How An Average Person Becomes Famous: The Path from Ordinary to Extraordinary (in 2 sacred steps)

Written by Scott February 21, 2012

taylor swift becoming famous

“If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change.”

~Taylor Swift

Today I want to challenge you to be different.

Not necessarily better. Just different.

To stand out in a way no one has.

I challenge you to do something that causes people to say: “What the */$# are you talking about?!”

The path to this type of recognition (and even fame), be it business, social or whatever, is not as complicated as you think. 

So why is it that some people seem to crush it while so many others flail around in mediocrity?

Somehow the lucky few become overnight-famous, while the rest spin their tires.

*Side note: by now I hope you know that nothing meaningful happens overnight – we seem to like to think it does for others, but it’s really all in our head.

I’ve made a study of the ordinary vs. extraordinary since as long as I can remember. And spending time with all kinds of relatively well-known Living Legends, exposed some interesting results.

And I have good news.

Standing out is pretty damn simple (so is becoming somewhat famous…)

Now let’s not confuse ‘simple’ with ‘easy’, especially in this case.

The process is simple. But getting the results is by no means easy – it takes massive work (or else the whole world would be doing it).

The problem is most of us focus our attention on the wrong things. We get so caught up in being different, that we try to mimic how other successful folks have stood out. As a result, they’re still different, and you’re just another follower.

Not good.

Those who genuinely stand out, have two things in common:

1. They want it badly enough -

People talk about wanting to write and blog professionally all the time. I get emails non-stop. They see a guy like Leo Babauta of ZenHabits and want to create what he’s created (or a slightly smaller version).

The problem is most aren’t seeing the whole picture (or refuse to accept it). Leo used to be a full-time Journalist in Guam. He also had a family of 8 to support. He had every excuse why he didn’t have the time to pursue a side project (let alone create one of the biggest single author blogs in the world). But you know what he did instead? He wrote articles during every spare second he had – lunch breaks, early mornings, nights and weekends. He wrote 10-20 articles a week. Did you hear that??

For him, there was nothing he wanted more than to have his own business and have his freedom and time to spend with his wife and kids.

How many of you are willing to write 10-20 articles a week on top of a full-time job and more than full-time family? That’s what I thought.

You get what you put in.

If you don’t want something bad enough then stop trying. It’s a waste of time. But once you come across a cause or goal that truly matters to you, anything’s possible.

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

~Friedrich Nietzsche

2. They’re willing to compete on a totally different playing field -

Or maybe they plow their own field altogether…

A few years ago Chris Guillebeau could have started yet another personal development blog about living the location independent life, yada, yada, yada.

Instead, he decided to coin the term The Art of Non Conformity and build his business and movement around the seemingly ridiculous quest of visiting every country in the world.

Who does that?

A million people blog about world travel. But I only know of exactly one who blogs about visiting every country on the planet.

Sure it’s a massive, crazy goal, but life’s a lot more fun going after those anyway. As of today, I think he only has like 20 or 30 left to visit…

You have to stop competing on the same level as everyone else. 

huge goals

Huge goals have a lot less competition than you think.

The good news (at leaset for you and me) is most people aren’t willing to do either of the above. They pass on #1 because they don’t have the motivation (or simply don’t give a sh*t), and they pass on #2 either because they’re too afraid or don’t think they’re creative enough.

Instead, the great majority of the world settles for average goals.

The irony of it is that while most people around you are trying to compete against the rest of the world for some less-than riveting accomplishment, it leaves the playing field wide open when it comes to the huge audacious endeavors. Everyone’s so busy trying to stumble up the anthill in their backyard, that they leave the mountain free and clear to summit.

It’s a crazy fact of life, but there is simply less competition at the top than there is in the middle.

I’d say it’s about time to start climbing mountains.

This and Chris’s example above is more popularly known as ‘the superstar effect’. And as it turns out, this concept is behind a great majority of success stories. It has a ton to do with why Chris Guillebeau, Leo Babauta and Tim Ferriss are now household names. It’s also why Chris was able to convince a PhD program to accept him without hardly any of the prerequisites.

Simply put, these people figured out how to stand out. Not by being better, but by being wildly different.

