39 qualities that make ordinary people extraordinary

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What separates ordinary people from extraordinary people?

Quite a lot, actually, as it turns out…

Here’s a look:

39 qualities that make ordinary people extraordinary

1) They take closed doors and open them wide

When a door is closed it can be intimidating. After all, it must be closed for a reason, and who are you to open it?

Maybe you knock a few times or even shout out “hello?!” but then you eventually turn away…

Not so with extraordinary people. Even a door that’s locked is a door they never forget.

They will come back to it again and again if it’s part of their goal and eventually they’ll have the key to open it wide.

Obstacles are nothing but motivation for extraordinary people.

2) They use failure as fuel

Ordinary people take failure as the final word. If they fail law school they become another profession instead.

If they get injured playing Aussie rules football, then they decide the sport is too rough…

But extraordinary people take a setback and use it as fuel, not as an excuse.

Whenever possible, they move forward and use disappointment and pain as reminders of what’s important to them and why.

As Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson explains here, failure and heartbreak have been his greatest motivator.

As he says, “the thing that has worked for me is to remember the hard times.”


3) They always pay back what they owe and are honest to a fault

Ordinary people may be trustworthy or they may not be. It all depends on the situation and their personal values.

Or maybe it just depends on their impulses on a certain day with whether they decide to be honest.

What sets someone apart as extraordinary is when they always pay back what they owe and always keep their word.

It’s not that the extraordinary individual is so “nice,” it’s that they live by principles which don’t shift with the wind.

And they stick to that.

4) They focus on solutions, not problems

There are enough problems to go around, that’s for sure.

It’s perfectly normal to worry about problems and be concerned about their consequences.

The difference is that an extraordinary person doesn’t spend time worrying: they diagnose the issue and then fix it if possible.

If they can’t fix it, they do whatever is necessary to accept it. This can include everything as trivial as a canceled appointment to being told they have a serious illness.

As leadership coach Eric Saperston notes, extraordinary people:

“Take the time to define what’s important to them, so they know what success looks like and celebrate when they have succeeded.”

5) They’re masters of the clock

The faster that technology has gotten the more it seems like our workload has just increased along with it.

But the extraordinary person doesn’t let that faze them.

They find ways to maximize their time and still have free time while still completing their work duties.

They are masters of the clock who almost always show up on time or early and tackle work with enthusiasm and gusto.

6) They care about treating people with respect and appreciation

Extraordinary people go out of their way to pay attention to the people around them.

Maybe they were just raised right, or maybe they do it because they know that every stranger on the street could one day be your business partner or friend.

They treat everyone with appreciation, because they see potential where others might only see random folks sitting around.

Like David Sack M.D. says at Psychology Today:

“They are the ones who remember our names, ask us questions and care about the answers, and leave us feeling heard and valued.

Extraordinary people also connect with themselves, paying attention to their feelings and respecting their needs, just as they do for those around them.”

7) They’re charismatic and committed

Extraordinary people are generally well liked and respected. They have immense charisma and drive.

It’s not just that they talk a big game, they walk a big game too.

They back up words with action and go the extra mile in every situation possible to get a job done beyond all expectations.

This charisma and determination to see things through puts them well above the average citizen.

8) They’re tapped into a deep knowledge of history and the world

All of us only have the chance to live in one place and time.

But the extraordinary person takes that opportunity and maximizes it, learning languages, history and skills that many other people never bother with.

Whether it’s becoming an incredible sushi chef or reading up on the history of the British Royal family, the extraordinary individual doesn’t let his or her place of birth or skills of their upbringing be the final word.

They’re lifelong learners filled with insatiable curiosity!

9) They ace whatever they put their mind to

Extraordinary people are not superhuman: they just put in a superhuman effort.

One of the top qualities that make ordinary people extraordinary is that when they put their mind to learning a skill or job they don’t stop until they’ve done so.

If it’s impossible for them to do they still try.

