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Sunday, April 3, 2016

An Ordinary Guide to an Extraordinary Life

He asked me what to do about his marriage. He was not happy.

It was a rare sunny summer day in Northern California, and we sat talking in the park. He asked me what he should do. He was tired of his marriage. It seemed his wife was, too. He said he could see himself being OK for the rest of his life with this woman, but he wanted something more. He wanted to be extraordinarily happy. He asked me for advice. When it comes to marriages, I don't offer advice unless there is physical violence. In this case, there isn't. I don't know what he should do about his marriage. That's his decision.

But I do think there are a number of things that can lead to a life that is extraordinary. I try to follow as many of these as I can. At one point, I have followed all of them, and they seem to work for me.

Acceptance. The first step to having an extraordinary life is accepting that you want one. Most people are OK with the status quo. If you are not, and you recognize it, then you have taken the first step. Which is probably the most important.

Experiment. Every day, I try to force myself to do one thing outside of my comfort zone. Yesterday, I ate my dinner sitting on the sidewalk on Lexington Avenue and 59th street. Everyone thought I was homeless. I even put my bag out to see if people would give me money. No one did. I know nothing about being homeless. But I tested my comfort zone for 20 minutes. You have to get used to feeling strange. I felt strange. It's good practice.


Assume no more.
Test every assumption. Everything you have ever been told for your entire life, flip it on its head. If you worried about being alone if you leave your wife, go spend a week or month in isolation. If you are worried you will be homeless if your startup fails, go live in cheap Airbnb's for the next three months. The point is to see that there are always options beyond the assumptions you take as truth, although have never tested.

Recognize fear. With every decision you take, ask yourself what fear's role in this decision is? If fear is driving your decision, test the fear and take control of it. Check out the next point for a valuable exercise.

Write down the worst case scenario. At least once a week, I am afraid I am going broke. I have been nearly broke many times since starting my companies. It's not fun! But now it is an irrational fear. I am not going broke, but at least once a week, I wake up in the middle of the night certain I have no money left. It used to consume me (more), but now I merely write down all of the things that would happen if I did lose all my money. The list would look like: I'd have to move in with friends or family (not so bad to spend time with those you love), I'd have to get a job (not so bad to be employable), I'd have to travel less (but would still live in a safe country with clean water and food). You get the point. When you write down all the worst case scenarios, you quickly realize it's not that bad. That relieves my anxiety a lot.

Conserve energy.
I used to run around and talk to anyone who would listen. I made friends everywhere. I said yes to everything. I ran out of steam. I was distracted and high strung. I still like to be spontaneous and social, but I conserve energy for the things I find extraordinary whenever possible. If I have to chose between going to a club I have been to before on a Friday night, or going to bed early to be rested for a speech I have to give the next day, I will rest. In the past, I would have done both, but now I conserve energy and put it towards experiences or people that have a high chance of making my life even more extraordinary.

Experiences and advice. I used to ask for advice on everything. Should I go here, buy this, call her tomorrow, pick this, blah blah blah. It exhausted me (and probably my friends and family, too). Now, I try and follow this rule. I do first, then share my experiences after. As opposed to asking for advice or permission first, then doing second. My dad always said, 'Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.' He's a wise man, my father.

Diversify your friends. If you are around a bunch of people just like you (racially, socioeconomically, religiously, professionally, morally, etc), you will get less insight into alternative ways of living, which will lead to you feeling like a nut job when you do something out of the norm of the group. I do some things that would be considered ludicrous around a certain group of my friends that others don't even pause when I mention. I love that.

Read. A lot of books by a diverse group of authors. Consume their lives, explore their creativity, take the gems and put your own twist as you build your extraordinary life.

Be grateful. Everyday, I write down something I am grateful for about the day I just lived. Tonight, I was going to write that I left a party early to come home and work on this article. For me, that was extraordinary. And then, literally, as I was writing this point, my dear friends Alex and Lia called me from California. They were excited to share with me that they were treating themselves to a 'carb heavy day,' since they have been experimenting with a low carb diet all week. Then we talked about learning how to have lucid dreams, and what Alex is doing to move forward a treatment for his next show he will produce. Most people never stop to take a moment to monitor their carb intake, or attempt to train their mind into vivid dreaming, or plan a dream project. And for that, and them, I am grateful for their sharing with me.

Oh, and they told me they were under a Jasmine tree, and they would pull a flower and rub it on their necks as a perfume.

So tomorrow, make your own perfume, change your state of mind, call a friend with a crazy idea. Whatever you want. Just do something out of the ordinary, and see how it feels. Then do it again the next day, and the next. Soon, you'll realize there is no such thing as 'too much.'

It will simply be, extraordinary.

And that extraordinary becomes,

your life.
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Brian Rashid is a professional speaker and trainer on entrepreneurship, leadership, and the future of work. Visit him at brianrashid.com

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