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From Ordinary to Extraordinary

by on October 16, 2018 5:00 AM

I was born just your average Joe, an ordinary person that has tried to do extraordinary things in life. This has played out mainly by pushing myself (with significant help of many teachers, coaches, mentors, family, friends and colleagues) and because of my commitment to helping others and deep-seated belief that “someone has to care.”

In full disclosure, those who know me are aware that I have had the opportunity to do some pretty cool stuff in my 58 years, so I have absolutely no complaints about my journey, detours and all. Still, I am a pretty ordinary, middle-class, first-generation college graduate from a blue-collar family who has tried to make the most of my opportunities to live an extraordinary life. I have a loving wife, three terrific kids, and I have Barkley the Dog to keep me busy and grounded. So far... so good. As long as my beat-up old hockey body holds up (please stop snickering), I still have plenty of time to try some new things and seek out exciting adventures given my stage of life.

I stay motivated in part because I am a “passion and purpose” junkie. I seek to be inspired by the great stories of triumph, achievement, and resiliency that I see or read about on television, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Success magazine, and the other vast array of communication vehicles available today. Whether it’s a “30 for 30” episode on ESPN about Michael Jordan, a TED Talk from Simon Sinek or Elon Musk, a Goalcast by Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Jay Shetty or Matthew McConaughey, or an article by Sam Walker in the Wall Street Journal, I eat this stuff up.

But ultimately, like most of us, I have very little in common with some of these amazing people, including those who have overcome remarkable socio-economic, physical or mental challenges, or epic tragedy and struggles. Perhaps I just haven’t had enough real adversity in my life for my story to be that interesting to the masses. I am perfectly fine with that as in today’s hypersensitive world, no good deed seems to go unpunished.   

In an interview about his best-selling book, “Discover Your True North,” Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic, the world’s leading medical technology company, noted: “As I walk through the library and the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble, what I see are books for the CEOs and for the top echelon. But not everyone can make it to the top; there isn't enough room, anyway!”

What I believe he is saying is that we need more assistance, resources and success coaching for the rest of us who can make our own significant contributions. For example, those from the middle class, from the underserved communities, and for the person who doesn't have the advantages of an Ivy League education but can make a difference nonetheless. Perhaps at a local level, perhaps with a smaller group, or even just in one person’s life. We can all be extraordinary to someone or some cause.

I wasn’t blessed with a great singing voice, incredible athletic skills or the aptitude to be a world-class surgeon. I will never be an NBA all-star, a billionaire entrepreneur or an Oscar winning actor, and that’s ok. I have other dreams better suited for my talents, my passions and my own unique purpose at this stage of my life. 

My gifts and talents lie elsewhere. I believe the key to a meaningful, joyful and successful life is to discover, create and develop YOUR own unique abilities and skills and to commit to constant improvement so you have the confidence and courage to achieve success as you define it.

That’s why I like being back in the coaching business. Not as an athletic coach, mind you, but as a coach who helps others to assess their dreams, to set realistic goals, and to achieve those goals. I am motivated by the smiling faces of the people I get to work with, those who I help improve their circumstances. I particularly like helping students and young adults to help navigate the many tributaries that will eventually lead them to a place of peace and contentment.

When was the last time you did a “You Review?” Not a formal mid-year or end-of-the-year evaluation by your boss or professor. Not the end-of-the-year meeting with your financial advisor or accountant. I am talking about looking in the mirror to do a “You Review” with the real boss staring back at you? When was the last time you set aside three to four hours in a quiet place without your digital distraction device to do an audit of your life? How do you know if you are achieving your life goals unless you have them in the first place? Assume for now that you actually have written goals (the vast majority of people do not), but you are falling short. What are you willing to do to make the changes in your daily life to get back on track? I would bet that, like most, you do not have written goals and therefore you have no idea if you are achieving any extraordinary milestones.

I have aspired to go from ordinary to extraordinary in my life and I hope you do as well. I will continue to improve my own skills so I can make good on the promise of being a servant leader for the greater good. I am passionate about assisting those of you who want to make the leap from ordinary to extraordinary. Do you have the courage to make a commitment?  

You may be surprised at how much easier it is to achieve the extraordinary. Keep this quote from author Kent Healy close by: “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just a little bit extra.”


Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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