I believe we should live our lives with the motto “Don’t be ordinary be extraordinary”. Ask yourself this question: do you want to be successful and extraordinary?
I think 99.9% of the population will answer this question with the word YES!
From a young age, many people were taught that being successful and extraordinary in life involves the following steps – go to school, get good grades, get a university degree, get a job, be good at your job, get paid well, be a good worker, focus on work, earn lots of money, buy expensive things to reward yourself, take expensive vacations, get married, have an expensive elaborate wedding, raise a family, provide your kids with good education by sending them to private schools, continue climbing the corporate ladder, earn more money, and finally retire at the age of 65 to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Does this really describe a successful and extraordinary life?
Many might think so.
What I just described above is what it means to be ordinary, or a typical worker’s life.
Why do we define being successful and extraordinary by how much money we make, all the things that we can show off, how many expensive vacations we take, and what our job titles are?
Is this really the correct definition of being successful and extraordinary?
Thanks to social media, many of us think celebrities are successful and extraordinary.
Who do I think is extremely successful and extraordinary?
The Dalai Lama is successful and extraordinary.
Mother Teresa is successful and extraordinary.
When we are blasted with false images of success and extraordinary every day on TV, in the newspapers & magazines, on the internet, and on social media, we begin to believe in these false images. We begin to become delusional about what it means to be successful and extraordinary.
Combined with how most of us are raised… we were taught and told that we’re simply ordinary.
So we go through our lives being ordinary.
Most of us were wrongly taught by our parents, our teachers, and people that we know, what being successful means.
I’m sorry but ordinary is just not good enough.
I don’t want to be ordinary.
I don’t want to be successful and extraordinary by the traditional definition.
I don’t want to set my life purpose as having an ordinary life and being “successful” by traditional means.
I want to be extraordinary.
Extraordinary is something very different.
Many of us believe being extraordinary means we need to do important philanthropy work like The Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. Because most of us cannot dedicate our lives to philanthropy work, we believe that we cannot be extraordinary.
Extraordinary is being able to get outside of the comfort zone and strive for something that we haven’t been told to do by our parents, taught by our teachers in school, and trained to believe in.
I believe being extraordinary is simply being able to achieve financial independence at an age where we are still in good health to enjoy our lives to the fullest.
Extraordinary is being different from the norm, being able to recognize from within ourselves that there’s something more than mindlessly finishing tasks because the “Boss Man” says so, it’s more than climbing the corporate ladder, and it’s more than working for 40+ years before retiring and enjoying the fruits of our labour.
Notice here that I haven’t set any age. Why? Because each individual goes through different circumstances and experiences in life. So, to label that one must reach financial independence by a specific age is simply not fair. To achieve financial independence and to be able to enjoy what we want to do because we are in good health, that’s extraordinary.
Having good health is extremely important, especially when we’re financially independent.
Having all the money in the world at our disposal but not being in good health? Then all that money won’t do us any good.
Simply put, we need to be able to have good health to enjoy what we have accomplished – being financially independent.
But how do we achieve financial independence?
While becoming financially independent is not an easy task, I think it’s very simple.
Becoming financially independent…. is simple?
Many people use the words “easy” and “simple” interchangeably. But these two words are very different.
Both words describe something as being “not difficult”. Easy is defined as “not hard to do; not difficult” where simple is defined as “having few parts, not complex or fancy, not special or unusual.”
To be more specific, simple is not always easy.
- To lose weight is simple, but not always easy.
- To stop smoking is simple, but not always easy.
- To stop drinking coffee is simple, but not always easy.
- To be kind to everyone is simple, but not always easy.
- To not judge others is simple, but not always easy.
Similarly, to become financially independent is simple, but not always easy. At first glance, the financial independence formula is very simple:
Passive income > expenses = Financial Independence
The concept of becoming financially independent is really simple. It basically comes down to the following simple steps:
1. Live below your means
In order to get ahead, your expenses need to be less than your income. The concept is simple but not easy. You can try to increase your income and/or cut down your unnecessary expenses. This process can take many years to master.
2. Pay yourself first
Again, this idea is very simple but not easy. When you receive an income, put aside a specific amount or percentage in your savings account and never touch this money. Only spend the rest. For example, if you receive $2,000, pay yourself $500 first, and only utilize the remaining $1,500. The idea is to use the saved up amount to create passive income streams.
