What does it mean to be extraordinary?
That was the question that I had been asked to answer as Bentley Motors invited me to be their speaker at a VIP dinner for a few select guests of theirs in Singapore.
I started by saying that I would take a “creative approach” to try to reply to the question. (By that I did not mean that I would try to speak “creatively” about the subject, but that I would use my background as an author of creativity books to look at the word of “extraordinary” from the viewpoint of creativity.)
So what does the word “extraordinary” mean?
The dictionary says it means “very unusual or remarkable.”
So what does “remarkable” mean? It means: “worthy of attention; striking.”
So that means that to be extraordinary we need to be unusual and worthy of attention.
And that, sounds to me, very much like being creative.
For to be creative it is not enough to be “different” – we also need to create something that makes the world, in some way, better.
But here comes a paradox:
Our results should be worthy of attention – but when we create our ideas we cannot, and should not, seek the attention of others.
We should only try to create the very best idea that we can.
In the case of Vincent van Gogh, it took centuries for the world to pay attention to his creativity.
To be extraordinary we cannot create based on what others think.
Be Unapologetically great
That means doing what we feels need doing without asking for permission or apologising for what we think it right.
Think about it, almost all truly great creative ideas has come from a place of someone being unapologetic about what the creator believed in.
But being unapologetically great it not the same as being full of yourself.
Many amazingly successful people have been full of them self, cooky and loud – but the most extraordinary people of the world are the humbled successes. The Nelson Mandelas, the David Beckhams, the Dali Lama’s of the world.
Not the Donald Trumps of the world…
Yes, some great people are full of themselves.
But I am talking about the truly great who tend to be unapologetic about their ideas – not about themselves.
Be radically true to who you truly are.
To be true to our ideas we need to be true to ourselves.
Mahatma Gandhi was passionate about an independent India through a non-violent approach and saw himself as fighting for the rights of the millions of poor Indians. When he, in 1931, traveled to the UK to negotiate with the British government he travelled in the lowest class in the ship and arrived at 10 Downing Street wearing his loin-cloth not the western suits that were expected. A great example of not caring about what others expect someone to do.
The rest of us are not Gandhi, but we should equally try to stay radically true to who we are and the ideas we believe in.
Do not try to be perfect. Be your best.
To be perfect means “having all the required or desirable elements”. That sounds great, but it implies that we somehow have to achieve what others have agreed on as “required” or “desirable”.
But why settle to achieve the highest standards set up by others? Let’s instead aim for the highest standard set by yourself.
By doing your own things as well as you could possibly do it you will achieve something better then perfect:
You will be extraordinary.
This is an adaptation (and shortened) text from the speech I did at the Bentley event. It was a short 15-minute speech for a small group of VIP-guests as part of an exclusive dinner.
I post this text today as a reminder of what we as speakers should aim for. Doing what you believe in is always important, but extra important for a speaker – since we are paid to give our point of view.
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