Article by Kinowear contributor Jonathan Mead; follow him on twitter.
Have you ever heard someone speak and felt compelled to soak up every word? You just want to know them, be around them and learn from. That’s the mark of a remarkable person.
While some people are born with an enigmatic quality, most people become that way willfully. Many highly charismatic, magnetic people didn’t get that way by accident. They didn’t stumble upon greatness; they became great deliberately.
I’ve learned that there are certain traits that can be studied, practiced and learned that will make you remarkable. But before I get into that, I should warn you that the path of the outstanding man is not the smoothest or most gentle. Timidity and shrinking has no place in the path of greatness. If you’re looking for something easy, try your luck on lotto tickets or celebrity impersonation. But if you want to be a real superhero, read on.
So here’s what you have to do…
1. Unabashedly accept your remarkability.
This isn’t about being an ego maniac (see: Kanye West), it’s about being fully grounded in your own unique genius. Everyone has natural-born raw talent in something. (Note: If you’re not sure what your inherent strengths are, get this book: Strength Finder 2.0.) Being remarkable is about unabashedly accepting your one-of-a-kind talents.
The truly great man knows he is great, but doesn’t feel he has to prove it. He doesn’t parade himself around like some beyond-human guru. He is subtle. In a disagreement, he will let you have the upper hand. He will make you feel better about yourself because he doesn’t need to belittle others to inflate his self esteem. But while he is humble, he has a certain air of confidence, what the French describe as “je ne sais quoi” (I don’t know what).
When you’re remarkable, you know it. But you also know you put your pants on the same way as everyone else.
2. Have a natural desire for exceeding the status quo.
It’s been wisely said that “perfection is the enemy of the good.” I personally reject the ambition to attain complete perfection in my personal and professional pursuits. I know that sometimes doing things “good enough” is much smarter. Sometimes the law of diminishing returns proves to be accurate. For example, the impact on productivity of having a fairly organized workspace vs. one that is immaculate, is negligible. It’s a much bigger investment to obsess about perfection than to settle for something functional.
While all truly prolific people know this, they also can’t help but want to exceed and push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. The remarkable man wants more than just average. He wants to excel and master his endeavors.
3. Work while everyone else is sleeping.
I know first hand the value of doing your research and working smart. It’s the difference between doing blind cold calls endlessly and actually taking the time to research how to market and how to sell yourself. Despite the importance of working smart, if you want to be remarkable, you’ll need to go beyond the bar of what’s expected.
You’ll work while other people are sleeping. You’ll work while other people are watching TV and while your friends are playing World of Warcraft. Whatever you seek to master, you’ll think about it when you’re driving. You’ll dream about it at night. And when you’re not working on it, you’re thinking about how you can work at it better and more efficiently.
The path of greatness requires sacrifice.
4. Seek out the unconventional, unnoticed, untapped.
Being remarkable is largely about being masterful. To become a master, you’ll need to explore the fringes of your craft that often go unnoticed or dismissed by others. As a martial artist, I’ve discovered that this makes a huge difference between the novice and the master. A master will not just go through the techniques and the motions. He will study body mechanics, speed training, elusiveness, feinting, economy of motion and minimizing telegraphing.
Not only that, but a true master of martial arts won’t just immerse them self in the study of martial arts, but in training the whole body and the whole mind. They will research unconventional methods of meditation and becoming more aware of the body. They will study philosophy and cultivate a positive attitude. In exercising the body, they will seek out every method of training they can find. They will delve into training methods that other people might find strange or weird. But they don’t just seek out unconventional methods for the sake of being different; it’s in an attempt to train holistically, not leaving anything untapped or undiscovered or uncharted. Once you’ve tried it, you determine what works and discard what doesn’t.
The remarkable man pays attention when everyone else is distracted. He sees the sleight of hand the magician conceals. He listens when everyone else is speaking. He looks where no one thinks to look and has an intuitive sense for picking up on cues and clues that would often go overlooked.
5. Accept that you will be controversial.
Most people are satisfied with the same boring routine. They go to the same boring job, answer the same boring calls and go to the same boring meetings. They talk to boring people and drink boring coffee. They may complain about their lives, but they don’t care enough to do something about it.
These are the kind of people that would love to hold you down and keep you on the ground. Your fearlessness gives them discomfort. You arouse in them the sleeping giant of potential that they’ve long since silenced. These people will have strong opinions about what you do, but at the same time, will unceasingly defend their mediocrity.
Realize that there will be a lot of people like this. Don’t shun them, but ignore them. When they rebuke, the remarkable man simply smiles.
6. Get a mentor.
If you want to become great, you’ll need to seek out the mentorship of others that have achieved greatness. For example, if you want to be a entrepreneur, you’ll need to seek out the advice of other successful business owners. If you want to be a great athlete, you’ll need to study under other great players.
This doesn’t mean that you need to actually live with Michael Jordan or have an apprenticeship with Stephen King, you just need to study them. With a simple library card, you can get biographies and books that will allow you to carry your teachers with you in your messenger bag. Who knows, your greatest teachers might be dead.
Except having great mentors, one of the fastest ways to excel at your endeavor is to surround yourself with people that have already done what you’re trying to do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you wouldn’t want to associate only with employees, you’d want to seek out the company of business owners. If you want to be a software developer, you wouldn’t want to talk to the convenient store clerk. You’d want to seek out and surround yourself with other experienced programmers that have already created successful software applications.
A truly remarkable man knows that he is forever a student and can always learn something from even the most unexpected sources.
7. Live on the edges.
This is probably the most important quality of the remarkable man. If you’re going to pay attention to anything, pay attention now. You can’t be remarkable by simply “doing what works,” following a pre-made template for life and keeping your head down and nose to the grindstone.
If you want to be more than just a pawn, you’re going to have to take control of the game. You’ll need to decide how your life is played, instead of living by default.
Remarkability means questioning authority and living on your own terms. You see rules as crutches for those that live their lives unexamined. The extraordinary man knows that often “collective wisdom” is really a big, fat collective assumption.
You see limits as imaginary lines. You understand that most obstacles are not physical, but psychic. You see fears and beliefs as only true in your mind.
If you truly want to live fully, you recognize that you must live on the edges. When other people are afraid to express their feelings, you speak. When others ask “Why me?” you ask “Why not?” When being true to yourself may mean that you’re unpopular, there is no question to you about the choice you’ll make.
There is no question that living the prolific life is not for everyone. It should also be noted that it requires a lot of energy to be remarkable all the time. You should spend equal amounts of time recharging and replenishing your sources of energy.
Even if your aim isn’t to become James Dean or Johnny Depp, opting to cultivate these traits in yourself to some degree couldn’t hurt. Maybe a version of “remarkability lite” would serve you better.
So what do you think? What makes a man truly remarkable?
Is it that he follows his dreams?
PS: If you want to break out of Cubicle Jail, check out his new book, Reclaim Your Dreams - An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms. Can you afford to let another day, month, year slip away without following your dreams?