3. Create passive income streams
There are many different types of passive income streams. For example, stock investments, rental properties, royalties, and businesses. The more passive income streams you have, the more diversified your passive income will be. Use the money saved in step 2 to invest in these passive income streams. Initially, it might take some active work, but once set up, they can generate an income passively.
Are there things in life you can simplify to save money? Maybe you can sell things that you no longer use, reduce your media consumption, reduce your cell phone bill, consolidate all your debt, reduce your wardrobe, or create a meal plan. There are many ways to simplify your life to save money. You can then use the money saved to create passive income.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that having good health, just like becoming financially independent, is simple, but not always easy.
How do we stay in good health?
It involves the following 4 simple steps:
1. Have balanced nutritious meals
We all need to fuel our bodies with nutritious food items. We also need to watch out how much we eat. Don’t overeat, just like we don’t overspend. A good rule of thumb is to eat until we’re about 75% full. This is similar to the concept of “live below your means.”
2. Stay active and exercise
Staying active is the best way to maintain good health. It will provide benefits in your life today and continue providing benefits as you age. It’s a similar idea as “Paying Yourself First” mentioned above.
3. Create a healthy lifestyle
There is more to a healthy lifestyle than just having balanced nutritious meals and staying active. Creating a healthy lifestyle includes things such as avoiding smoking/secondhand smoke, limiting alcohol consumption, limiting salt and sugar consumption etc.
Part of a healthy lifestyle can be creating your own affirmations that resonate with you and set your own intentions. For example, set an affirmation that focuses on loving yourself: “I love my beautiful body and accept it every day.” Focus your intentions on things you want, not things that you do not want.
Creating a healthy lifestyle is like having passive income. Once it is created, you will enjoy the benefits over and over again.
4. Strong body, strong mind
Becoming emotionally balanced is an important step in order to have good health. Let go of negative thoughts and patterns in your life. Your body can’t function without your mind. So focus on what matters to you in life. Develop both a strong body and a strong mind.
Since becoming financially independent and having good health are very closely related, we must focus on both.
Make no mistake, it’s simply extraordinary to achieve both financial independence and good health at the same time.
But there’s more to it than just being financially independent and having good health.
Continuous Self Improvements
Being extraordinary also means that we recognize the need to become better human beings through self-improvements. We must learn new things and obtain new knowledge as we go through our life journey.
We must determine our life purpose.
Our life purpose isn’t to work until we’re 65 old or older. Our life purpose is more than being stuck inside a cubicle for the majority of our day.
Imagine starting working full time at age 20, spending 8 hours each day inside a cubicle, 5 days a week, then 45 years later, retiring at age 65.
That’s 250 days a year spent working.
Or 2,000 hours a year sitting in a chair.
Working for 45 years that means…
That’s a total of 11,250 days.
Or 90,000 hours of our lives spent inside the average 75 square feet cubicle.
Since many of us end up working overtime, especially people working in high tech, that number may be over 100,000 hours by the time retirement comes around.
No wonder the job has become many people’s life purpose.
This is exactly why so many retirees’ health deteriorates very quickly, shortly after retirement. Their jobs were their life purpose. When they retire, these retirees do not know what to do with their lives anymore. They end up living a life of full leisure, sitting on the beach all day, basking in the sun, and just letting their minds go blank.
If we’re not busy learning and developing ourselves, we go stale as humans.
When we go stale and stop learning, we’re busy dying.
So many people hold retirement up on a pedestal. It’s the ultimate goal, it’s the end game, it’s the finish line. But what if you never make it to the finish line?
These people think that retirement is the end goal, so they are not happy until they reach this goal.
When they finally reach this end goal, they don’t know what to do with their lives. They stop learning and stop obtaining new knowledge once they get there.
Many of them develop what I call the have-to-be symptom. We are wired to believe that we need to have something first in order to do what we want to do, so we can be who we want to be (happy). So, we teach our brains that we must attain retirement before we can enjoy our lives. It’s only when we attain these things (i.e. a new car, a big raise, a bigger house, retirement), that we can do what we want to do with our lives.
