For some, being extraordinary is almost innate—a personality born so strong, so unique, that it cannot contain itself. You might know an individual like this. These are the people we call “naturals”—talent simply seems to ooze from their pores, be it their ability to solve problems, play an instrument or a sport, make money, or tell a joke or a good story.
For most, however, the choice to be extraordinary is precisely that—a choice. Those individuals that you find inspiring do not wake up and automatically perform at 100% on a daily basis. At times it might seem that way, but the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is a willed and chosen path.
In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly makes mention of what he calls the “10,000 hour rule”: in order to be successful in a given field, one must drill a specific task for approximately 10,000 hours. If you broke that down into an eight-hour work day, you would be looking at 1,250 days of work—which, broken into a 5-day week, breaks down into 250 weeks, or approximately five years of work.
Maybe I’m biased because I’m from Chicago and grew up watching the Bulls during their dynasty run in the 90s, but Michael Jordan has always had the ability to make the hair on my arms stand on end and move me to tears. While other players like Kobe and Lebron James are incredibly talented and fun to watch, Jordan positively inspired people to elevate themselves across the board.
Michael Jordan seemed to have a certain extra awareness of his position in the universe, a consciousness on another plane, that let him know where he stood at all times. Various people have tried describing this as “classiness” on his part. That wasn’t it at all. Jordan was great, and he knew he was great, but he didn’t “know it” in a cocky or falsely arrogant sense. Jordan knew he was great not for his abilities or his achievements, but for his will and his effort and his approach to life. And he enjoyed it all along.
You could give the man the ball in the last second and, seemingly through will alone, he would find a way to sink the game-winning point that seemed almost inexplicable and unfathomable. He seemed at times to defy the laws of the universe, as if his commands overrode and were stronger than physical reality.
But Jordan was great, above and beyond all else, because he wanted to be great. It was his desire, his quest for greatness, that made him great. He refused to be ordinary. He refused to lose. He refused to shrug things off and say, “Oh well, we played hard, that’s all we can do”. He played as hard as he could at all times, and if it wasn’t good enough, he practiced that much harder to become that much better. “Maybe I made you think that every shot I took was a game-winner, that my game was built on flash and not fire”.
Jordan was extraordinary because, despite the flash, his game was built on fire, and his life was built on fire. He was a ball of supernova energy somehow contained in the cells and muscle fibers of a human being, waiting to be unleashed at any given moment when his will so dictated.
Michael Jordan’s awareness of his own greatness, and his awareness of its cause—the choice to be extraordinary, rather than ordinary—is why he stands out in so many peoples’ minds as the greatest of all time. Upon watching him play or speak, one had the sense that he could enter any other field, and in time, command himself to be equally great, to rise to the top and dominate all over again. He was a superhero brought to life, disguised in a crime fighting suit consisting of baggy shorts and a basketball jersey.
Every moment of every day, you can choose to be great, or you can choose to be less. You can choose to be ordinary, which is definitely the easier path, or you can choose to be extraordinary. Just remember that it is a choice. I, for one, choose for my life to be built not on flash, but on fire.
-David A. Johnston
David Johnston is the founder and lead trainer of TEAM Warrior Within. You can also listen to him weekely on the GEARD Up podcast. ( GEARDUp.com ) David works with clients ranging from the everyday person just trying to lose weight and get healthy, local and national bodybuilding and physique competitors, to IFBB professional athletes.
David lives and breathes all things related to physique transformation, and has devoted nearly half of his life to passionately studying and educating himself to be the absolute best at what he does. His intensity in the gym is matched only by the passion he gives to his clients.