How to Build an Extraordinary Career (The Easier Way)

An extraordinary career– really? I already know what you're thinking. Who does this guy think he is? A truly extraordinary career is a big promise to make.

An extraordinary career means a life full of personal fulfillment, financial security and social recognition from your friends, peers, and most importantly– Jewish mother. We're right there with you buddy.

But I also know you want it to be true. You want an extraordinary career to be possible (the easy way). After all, you didn't arrive at Jolt's blog because you wanted to color inside the lines, right?

Right. So let's go.

Here's how you can build an extraordinary career– for real.

WHY EXTRAORdINARY

First off, I love the word extraordinary. It's a better fit for this lesson than words like remarkablegreat, or amazing, and for one reason alone. The meaning of the word itself hints at how we can achieve it. The word comes from the Latin roots extra ordinem, which literally means, 'outside the normal course of events'. Or to put it simply, outside of what is normal. See what I'm getting at?

So let’s try again. How can you build an extraordinary career? Well, there's the common way and the WTF-how-come-no-one-told-me-about-this way. You take your pick.

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THE COMMON WAY TO EXTRAORDINARY

They teach us at school that in order to have an extraordinary career you have to be the best. It really doesn’t matter what you're the best at. Be the best illustrator or the best art director or the best doctor or the best race car driver– just be the best at something and all else will follow.

But we quickly learn that being the best is actually really hard. No one tells you this. Okay, forget hard, it's almost impossible. Because there's only one, or let's say ten– okay even one hundred– bests of anything. There is only a select number of spots reserved for the revered bests; only a handful of Michael Jordans and a few Kasparovs.

Being the top 1% of anything, well, that's the epitome of difficult.

You can’t just be super talented (shout out to my boy Gladwell); you also need loads of luck, the right connections, the right resources– the list goes on and on. And statistically most of us won’t ever achieve it. Most of us won’t ever be the best– not even close. But don't get your hopes up, because luckily enough the truth is, you don’t have to be.

CASE STUDY: DILBERT

I'll take a gander and assume you know who or what Dilbert is. This popular comic first published in 1989 was created by writer and illustrator Scott Adams. Dilbert was the first website on the interwebs that published a daily comic strip (kudos), and since its launch, over twenty-million books have been sold. On top of that Adams isn't just the illustrator behind Dilbert, he also directed its animated TV show and is currently the co-founder of this startup. Woah. That’s one extraordinary career if I do say so myself.

Scott Adams did something right. But what?

First, listen to how he explains the reason behind his own success:

“I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes.”

Adams figured out the easier way to have an extraordinary career, one that is not taught in school. Become very good– not the best, only very good, at two or more things. Scott Adams wasn’t the best writer, nor the best illustrator. He was just very good– at both.

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NOT THE BEST THIS OR THE BEST THAT

This alternative makes much more sense. As Adams suggests, you can be in the top 25% in two or more things and it will make you stand out.

For example, you can be a good designer and a good writer, then use these skills to create an extraordinary blog about design that will attract you a ton of clients. This let’s you showcase both your design and writing skills, which alone aren’t the epitome of perfection–but together they are extraordinary.

Or you could be a good developer and a good public speaker. It will get you speaking engagements in order to help spread your ideas and promote your brand. That’s a win win.

Or you could be a good lawyer who’s also good at storytelling. You can then write the first book on law that the average person can actually read (somebody please do this).

You get the point.

The world is looking for people who stand out, but what we should be looking for are people that have an uncommon mix of skills. This is where we find extraordinary things.

IMHO these kinds of people, the ones who can both hop and scotch, are the most interesting kind. They are those who can create change in spite of a world that tells them otherwise.

So now, I want to ask you: What makes you extraordinary? And go.


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by Lior Frenkel

Jolt's CPO co-founded the nuSchool, a business  school for creative freelancers, is a startup advisor, contributor (Wired), frequent speaker, and teaches Lean Startup workshops. His book 'I Want It All,' an alternative career guide for millennials, is a best-seller in Israel. He also runs a weekly podcast about career. Unfortunately both the book and podcast are in Hebrew, so we'll have to wait until he translates them.