Once we can do what we want to do with our lives, we can finally be happy. Once we’re stuck in this have-to-be fallacy, we are always chasing that next new shiny thing. We are comparing ourselves with our neighbours, friends, and strangers. We feel that we cannot do anything in life because we haven’t accumulated sufficient things. So we continue the never-ending binge shopping and never really end up where we want to be.
That’s the wrong way to approach life in my opinion.
The Be-To-Have is a way better approach. I truly believe in that.
We as human beings are constantly changing. Our bodies and thoughts are changing every minute. Having an ordinary life means that we can go through our lives repeating doing the same thing and making the same mistake over and over again; having an extraordinary life means that we are constantly learning and trying to improve ourselves.
Imagine being the same person 20 or 30 years from now and not having learned or grown one single bit and repeating the same mistakes. Sometimes people believe that if someone has worked for 20 years at the same job, then he/she has 20 years of experience in the job. However he/she could just have 1 year of experience in the job because they have not developed and learned new things but simply repeated the same year over and over again. That is not equal to 20 years of experience!
Do you want to be like that?
So, we need to improve ourselves as human beings. Some simple self-improvement methods include:
1. Read self-improvement books.
There are lots of great books out there. The more books you read, the more wisdom you expose yourself to. Some great books I’ve read over the years are Living the Wisdom of Tao, How to Win Friends & Influence People, and The Road Less Traveled.
2. Get Out of your comfort zone
You can’t grow unless you become uncomfortable. Learn to expand your comfort zone by exposing yourself to a new context, a new situation, or a new environment.
Challenge yourself to try new things and explore new areas of your life. Some might say to do one thing a day that scares you, I wouldn’t go that far, but it is an interesting way of thinking about challenging yourself.
3. Maintain a positive attitude
Positive thinking is so important. The mind is a very strong tool. Whatever you believe in, you can achieve. Become aware of how you think and talk. Stop using double negatives like “Not bad” and start using “Great” instead.
4. Be open-minded
If we are closed down and fixed in our beliefs, we are restricting ourselves from doing new things. So, we do the same exact thing every single day. This really hinders self-improvement. Being open-minded will allow us to try new things in life, and usually things that we did not plan for but which just appeared in our life out of the blue.
Forgiveness is an important part of becoming a better person. We can’t constantly live in the past and hate people that might have done us wrong. When we hate, we’re only hurting ourselves.
The person that you hate does not know this. He/she will continue with his/her life. You hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. You are the one stuck in the past and letting this hate consume you.
Forgiveness is the remedy. Let go of all resentment and pain and move on with your life.
6. Be grateful
Practice being grateful for things in life. Be grateful for who you are today and what you have accomplished. Start small if this is new to you. Be grateful for being alive, for having food on the table, a roof over your head etc.
While we are improving ourselves as human beings, we also need to look within.
Self-esteem vs. Others-esteem
Do you like getting praise from someone?
Do you like others’ approval of you?
Throughout our lives, we might have been taught to seek approval from others.
Don’t believe me? Look around and listen to things that we and others say every day.
“I’m so proud of you.”
“You are such a good student.”
“You’re such a hard worker.”
“You’re so smart.”
“Wow, I’m impressed that you solved that problem so easily.”
Isn’t it nice to hear these things to be said to us?
Indeed it is, but I believe this is not what we should strive for. After all, self-esteem should come from within, from the self. We want to be confident and feel good about ourselves from within. If we can only feel good about ourselves when others tell us so, then we’re really no good at controlling our own feelings and emotions.
Constantly seeking praise and approval from others is the opposite of having high self-esteem. Rather, it’s like having a high others-esteem, because we need others to tell us what to do and how to feel.
Isn’t this the wrong way to do things?
Instead, we need to learn from within and listen to that tiny voice in our head and trust our intuition.
Does this relate to financial independence?
Because striving for financial independence is so outside of the norm, you probably haven’t shared this ambitious goal with every single person in your life. If you have shared with everyone you know, you probably have heard a lot of negative comments and some disapproval.
Does it matter if other people think being financially independent is impossible and a silly goal to have?
Does it matter if other people think being financially independent means you’re lazy and you’re not contributing to society by working hard at your 9-5 job?
Does it matter if other people think saving money each month and investing in things that will generate passive income is boring and that it is way better to spend all the money you earn right away to fully enjoy your life?