They never half-ass a job or a skill, and if you help them learn something they will be enthusiastic and take full advantage of expanding their talents.

10) They love being athletic and optimizing their physical health

Not all of us are born athletes, but extraordinary people always find one or two physical activities they can do.

Even if it’s just walking, they get out there and get their steps in.

They care about their physical health and also understand the direct link between mental and physical health.

As Thompson says:

“Extraordinary people understand their potential because they are constantly pushing themselves to find it.

We are the only ones who define our limits. If you push yourself, I promise you will be amazed at how much you can actually do. But you’ll never know until you try.”

11) They listen more than they talk

Extraordinary people have plenty to say, but they usually prefer to let other people do the talking.

The reason why is simple:

They know that there’s usually more to learn by listening than by talking.

After all, even if others are talking nonsense, you can learn a lot about them by listening to the kind of nonsense they believe.

Why get in the mud and roll around? Just nod and smile and contribute if there’s a meaningful reason to do so…

12) They’re a helluva lot of fun to hang out with

Extraordinary people are the life of the party and when they show up everybody cheers.

Their sense of humor, appreciation for others, intelligence and energy makes them the star wherever they go.

People like hanging out with them because they’re fun. It’s as simple as that.

They say interesting things and are always on demand wherever they go.

13) They respect the beliefs and religious views of others

Extraordinary people have less of a need to be right or have their ego stroked as many others.

They respect the culture and religious views of others even if they disagree, because they know that we can coexist without having to force our views on someone else.

They also love to share their experiences and beliefs, but have no need or desire to force or press them on others.

14) They know the power of focused attention

One of the biggest things which keeps people down is not paying enough attention to what they pay attention to.

They let their mind be led here and there and lose a lot of time and energy in the process.

Extraordinary people keep track of what they’re focused on.

Of course they get distracted like anyone else, but they’re conscious of when this happens and do their best to improve it the next time.

15) They know what they’re shooting for

Extraordinary people have found their purpose in life.

It’s not always grand and dramatic, but it’s always something that motivates them on a deep level and aligns with their strongly-held values.

This imbues everything they do with a kind of momentum that’s often lacking for those who are less sure about their aims.

As Braden Thomson writes:

“Whenever I think about finding purpose in life, I can’t help but think of Viktor Frankl. Viktor survived three horrifying years in holocaust concentration camps.

What kept him from committing suicide, as many of his camp mates did, was the idea that his suffering had to have meaning. His life had to have a purpose.

Viktor truly was an extraordinary person because he understood his purpose in life.”

16) They practice radical self-honesty at all costs

Another one of the most important qualities that make ordinary people extraordinary is the ability and will to practice radical self-honesty.

Extraordinary people hold themselves accountable for what they do and do not shy away from their mistakes.

When they mess up, they admit it to others.

Most importantly, they admit it to themselves and pledge to do better the next time.

This puts them in a league of their own.

17) They’re in touch with their gut

One great thing about extraordinary people is that they are able to sense and respond to their gut instinct and pay attention to what it’s telling them.

They know how they feel and why, and they’re able to use that information to make better choices about life situations and crises.

Gut health is closely linked to mental and emotional wellbeing, so this point is valid in a purely physical sense as well.

Go kombucha!

18) They never give up if the going gets tough

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

This is where the extraordinary are separated from the ordinary person they used to become and are propelled into the big leagues…

Most people get exhausted or discouraged and hang up the gloves…

An extraordinary person gets exhausted or discouraged but finds that extra little well of determination and strength to keep going.

19) They care about their family and its needs

These days it seems like individualism is all the rage.

But we should never forget about how important family is for our collective and social future.

In fact, if you ask me, family is the most important thing in life.

Extraordinary people know that family isn’t always pretty, but it’s always family.

These days that knowledge and commitment

20) They prepare for all possibilities and don’t play the victim

Extraordinary people sometimes look very lucky from the outside.

In most cases, however, they’re just better prepared for different possibilities.

