You Don’t Have To Be Extraordinary To Do Out-Of-The-Ordinary Things

packedI am uncomfortable with the accolades that I have gotten recently.

The thing, that I continue trying to impart but apparently fail miserably at, is that I am no different than anyone reading this blog right now thinking “I wish.”

I have been there. Reading the blog posts of globe-trotting million-dollar content production personal development life coaches and professional authors, drifting off into a day-dreaming state of imagination and longing.

Then, with a heavy heart and heaving sigh I’ve clicked the “X” in the upper-right hand corner of the browser to return to whatever task or mundane assignment I had to work on.

People like me don’t do things like that.

Those people were extraordinary. In the grandest sense of the word. They lived extraordinary lives in exotic locations (or just anywhere that they wanted). They created extraordinary companies and products. They wrote extraordinarily beautiful pieces of motivation and prose that made my hack conversation pieces seem like a 3rd grader’s composition homework.

They are extraordinary people. I am, in general (and especially in 2011), a hot mess.

Extraordinary people have extraordinary stories. Hot messes barely make it out of bed in the morning.


Everyone has a back story


Notably, some are exciting and thrilling, the stuff of an action-adventure blockbuster with stolen cars and burning houses.

Others glisten with the sparkling awe of superstar career trajectories and plush lifetime savings accounts.

Some may try to pass themselves off as a hot mess, but in reality they have those Little Tramp qualities that make them the scrappy underdogs that you can’t help but route for.

Others explore the world and travel to lands of adventure and wonder, all by the time they are 18 years old.

They have lives that lend themselves to an amazing story line. They have lives that were meant to be extraordinary.

What are we supposed to do, however, if we are “cursed” to have a very average back story. To be ordinary people, in love with extraordinary lives?


You Don’t Have To Be Extraordinary To Do Out-Of-The-Ordinary Things


I’m not going to lie to you. It helps.

Being extraordinary compels people to follow your story. To be engaged and route for your character. Will you overcome foes? Will you reach your dreams?

I am an extreme case-study in the average:

  • I was raised by two parents who are still married after 35+ years
  • I have one sibling (younger)
  • I graduated high school and went to a state university
  • I had never lived anywhere outside of the state I was born in
  • I worked at an office job for nearly ten years
  • I had never traveled outside the United States (I didn’t even own a passport)
  • I lived modestly but I wasn’t throwing major rolls of cash in the bank
  • I was sweet, kind, friendly, and dare I say nice.
  • I have a kind of naive sense of wonderment and awe at the world around me

If my back story were the setting for a novel or movie, I’d be the human equivalent of Victorian literature in which they take 20 pages to describe the ominous fog and waving tall grass of the moors (see, George Eliot, I just whipped that out in less than 20 words!). A very bland bunching of average tales and average adventure.

I fell into the mindset, as so often happens when you are desperately searching for anyone or anything to give your life meaning rather than discovering it for yourself, that I needed to be one of those people to live those lives.

That I couldn’t even begin to write my own amazing story until I had enough of an introduction to get started.

No one would want to hear about or read about or talk about or care about some small-town girl from Maine who was making ripples not waves.

The common myth is that you need to be extraordinary to do extraordinary things.

That isn’t the case.


You have to do out-of-the-ordinary things to be extraordinary


You can still make shit happen. You have the power to be the author of your own story. To be the person sitting behind the laptop/typewriter/Moleskine feverishly creating the twists and turns of a life you choose to live.

This isn’t a chicken-and-the-egg situation here, kids. Extraordinary people may SEEM extraordinary, but most all of them still have to put on their pants one leg at a time (except for bona fide actual ninjas, and you just shouldn’t mess with those guys anyways!)

They had to DO extraordinary things to make themselves extraordinary. It wasn’t bestowed on them. The opportunity to do extraordinary things didn’t come because they were extraordinary.


It came because they did something.


If you had asked ANYONE on October 10th,2011 if they thought I would pack up my entire life and move to the other side of the planet to live with a bunch of people I don’t know while working on their start-up business the answer would have been a resounding guffawing deep-belly laugh.

