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What do you think of when I say the word “ordinary?” These are the words that come to my mind: Common. Usual. Normal. Boring. Average. Something you see everyday.

What about “extraordinary?” I think of: Amazing. Incredible. Uncommon. Unusual. Special. Above average. New.

In the English language, only four (UPDATED: oops, five) little letters separate “ordinary” from “extraordinary:” extra. And while “extra” can be defined as “outside,” in English it also means “just a little bit more.”

The word we use is not as important as the idea: the distance between ordinary and extraordinary is shorter than you think. For too long, people have thought there was a huge gap between normal and special. They’ve assumed that “above average” was far above “average.” Unfortunately, once you believe that, it’s easy to conclude that since you’re “average,” you’ll never be anything else; that there’s no way to claw your way up to “above average.”

I’m here to tell you that you’ve made the gap too wide. Let me illustrate. If you’re an average reader, you’ve taken 2-3 seconds to read this paragraph so far. Two lines of text = one second. How much more would you be able to read in another second? Another line? Not very much, but really, what difference does a second make?

Well, in some areas of life, a second makes all the difference in the world. Have you heard of Usain Bolt? Often referred to as The Fastest Man in the World, Bolt is the current world-record holder for the 100-meter race in track and field. His record for that race is 9.69 seconds. In the Olympics, he won the gold medal racing against seven other men in the finals. What was the time difference between his time and that of the silver medalist, Richard Thompson? Thompson ran the 100 meters that day in 9.89 seconds. The difference between gold and silver was .2 seconds. The “fastest man in the world,” the winner of that race and world-record holder, ran 100 meters in 2/10 of a second less than his nearest competitor. A second – or even a fraction of a second – CAN make a huge difference.

In life, just as in sports, an extraordinary performance is often separated from an ordinary one by the slightest of margins. What if your ordinary life could become extraordinary with only the smallest of changes? Would it be worth trying?

Here are some “extras” that can help you close the gap between ordinary and extraordinary:

A little extra effort. There is a price to be paid for achievement. Sometimes it’s a large price. But sometimes just a little extra effort can yield significant results. What price are you willing to pay for success?

A little extra time. To give something time, we need something other than perseverance. We need patience with the process of growth. I believe that many of us overestimate events and underestimate the process. But we’ve got it all wrong. As I wrote in the Law of Process in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, leaders develop daily, not in a day.

A little extra help. I love this saying: “If you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know he had help getting there!” Why do I love it? Because I’m a turtle on a fencepost. I know that I didn’t get to where I am in life on my own. I’m just not that smart, gifted, or fast. The truth is that those who reached “extraordinary” had help getting there. And many types of success can only be achieved with help. If you refuse to ask for – or accept – it, you limit yourself and your work to a lower level of achievement.

Remember that ordinary and extraordinary are not far apart. If you accomplish just one of the above “extras,” your work will begin to be above average in that area.

If Ordinary People …

Gave a Little Extra Effort,

Spent a Little Extra Time,

Sought a Little Extra Help …

They Would Become Extraordinary!

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