To leave your mark on the world and accomplish truly interesting things, do you need to be rich? Brilliant? Able to take a mental beating and keep on fighting?

Not according to Steve Jobs. None of those factors will probably hurt your efforts to be exceptional, but according to the former Apple boss and general icon of excellence, the most important factor when it comes to living an extraordinary life is understanding that no one can stop you.

In a 1995 interview recently dug up by blog Farnam Street, Jobs laid out exactly what he thought separated those who live extraordinary lives from the majority of people who just drift through their days, and it's both dead simple and profound - before you can do great things you have to believe you can:

When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That's a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.

And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That's maybe the most important thing. It's to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you're just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that's very important and however, you learn that, once you learn it, you'll want to change life and make it better, cause it's kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.

The world was a very different place 22 years ago when Jobs gave this interview (thanks, in many ways, to the tech Jobs helped build in those decades), but this advice is timeless.

His words are basically a re-framing of that old advice standby to stop asking for permission to pursue your dreams and just go after whatever you desire. But it's a helpful re-framing for the great many people who don't take that advice out of fear of upsetting those who designed the current world you'd like to upend or those who made plans for your life you'd like to defy. Didn't they know what they were doing?  

Not in Jobs' not-so-humble opinion. We're all just fumbling around here (even those "experts" who try as hard as possible to seem like they have it all together). You have as much a right to try to change the world as anyone else. And more right to determine your own life than anyone else. Realize that and you're one huge step closer to becoming extraordinary.

Published on: Nov 30, 2017