Clinton. Branson. Bono. Jobs. What we can learn from extraordinary lives…

Holy smokes.

A new Associated Press study found that 1.5 million – give or take 53% — of all bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed last year.

When I shared that statistic with some super-smart 2010 Georgetown graduates they didn’t blink: in fact, they had just learned that over 20% of their class – GEORGETOWN GRADS! – were out of work today.  Given an average Georgetown class size of roughly 1,800 – and an average price tag of $40,000/year –  $160,000 all-in – that’s over $57 million worth of talent (1800 x .2 x 160,000) currently on the sidelines – from Georgetown alone.

Holy smokes.

But forget the money.  Anyone who has been following my young blog will recognize the real cost here: 1.5 million young people lacking a constructive way to meet their fundamental needs: certainty, significance, love, growth…

Next week I will offer a step-by-step plan for finding, and securing, a “Dream” job. Before I get to that, though, first a roadmap to securing something far more important – and compelling – an extraordinary life.

4+ years in Aspen and Nantucket taught me this: extraordinary and successful are not the same thing.  Yes, 100% of extraordinary people are successful, but not all successful people are extraordinary.  The difference is the feeling that they create in those around them.

Take, for example, former President Bill Clinton – one of Georgetown’s most famous (and currently employed) graduates.  While tending bar at the Aspen’s St Regis Hotel, I had the unique opportunity to see and serve Clinton during his yearly pilgrimage to Aspen for the Fortune Magazine “Brainstorm” conference. Everyone, myself included, had the same reaction to their first meeting with the former president: that guy is charming.  But dig deeper however, and what we were really commenting on was not Clinton’s charm – but the way he made us feel.  Men and women, regardless of their politics, all leave their interactions with Clinton feeling amazing – not about the former President, but about themselves.

So, job seekers – and others who might be ready for a change – how do we recreate Clinton’s magic in our own lives? Is there a playbook for living an extraordinary life?  The short answer: yes.

The 4 Elements of Extraordinary

Clinton, Jobs, Branson, Bono, Gandhi, King, the Dali Lama…7 of the over 30 “extraordinary” men and women I’ve studied and subsequently tested this framework on.  While there are things that make each one of these individuals unique – they’ve all taken much the same path to getting there.  They have, what I call, the 4 Elements of Extraordinary:

  1. They have a clear and compelling purpose; a great reason for getting out of bed in the morning.
  2. That clear and compelling purpose gives them the motivation to work hard at and, ultimately, achieve excellence at creating value in the world.
  3. The value they create affords them comfort – the ability to inevitably meet their material needs
  4. With material needs met, they enjoy freedom – the ability to live every day according to their life’s purpose.

The Twitter version: Purpose = Excellence = Comfort = Freedom.

So far, so good?  Then what, job seekers, does this mean for you?

What it means is that the job comes second, purpose comes first. Extraordinary lives begin and end with a clear and compelling purpose.  Extraordinary jobs begin and end in the same spot as well.


How many of you reading this can’t articulate the purpose of your life?

Answer: most of you.

Now, how many of you are OK with that?

Answer: none of you.

Why not?

Answer: because to work as hard as you do without a clear idea of what you are working for, or towards, would be irrational…and ‘irrational’ that is the last adjective you would use to describe yourself, isn’t it?

Answer: yes.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christenson agrees, lamenting in a terrific Harvard Business Review article, how few of the 900 “best and brightest” that HBS attracts each year could articulate “the purpose their life.” Why would you spend both the time and money to attend HBS, if you don’t know exactly why you are there?

My advice to both job seekers, and job holders alike: take time today (right now!) to put down, on paper, the purpose of your life. Don’t worry if it stinks.  Just write it; I promise it will get better with age.

If you want a simple template, click here to use my Purpose Statement “Mad Lib.”

Go, now, and define the purpose of your extraordinary life. Don’t be afraid of it.  Don’t worry that you’ve already gone to law school – or dental school – or circus school – your path is not set in stone; your story is still being written.

I am serious about this.  If you are too, send your first draft purpose statement to me at: I promise to get back to you within 72 hours with some ideas on how to refine and strengthen it.

In exchange for showing me yours, I’ll conclude by showing you mine:

Ben Sands | Purpose Statement

I aspire to live an extraordinary life; using my strengths and gifts to make the world a better place. The purpose of my life is to educate and empower others; helping them to come to know their extraordinary potential and apply it to create a happier, healthier and more peaceful world.


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