Normal people do Crazy things all the time.

A few years ago, an overweight pack-a-day smoker decided it was time to step up his game. So he started running. Then he started to run some more. Then he started to compete. But instead of entering marathons, which had tens of thousands of competitors, he decided to run ultra’s. The 100-mile type. Then he started to win some of them. Next, he decided to run across the Sahara Desert. After 111 days, he checked that one off too.

His next inspiration was to start the youth charity impossible2Possible. Now Ray Zahab and his team host epic educational and physical adventures all over the world to teach kids that they’re capable of so much more than most the world tells them. Just recently Ray took off on his latest trek of running from one side of South America to the other. The kids are joining him for various parts – sometimes 70-100km of running a day.

Who would ever think to even try this, especially with kids?

His story and mission had everything to do with why I chose impossible2Possible as the official Live Your Legend partner charity over the thousands of others out there.

Being different matters.

Or why not ride 6,445 km across Africa for a good cause? 

In a few weeks, a good friend of mine (and fellow member of the Young Entrepreneur’s Council), Natalie Sisson, is taking off on her own extraordinary quest called Tour d’Afrique. On March 12th she’s going to start biking 6,445 km from Nairobi, Kenya to Cape Town, South Africa in just 2 months. She’s been training for the better part of a year.

Her main purpose for stomaching two months of African sun, while riding nearly 100 km every day for 60 days, is to support another very worthy cause: Women Win, a charity aimed at giving girls and women more rights and confidence through sports.

Her goal is to raise $10,000 for Woman Win in the next few weeks. I am a proud contributor, and I hope you’ll consider doing the same. Natalie describes these quests as Human Powered Awesome. Whether you call it being a superstar, being different or simply standing out – it all helps the world in a massive way. But it only happens when you decide to play the game on an entirely new level.

If you’re up for it, you can use this link to make a donation to help Natalie. She’s broken the donation amounts into different categories to show what each size donation will do for the cause – all the way down to a few dollars. Pretty fun to see how far a little can go.

Hat’s off to what you’re doing Natalie – I wish I could join you for part of the journey!

Normal people do crazy things all the time. You just have to pay attention.

Start doing things that make people say ‘what the */$# are you talking about?!’

The great majority of things people dismiss as too hard or impossible, could be accomplished with the right motivation (i.e. if they wanted them badly enough).

So in case you haven’t noticed yet, here’s a simple rule of thumb: If it sounds crazy, and people think you’re ridiculous for attempting it, that’s generally a sign that it’s worth your time. You’ll also likely have a ton less competition.

That’s the same reason my buddies and I pick off a few wild physical adventures each year. So far that’s meant running an ultra-marathon and an untrained ‘accidental marathon’, as well as swimming from Alcatraz with a group of twelve-year-olds. And this year it means entering a Goruck Challenge and perhaps running a 50 mi. foot race.

Why not swing big? Especially when most people are too scared to pick up the bat…

There’s really only one way to be memorable.

No One Was Born Extraordinary

I don’t care what family you were born into, what privledges you had, how much you were given or what talents you started with.

No one, and I mean no one, is born extraordianary.

We all start out average. But by definition, not all of us stay that way.

The difference between the average and the extraordinary comes down to one thing…

The path one decides to take.

You are not born trying to change the world. That’s a decision you have to consciously make.

Find something that truly matters to you.

Then start doing it.

You’re in more control than you think.

On Being the Change…

As some of you know, my wife’s a (very talented :)) yoga teacher, and she recently introduced me to a song that sums this article up pretty well. I now listen to it daily.

It’s about a totally ordinary man who one day decided he wanted to do something big. Over the years he ended up leading one of the biggest revolutions in history. And he did it without harming anyone.

The title of the song is “Be the Change“.

The man was Mahatma Ghandi.

I think my favorite line is “Follow your heart and act real bold. Next time it’ll be your story that’s told.”

Take 4 minutes to listen to it below. Then think about what your story’s going to be.

How do you want to be remembered?

Don’t forget to check back in on Natalie’s story for some more inspiration.

**If you can’t see the video or are reading this in email, click here to watch the video on Live Your Legend

 

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