What does it mean to become extraordinary? Are we already there? Is it something we can pursue, or is extraordinariness achieved through the pursuit of something else? Last weekend I attended TEDxConcordiaUPortland, an independently organized TED event at Concordia University (and my first ever TED event), and Becoming Extraordinary was the theme of the day.
I was excited to join over 600 people in our quest to break beyond the bounds of normal, everyday being. The day was broken down into sessions, starting with Gumption, then Unlimited Potential, Together, and finally Pioneering, with a range of artists, scientists, business owners, nonprofit leaders, reverends, civil servants, and some everyday people presenting talks and performances.
A Gathering of Eager Spirits
Conferences are the perfect opportunity to bring a group of people together united behind a common goal. The level of focus, especially on a topic like this, breeds just the kind of inspiration that we are all looking for. Early in the day, I joked with several of my friends that attended, "Hey! What are you doing here? You're already extraordinary!" They each laughed, then turned the exclamation back on me, but in the end, we're all there because we feel like we can do more.
A gathering focused on soft skills and inspirational motivations like this one are always somewhat of an enigma. The reason we as people enjoy motivational and inspirational gatherings is because we want to reinforce our self-assurance and self-worth, and we need other people to tell us. What we hear at these gatherings is nothing new—we knew it all along. We just ache for people to tell us again in new and different ways. It's a very right-brained, emotional approach to learning.
The Missing Link: Community
I walked away from the day with 11 pages of scribbled notes and phrases in my little Scout Book, eager to continue to make a difference in the world in the only way that I know how (especially as judged by my tweets all day long). But I felt like the speakers of the event focused so heavily on self, and the power of self-confidence, self-belief, and self-empowerment, that they neglected the equally (if not more) important topic of community.
Becoming Extraordinary is more than self-actualization. It's about finding your people—your tribe—and lifting each other up. It's about contributing to your community and giving of yourself and your gifts to those around you. It's about finding a support network, a sense of belonging, and a place to gather and share.
We are all extraordinary, but most of us just don't know it. Through community we find strength and courage to go out on a limb and take a chance, working as a group to change the world and make a difference. We cannot go it alone—only together can we succeed.