People like me don’t do things like that.

And that right there is the point. That’s the difference.

Extraordinary people see the things that people like them don’t do, and then they set out to do them anyways.

The good news is you can get started today, this very moment, this VERY SECOND. Even if you are ordinary.

Sitting there dreaming and planning is not doing you any good.

It isn’t doing the world any good. We are capable of so many wonderful things as a human race. You don’t need to get your first passport and jump on a plane to the other side of the planet. But you do need to do something that shakes up a life you are unhappy with.

You don’t have to be extraordinary to do out-of-the-ordinary things.

But you are going to have to do out-of-the-ordinary things if you want to be extraordinary.

photo credit: LadyGuinevere! via photopin cc


  1. I really loved this post. Thank you.

  2. Inspirational as hell. Can you turn this into a video so I can hit play and have it read to me on a daily basis? 🙂

  3. Thanks for giving me the boost I needed today…

  4. Love the post, Elisa! I love the comparison to literature (aren’t we all the heroes of our own stories with quests to conquer and villains to face down?), I love that you recognize that there’s a difference between ordinary and out-of-the-ordinary, and I love that you’re creating something extraordinary for yourself in the same breath.

    Just a thought, though? Sometimes it’s the ripples that make the waves.


    • You know me Susan…everything is a comparison to literature if you let me talk long enough. 😉

      I agree, sometimes the ripples make waves. And this is where the perception problem comes in to play. When we think “I’m just me, what business do I have doing any of that stuff” it is like we are playing in the puddles. And ripples carry in puddles, but only to the edges. Then they die.

      But a ripple in the ocean? That may just may end up a tsunami.

  5. Awesome post. Very Inspirational. I have had the privilege of meeting some really extraordinary people in my life. Many of them didn’t realize what they were doing was extraordinary, its just that no one ever told them it was something they couldn’t do 😉

    Good luck with your time in Bali and beyond. And thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s always good to read people living the life they want. It definitely makes it all seem more possible.

    • Those are the best people. Those that just do extraordinary things and are extraordinary because…often they don’t even realize that they are doing it. Those people inspire me most. There’s a certain appeal to humble extraordinaries.

  6. Great piece my dear. I am one who feels that I did an Out of the Ordinary thing almost 6 years ago and left my comfort zone. It has proven to have been a smart move (even if it was only down the hall and around the corner). What I am involved in now is making a difference for a lot of people and hopefully as time goes on, will make a more global splash.

  7. While I certainly don’t disagree with this discourse I’d also argue that perception is everything. Traversing across the country to raise money for cancer research is certainly doing something extraordinary, but so is daughter who takes her aging mother to chemo everyday. So is the husband that gets home from his 10+ hour a day job and cooks dinner because his pregnant wife hasn’t been feeling well.

    The BIG things are important to acknowledge, but there’s countless people toiling in life’s daily minutiae that are doing shit that matters. I want to be careful not to forget those people either.

    • See, I think quite the opposite. I find the extraordinary does not have to lie in grand manifesting gestures (though those are often the easiest to spot) but it is also in the acts of our daily lives that are out-of-the-ordinary.

      There are daughters out there who “couldn’t” find the time to take their aging mothers to chemo or husbands that come home and wouldn’t think twice about taking care of their sick pregnant wives. It is so easy to take such beautifully simple but meaningful gestures for granted and think they aren’t extraordinary.

      But that’s all extraordinary is. It is living out-of-the-ordinary. If we all took the time to take the extra effort to push ourselves from ordinary to extraordinary in life, I can imagine the world would be an even better place.

  8. Really nice post. It’s like that proverb that says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When you break it down, all you really have to do is do it. Just be extraordinary.


    • So very true. Just do it is advice that rarely helps anyone who isn’t ready to do it, but for those on the precipice it can be just the nudge needed to take that first “step” as you note. 

      And not even set out to be extraordinary. Just set out to be a little out-of-the-ordinary. It’s amazing how quickly out-of-the-ordinary becomes extraordinary!

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