A while back I wrote an article on the human tendency to think we’re above average. In it, I made the obvious point that we can’t all be above average — that doesn’t make sense. This is called the optimism bias. However — even if you can’t know whether you’re above average or not — just as happiness is a choice you can make, so is the decision to be exceptional.
You may think you’re above average, but that’s the norm. Everybody thinks they’re above average. But are you exceptional? When we think of exceptional people, we think of people like Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, J.K. Rowling. Now maybe these people didn’t make the decision consciously to be exceptional. But they became exceptional, and there are a few things they each have in common that we can implement in our own lives in order to be truly extraordinary:
1. Challenge the status quo. Or better yet, deny it. Change is arguably the most important thing there is. It can be uncomfortable, and sometimes we fight it, but after change happens, it’s almost always for the better. Stagnation is ugly; evolution is beautiful. Try new things, challenge expectations, throw away preconceptions of others and yourself.
2. Act. Whether in theater or on the stage of life, we all act. So don’t be boring! Uninteresting characters are those who are static — be dynamic! Make mistakes and love yourself for them. Realize that you’ve done the best you could in every situation you’ve ever been in, and move forward. Learn to adapt and advance yourself. When things get boring, find an antagonist. Find a damsel in distress. Deus ex machina doesn’t work in real life, so solve your problems and move on with a smile.
3. Make your own choices (but don’t deny advice). Live the life you want to live. Be conscious of your goals and wants at every moment. Ask yourself, “Am I happy right now?” If you’re not, change something. Ask yourself, “Am I doing what I need to be doing right now?” If yes, good. If not, stop. You don’t need to watch TV. Throw your TV off a cliff. Burn it in the streets. When did you have more fun? Watching TV with your friends or when you decided to see if you could climb from one tree to another via overlapping branches with your roommates for $50 after getting McConnell’s? Get up and do something. If you’re bored, go somewhere. Never let your goals or dreams stand still. Move.
4. Create more. If you paint, paint more. If you write, write more. If you travel, travel more. Turn the volume all the way up on the stereo that is your life.
5. Scare people. Scare people with your dreams. Frighten them with your devotion to the things you love. Anger people with your passion. When people shoot your ideas down and try to bring you back to their level, you know you’re doing it right.
Being exceptional is addictive — once you start, it’s very hard to stop. Find that rush of remarkability and absorb it into your very being. Let it course through your veins, and when you fail, fucking kiss the ground you fall onto because goddamn it, you’re curious as to what it tastes like. Realize that time is unceasing and life will not go on forever. These are the best days of your life — keep saying that no matter how old you get.
Kevin Ferguson is exceptionally far above average.
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