Does it matter if other people are doubting you?
The answer to all of the above should be NO!!!
We all need to learn to ignore other people’s opinions and stop caring what others think about us and our ideas altogether.
We need to be comfortable with what we believe in. We need to find the fire, the ambition, the strong desire from within ourselves.
If we aren’t comfortable in our own skin, we can easily get convinced by other people to stop our financial independence journey and to start doubting ourselves that it is even possible to reach that goal.
If that happens, we become ordinary.
Between being extraordinary and self-confident vs. being ordinary and others-confident. Which one would you choose?
I’ll take option 1 every single day.
Stop believing in what the media and financial institutions are telling you. Change your mindset today.
- Start reading self-improvement books so you can grow.
- Start putting more of your income into savings and investments. The traditional thinking of saving 10% is just not enough, but it is a good start.
- Start looking from within instead of judging others.
- Start finding inner peace.
- Start charting your own version of financial independence, start fighting for financial freedom!
- Start saving that raise you received from a promotion towards investments.
- Start simplifying your lives.
Don’t be ordinary. Be extraordinary.
Life is better when we have freedom and choices, which by the way, we always have.
Life is more enjoyable when we can stop and smell the roses when we want to.
Life is great when we can find joy and inner peace. Happiness is externally driven; joy is internally driven.
Life is great when we can be kind to everyone, including ourselves.
12 thoughts on “Don’t be ordinary be extraordinary”
I’m not sure I agree. Being ordinary works extremely well for most people.
It’s natural. Ask any kid and they’ll tell you they want to be normal and fit in.
For most people, it feels good to be ordinary. Also, like Steveark commented above. If you’re really good at being ordinary, you’ll be extraordinary too. That’s a good option for most people.
Anyway, it takes a lot of effort to be extraordinary. You’ll have to be a contrarian and probably don’t fit in somehow. Only a few people are happier on the less-traveled path, IMO.
Being ordinary works really well for most people but it doesn’t mean we should strive for something more. 🙂
Beautiful post Bob! One of my favorites! So much wisdom contained in this one it’s hard to digest it all!
Thanks Mr. Tako.
It’s quite shocking just how little it takes to be ordinary. All you have to do is save and invest 20% of your income and you’re already so much ahead of your peers, it’s astonishing.
Then you can retire at 50 and enjoy 15 more years of the good life compared to friends who has to work another 15 years.
No need to create the next big company, all you have to do is take some simple steps!
It’s important to take these simple steps. 🙂
Excellent post, as usual.
The traditional advice of saving 10% certainly is not enough, depending on your income, of course. Early in my career, I’d routinely save 30 to 50% of my monthly income (I put into practice the advice you give such as living simply, below my means, etc.). I was also lucky to be investing at a time when you could get 10 or 12% yearly return on a simple GIC.
Thank you Pierre. Agree that the traditional advice of saving 10% is not enough, especially given the current low interest rates environment.
Enjoyed the article. And couldn’t agree more on the excellent points you are making.
Following a path outside the norm (seeking FI, starting own business instead of continuing climbing the corporate ladder etc.) leads to extraordinary experiences, a whole different learning process and builds the basis for being consistent with own values and goals. The recipe for being extraordinary.
Glad you enjoyed reading the article. 🙂
I think you can have an extraordinary life by following an ordinary path. I went to college, got a job, got married, had kids and made work a priority. It was fun and I was extraordinary at it. I climbed the corporate ladder and made millions. But we didn’t buy into consumerism, we controlled our housing, transportation and consumer costs by being naturally frugal. I only retired slightly early at 60 but I loved what I was doing until then, so it made no sense to me to give up work, a favorite hobby, early. I was able to change lives in my career and to even save a life. And in retirement I feel I am still changing lives through my volunteer work. I don’t think the path matters, it is what you do with the relationships you have on that path and how much you are able to improve other people’s lives that matters. You can do that by being a janitor or an engineer or a musician or a dog walker. And you can do that by retiring at 37 or by retiring at 73. Its how you live your life that matters. Good post, thought provoking for sure.
Agree, it is what you do with the relationships you have on the path and whether you can improve other people’s lives. It’s shouldn’t be just about you and using other people to get ahead of your own agenda. 🙂