Saturday, March 2, 2013

Extraordinary lives

Last weekend I went to London with my family and some friends. As part of the weekend with the kids, we went to see Ripley’s “believe it or not” museum, which has been going on for several years. My son, who’s 11 years old and loves stuff like the Guinness Book of Records, had suggested some time back to go and see Ripley’s famous exhibition but back then I thought it was too expensive and I didn’t want to pay so much money just to see a bunch of statistics and facts about humanity, so we bailed out and never went. But thanks to the word of the internet and on-line offers, our friends found a “buy one get the other for one pound” offer and off we went to see the wonderful world of “human oddities” as it was described in one of the brochures.

I was pleasantly surprised by the museum, it was very nicely put together and it captured the audience’s imagination. Most of it is based on things that Ripley has put together of “extraordinary” humans or things that he has come across in his life, telling the astonished visitors tales of extraordinary tall humans, quirky facts and bizarre creatures like a 3 legged chicken. And as you go around, you spend most of your time looking at pictures or exhibitions from these “extraordinary” things.

But it was after we left the museum that I began to reflect on what I had seen and the true meaning of what Ripley’s “believe it or not” exhibition is all about – EXTRAORDINARY LIVES!

Extraordinary lives of people who have in some way or another done something extraordinary. And if you place Ripley’s museum in the same league as the Guinness Word of Records, side by side, you can see the same things, ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

A few days later I happen to see a documentary about a man who had no arms and how he was able to live an ordinary life, even learning to play the piano and driving a car. The narrator of the program described him as “an extraordinary man” living an ordinary life.

And my thoughts turn to the recent Paralympics games held in London and how we have developed a full event of what was described as “extraordinary people” pushing themselves physically and mentally as never seen before, doing ordinary sports in the Olympics.

So I became fixed on trying to understand what is an “extraordinary person” doing what you and I see as ordinary. Straight away what jumps out is the fact that all these individuals are impaired some way or another from doing things the way an ordinary person does, so when they achieve what they achieve is extraordinary. But this is not always the case with everyone who has been described as “Extraordinary” and so I wanted to understand this further.

I want to break this into tree words; Extra, Ordinary and Life. Let us start with the word “Life”

I guess it is a good starting point as everything stems from life. We all have our own lives, no matter what background you come from or what circumstances you live in. Everyone I saw in the exhibition had a story to tell about his or her life. The man with no arms, the documentary was all about his life, and we heard many of the athletes’ lives described during the Paralympics games and how they ended where they are. Everyone has a life, a story to tell, about his or her life. Every life is a story, in its own right, and it describes how we got here, what we did and how we will end up. Some lives have been told from start to finish, some have just began and many are still in progress.

But not every life story is told in an exhibition, or a TV program or even during an interview at the Paralympics. Not every life story has been written in a book or told in a film. Not every life will be told to thousands of people for them to whoo and ahh at this “extraordinary life”

In fact many stories will never be told, and perhaps because they are seen as “ordinary lives”

I want to now look at the word “ordinary”. Many lives of ordinary people may not ever be told because they are what we consider “normal”. With millions of people living in this planet, many of us will live an “ordinary life” meaning we will never make it to Ripley’s “believe it or not” exhibition, or will never appear on a TV program, or even attend the Paralympics games or have a book or film about us. We will just get up every morning, go about our business and go back to bed at the end of the day. Day in and day out we will just live our ordinary lives, some of us enjoying it and some of us not. It is a fact of life; we are living our ordinary lives.

So what about the word “Extra” meaning “more”? When we talk about extra we talk about doing more, more than ordinary. I’ll do extra time today, meaning I will do more than the ordinary hours I usually do. Extra piece of cake, more than I would usually eat. Extra effort meaning I will work harder at it. Extra, assuming this was more than what it was expected, by others and ourselves. Actually when you think about it, the word extra helps us move away from ordinary and hence why when put together they produce that wonderful word “extraordinary”

Extraordinary People. Extraordinary Lives. What this means then is that these people who are seen as “Extraordinary” and have lived “Extraordinary” lives, all they did was to do more. Take the man with no arms, because of his birth defect; he had to do “extra,” more than an average man with arms, to live an ordinary life. But because he had to combine the efforts of not having arms (the Extra) with trying to live his life (the Ordinary) he has ended up living an “Extraordinary Life”. We admire this, and quite rightly, as he’s had to work harder at it, he’s had to do more than you and me just to go and get a carton of milk. He is an “Extraordinary Man”

But the beauty here is that you don’t need to have been born with missing limbs to still have an “extraordinary life” and become an “extraordinary person”.

And how do we do this? Very simple – start doing the “Extra” in the “Ordinary” Think about it, it is really quite simple, I’ll give you an example; you know you’ve always wanted to stay fit? But never have the time, or the will to do it? Well guess what? You need to find the “Extra” in the “Ordinary” it only takes 20 minutes walking every day to become a fit person, the 20 minutes is the “Extra” in your “Ordinary” life.

Whichever way you cut it, it comes down to the same thing… anything you will do in your life that will be “Extraordinary” has to come from the extra and not form the ordinary, whether you bake a cake, paint a picture, write a book, stay fit, climb the Kilimanjaro, learn to play the piano or just be the best in your field, will require you to do more in your life.

So why not start today and turn your “ordinary” life into an “Extraordinary Life”Ripleys london