It's been a while since I spoke with my friend who I consider to be the wisest man in the world. On this visit, as usual, he sparked up an amazing conversation. He spoke to me about his life long commitment to befriend exceptional people. He said they empower him to raise the stakes in his personal and professional ambitions. He spoke in detail about what he learned from them. More importantly, he spoke about the unexpected and sometimes twisted path to become extraordinary.
To start, he stated, most people are unwilling to pay the price of entry to live an extraordinary life. He went on to say while practicing, planning and preparing are definitely important, they are not enough to be exceptional. To be exceptional, you have to learn to see the world from uncommon perspectives.
He continued with: in my observation, the most extraordinary people I know never had lives that moved in straight lines. Their lives met with derailment, failure and roadblocks. Yet, they persevered.
What I found most interesting was the manner in which people's lives were completely transformed. Many people experience the birth of their first child as life changing. And it can be. Except, there are many people with children and their lives rarely transform in a way that makes them exceptional. For most people, life changing means do more, better or different of the thing one has always done.
On the other hand, the paradox of extraordinary people is they often encounter a situation that may appear unbearable at first. Even though it can sometimes be a situation that makes one want to give up, it changes them and their view of the world. As a word of caution, if it is a temporary situation, the transformation will be temporary.
For example, there is a company that does personality assessments. This particular company had done assessments of people working for businesses in the World Trade Center before September 11th, 2001. After the collapse of the towers, many of the same people took the personality assessment. As a result of the incident, there were significant changes to people's personalities. However, three years later the same people took the assessments again. This time their personalities returned to pre 911 results. While I'm sure there were some who transformed permanently, the vast majority of people returned to who they had always been.
From what I've observed, people who transform permanently experience prolonged strife like war, death of a loved one, failure, terminal illness or an accident that impairs their physical abilities. For others, it can be an experience in another country, soul mate, workshop or a one-time encounter with a stranger.
Whether the experience is perceived as positive or negative, it is usually unexpected and disruptive to one's life. In some way, those exceptional people's view of reality was permanently altered. They not only saw the world differently. They saw themselves differently.
While their circumstance first appeared unfortunate, it is often the harsh encounters with life that caused them to think differently and take actions that once seemed uncharacteristic of them. In fact, those situations forced them from their projected paths and placed them into entirely new possibilities. Each and every extraordinary person I know has a story of misfortune that became his or her catalyst for success. At first, it is difficult to see the connection. Except, if extraordinary people examine their lives thoroughly, without fail, there will be a story of adversity that changed them forever.
For those who endeavor to live a life without adversity or failure, they are cheating themselves. Unfortunate circumstances can break people out of ordinary thinking. It forces one to see themselves and the world from new perspectives. While it is true adversity can be disheartening, there is usually a silver lining, even if it is a lesson.