They never go into a situation without a Plan B, or even a Plan C.

That’s just how they roll.

And if it goes wrong you won’t find them blaming others either, they just accept the loss and move on…

21) They roll with the punches, even the haymakers

Life throws some awful curveballs at all of us, but extraordinary people learn to adapt.

They roll with the punches even when it’s a hard haymaker to the head.

They dodge if they can and take the hit if they can’t.

There’s no complaining going on, and even when life is very unfair, they take the injustice and move on to pursue their goals anyway.

22) Their networking skills are off the charts

I remember a former colleague of mine who’s since risen to extraordinary levels of personal and professional success.

He once asked me if I could glance over his CV and see if I had any suggestions.

When I looked at how many projects, groups and people he’d been involved with in internships and jobs, my eyes almost popped out of my head.

That’s what extraordinary people do. They network like they breathe. And it pays off.

23) They handle their own shit

Extraordinary people never pass the buck. Even when something isn’t their fault, they handle their own shit.

They absorb the frustrations of life and keep on moving to the best of their ability.

If they find out what the problem was they will do their best to ensure it never happens again.

But they won’t bother playing the game of “could have, should have,” because it only leads to endless frustration.

24) They’re more courageous than your average Joe

All of us have reserves of courage in the right situation.

But the extraordinary person has just a little bit more.

They are the war heroes we’ve all heard of, the first responders who put others before themselves, the cancer survivors who smiled at the world even through the pain.

They are people like Terry Fox.

Extraordinary people are brave as hell.

25) They keep their worst impulses successfully in check

We all have impulses that could be described as destructive or inappropriate.

Whether it’s eating too much, letting our temper pop off or trying to flirt with every attractive girl or guy we see, impulses happen.

It’s what we do in response to them that matters.

Instead of just taking short term rewards, extraordinary people tend to look at the big picture.

As Shawn Lim observes:

“Extraordinary people focus on long-term rewards and they delay instant gratification while ordinary people think short-term and grab what’s in front of them.”

26) They know how to speak and be heard

Extraordinary people have a way of making their voice heard without being a dick about it.

They’re not like those pushy suit-and-tie types you run into sometimes, but they’re also not the meek guy sitting in the corner afraid to ask the waiter for a refill of his glass of water.

Extraordinary people are confident and up-front without being annoying.

Their combination of being direct and firm while still being polite is highly effective in today’s busy world.

27) Their energy and enthusiasm can fill a room in minutes

Extraordinary people don’t do boring things.

Wherever they are, they spread energy and enthusiasm.

You practically feel like a more interesting person just by being around them, and you feel drawn to listen to what they say.

“Thinking outside the box frees up creativity and allows effective brainstorming to take place,” writes Mandy Kloppers.

“Extraordinary people often see the world differently and practise the ‘art’ of critical thinking.

They are more likely to listen to their own opinion than follow the general opinion of others. This can lead to amazing ideas and being at the forefront of invention.”

28) They never lie unless it’s for a greater good

Extraordinary people tend to be very honest with themselves and others.

They’d rather skip some of the short-term benefits of lying and keep their integrity instead.

In the long-run this leads to them being much more respected.

The rare lie they do tell is only to help someone who really needs it, or deceive a person who is trying to do harm to them or someone else.

29) They’re full of wonder about the world and the cosmos

Extraordinary people don’t get bored easily.

Life and the universe fascinate them to no end.

They want to unravel where we come from and where we’re going. They love talking to new people and learning about their field of expertise.

They’re pumped with wonder about this cosmos we live in and their wonder is infectious.

30) They’re a Renaissance man or woman

Extraordinary people rarely limit themselves to one skill or field of interest.

They’re like Leonardo Da Vinci: they love art, science, music and maybe they love NASCAR racing, too…

31) They don’t hold themselves back or box themselves in

They may be listening to opera one day and rocking out to Viking metal the next.

