Years ago, my therapist told me that I have an extremely low tolerance for mediocrity and an aversion to people who have little self-awareness. I responded, “Doesn’t everybody?” He matter-of-factly said, “No.”
For more than a dozen years I studied communications, social work, psychology, and management, earning degrees and certifications to learn the skills and gain the credentials to help people lead extraordinary lives and organizations accomplish extraordinary things, and this guy was telling me that most people accept mediocrity and ignorance. I was dumbfounded then, and now, 20+ years later, I am still baffled.
We often think of something “extraordinary” as being exceptional or magnificent. However, if you break down the word into its two parts, it simply means extra-ordinary, as in: “beyond the usual and expected course, out of the common order, not of the usual, customary, or regular kind. An experience that is a little better than the average or more significant than the normal.”
An extraordinary experience could be an amazing adventure-filled vacation in New Zealand where bungie jumping originated or just spending time with a friend you don’t get to see very often. Or, maybe spending time with someone you do see all the time but doing it in a different way. What if we understood that we don’t have to do anything new or novel to experience something as extraordinary; all we need to do is to shift our perspective so that we can recognize and appreciate everyday things in a special way.
As entrepreneurs and business leaders, the ability to provide clients, employees, and vendors an extra-ordinary experience is priceless (and directly related to the bottom line). This desire to, and belief that, you can offer something beyond ordinary has most likely motivated much of your hard work. Never lose that. Fostering the extraordinary is something we must continue to do if we want to grow, excel, and escape the suppressing effects of mediocrity.
You don’t have to do something exceptional or magnificent, to have an extra-ordinary impact. Ask yourself, “what simple task can I do to go above and beyond today?”
You can provide people information that makes them feel ‘in the know,’ by sharing your expertise or forwarding an article of interest. You can bring people in your network together to meet each other and see if there are any synergies that can benefit them. You can celebrate their achievements, acknowledge their performance, or say thank you for their contribution. Receiving a holiday card is nice, but getting a personalized message out of the blue is extra-ordinary.
Having lived under the smog covered skies of Los Angeles, CA for 19 years, I still get a little thrill driving through Hartford, CT on a sunny summer day. I feel like I’m driving through the opening scene of The Simpsons, with the bright blue sky shining through puffy white clouds that look like they were colored by a fourth grader. On a cold wintry day, I marvel at the snow-covered trees and the monumental task it must be to coordinate the plowing of the streets and highways. And if I hit traffic under the bridge, I have another opportunity to reflect with wonder and gratitude that I will most likely be delayed 4-5 minutes vs. the 45-minutes that was common in LA…these things are extraordinary to me.
And because I’m so aware when I’m at the mercy of poor customer service or inconvenienced by the cluelessness of others, I make sure to appreciate when I get a waitress who is both competent and personable or a telephone representative who is knowledgeable and empathetic – and often take the time to relay positive feedback to their supervisor…which is generally received as something extraordinary.
Remember, experiencing the extraordinary does not require embarking on some new exciting outrageous adventure that takes you far from your “normal” life (although I recommend it if you can). It could be as simple as revisiting practices and attitudes that were previously commonplace, such as: family dinners, block parties, reading books, and sending handwritten thank you notes. These might not appear to be extraordinary activities, but you’ll be surprised by how extra-ordinary they make you feel.