year, just as above: Career, fun/self-love, health/fitness, self-improvement, and giving goals. This way you’re always reminded of your extraordinary, bigger-picture goals when you’re creating weekly and daily action steps.

Related: 10 Ways to Maximize Your Workday

The idea is to keep your daily planner with you all throughout the day and to refer to it whenever you need direction — which, unless you’re in the middle of working on a project, will be all day. Plan out enough goals and habits so that every minute of your day will be occupied with extraordinary thoughts and actions. To quote the founder of Ikea, “Life is broken up in to ten minute chunks. Waste as few of them as possible.” As a corollary, plan for as many extraordinary ten minute chunks as possible!

Phase 3: Surround yourself with extraordinary people.

If there’s one habit that all extraordinary-acting people have in common, it’s that they surround themselves exclusively with extraordinary-acting people — which means that they also reject negative company. And if you want to irreversibly cement your process of extraordinification, you’ll do the same. Practically speaking, it’s pretty damn simple.

All you have to do is draw up a list of the people you’re around most — friends, family, coworkers, etc. Then create another page and divide it vertically, labeling the left side Uppers, and the right side as Downers. People who practice positive thinking and extraordinary living go in the left, and people who don’t go in the right.

Then review the list, and plan on spending much more time with the former, and much, much, muuuuuch less with the latter. In some cases, not most, you’ll even realize that x, y or z person is so toxic that they don’t even deserve a spot in your life. (I’ve done that with three people total, and my life is immeasurably better for it.) As for the rest of the people in the right-hand column of your list, you’ll just commit to not seeing them as frequently, and to spending less time with them when they are around. This will involve saying “No” more frequently, and having stronger boundaries in general, which can be planned for in your daily planner.

Seek out extraordinary connections.

You’ll especially want to single out inspiring and successful people/entrepreneurs to connect with in your area in order to purposefully increase your sphere of extraordinary influences. Coincidentally, that step is how this article came into existence.

I’d read an article last year about the importance of proactive networking, and it hit me hard. That had been one thing I had not worked at, and I wasn’t growing as fast as I could because of it. So I thought of the most successful person in my town, and I messaged him. Andy Lim, founder of the international iPad POS system of restaurants called Lavu and founder/CEO of proximity-based, event software company Addmi, is the definition of extraordinary.

I offered to buy him a few beers and chat about his latest business, which just hit an extraordinary growth curve, so I could write an article about it. It was during our conversation that Lim talked about success and about how Elon Musk thought that even ordinary people can be extraordinary. I never would have thought of that topic, let alone written about it, if I hadn’t proactively sought extraordinary people in my community like Lim.

So, if you want a logarithmic growth curve of extraordinary thinking and behavior, don’t forget to plan on brushing elbows with the most extraordinary people you can. It can help to have something valuable to offer, like an interview for an article.

Conclusion

If you’ve read through this whole article, you’ve spent about fifteen minutes focusing on one thing; which, in today’s gnat-brained culture, is extraordinary. You’re extraordinary. But if you really want to embody that extraordinary reality, to light up the experiences and lives of others, you’ve got to go a step beyond.

I want you to go back through this article with either a pen and pad or a notes-app handy and start writing down these action steps in detail. Then make a plan for committing to them: like going out and purchasing a blank-paged hard-backed sketchbook for your daily planner, and actually doing your first yearly and weekly planner. After you’ve committed to this process for a year, I promise that you will never, ever envy anybody else like Musk for the life they have and the one you don’t. Because you’ll already be extraordinary out of habit.

Written by Daniel Dowling
Hi! I'm Dan, founder of Millennial Success. When I'm not getting six-packed--that's "hit in the face" in beach volleyball--or reading Jane Austen's novels for the fifth time, I'm helping people make every day a breakthrough as a writer and coach.