They’re extraordinary, after all, so you just can’t predict what they’ll be up to and what project they’ll be working on at any given time.

32) They’re knowledgeable about other cultures and traditions

Extraordinary people aren’t limited to their upbringing or native culture.

They love to learn about the way other people live and what drives other cultures and traditions.

They often get an early interest in high school by doing an exchange program, through meeting a worker or colleague from another culture or from TV shows and music that piques their interest.

Whatever it is that sets off the cultural discovery, it’s always motivated by a genuine interest and admiration.

33) They’re not scared of letting their own light shine

One of the saddest things to see with many people is how they hide their talents.

They downplay what they’re good at and act overly modest, depriving the world of their gifts and underestimating their value.

Extraordinary people don’t do that:

They’re up-front about their talents.

As Bill Murphy Jr. writes:

“Comedy is the flipside of tragedy. For all the passion with which they pursue their goals, truly extraordinary people keep perspective by recognizing that a well-led life is full of humor.

Thus, the most important jokes you’ll ever tell are the ones about yourself, even your failures.”

34) They respect others’ boundaries but also know how to positively challenge someone

Extraordinary people don’t play by a set rulebook.

They are very respectful of others, but at the same time they know when to push someone who can achieve more but is being held back by his or her own self-doubts and trauma.

The extraordinary person is an amazing reader of people.

He or she can see what someone needs at the right moment:

Is it a shoulder to cry on or a kick in the butt to get motivated? They always know what’s best…

35) They give because they can, not for a reward

Extraordinary people tend to be very generous.

However, that generosity is rarely motivated by religious rules, social expectations or hope of a “reward” of some kind.

The generosity of these folks makes them very well-loved by others, as you can imagine.

Indeed, generosity and a spirit of giving is some of the best qualities that make ordinary people extraordinary.

36) They recognize potential when they see it

Extraordinary people are very adept at spotting other extraordinary people even if they’ve not yet reached that full potential.

The extraordinary person tends to be very skilled at looking under the surface to see the hidden ability or worth of almost everyone they come across.

As Sylvain Saurel says:

“By considering yourself as an extraordinary person, you will have enough confidence in yourself to go beyond the limits that society wants to impose on you.”

37) They know their own worth, and the worth of others around them

Connected to the last point, one of the best qualities that make ordinary people extraordinary is that they know their own worth and the worth of others.

They value people highly, including themselves and this respect shines out and touches people around them.

Everyone likes to be respected, and they tend to respond to it well with happiness and enthusiasm.

That’s a real win-win formula.

38) They’re real about admitting their mistakes

Extraordinary people admit their mistakes without beating around the bush.

They do that because they know that in the end there’s nothing to be gained by faking it.

It’s far better to just fess up about where you’ve fallen short and take steps to remedy it.

You learn a lot more and humble yourself as well.

39) They’re more interested in action than cheap talk

Another one of the best qualities that make ordinary people extraordinary is that they know talk is cheap.

While they tend to be very good communicators, they’re not much interested in chattering about how good they are at something.

They’re more interested in just doing it.

By putting action above empty words, these people gain respect and admiration from those around them who also can emulate their example.

Ordinary vs. extraordinary

All of us are extraordinary in certain ways. Life and existence itself is extraordinary, really.

But the general dividing line between an ordinary person and an extraordinary person couldn’t be more clear.

It’s like the light of day versus the dark of night.

If you want to become an extraordinary person there is a roadmap to do so.

It starts with casting aside the egotistical ideas of greatness and focusing in on your talents and gifts and how those can make your life better and the lives of those around you better.

The truth is that an extraordinary person is just a normal person who pushed a bit harder, went a bit further, sweat and cried a bit more to make their dreams – and the dreams of others – come true.

The truth is that extraordinary people are usually forged in the fires of extreme struggle and adversity.

It’s no mistake that diamonds are formed between a rock and a hard place.

If you’re struggling, keep going. An extraordinary person is being born!

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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