Have you ever thought about what makes human beings stand out from the masses? What makes them exceptional, extraordinary, and well worth knowing?
Well, as a thought experiment, I decided to approach this topic a little differently. I decided to go back, throughout my life, and think about the most exceptional people I’ve ever PERSONALLY known. Then, I tried to figure out what was so exceptional about those exceptional people. Why were they the people I cared the most about or was most impressed by?
I excluded my immediate family, because if nothing else, your family tends to be impressive just because they’re family. I also excluded famous people I didn’t know, because let’s face it: When we’re talking about George Washington, Babe Ruth, or even Bill Gates, we know a public persona, not a real person — and there’s a world of difference between the two.
As you read through these traits, keep in mind that even the best of us probably won’t live up to these measurements in every way. In fact, some of these traits came from people who are memorable BECAUSE OF A SINGLE TRAIT on this list.
Mature masculinity: I’m talking about someone who can make decisions, will fight — and fight well if he has to, but would prefer to avoid fighting, who could build a shelter in the woods, and who’s enough of a competent, stand up guy to hang in there and be of use when the going gets tough.
A strong belief in God: Aside from the generosity of spirit and innate decency of devout Christians and Jews that I’ve known, there’s a welcome, yet underappreciated sense of stability that comes with the territory. These people are easier to trust because they don’t have to reason out every moral dilemma from scratch. They may not always live up to their ideals, but at least both of you know what they are.
Boldness/assertiveness: It’s hard NOT TO ADMIRE people with guts, people who are willing to stand up and be counted, and people who are willing to boldly ask for what they want.
Warmth and focus: It’s great to talk to another human being and feel like this person is completely captivated by you. The people who are the best at this give you the impression that you’re the only person in the world that they’re thinking about while you’re talking — and that suits them just fine.
Extraordinary compliments: Anyone can give a compliment, although far too few people do. The people who are best at it give you memorable, heartfelt compliments that you literally remember for years.
Openness: It’s risky to be open with people. So, when someone is open about his/her life with you, it tends to stand out. Because it’s real, it’s interesting. Because they’re complimenting you just by trusting you enough to be open, you’re flattered.
Being laid back: Storms come through every life and when they do, it’s great to be around someone who’s laid back about it. They don’t over-react. They don’t get upset. Yes, they take problems seriously, but life’s too short to freak out over things.
They treat people right: Some people can be impressive just by being genuinely nice to people that they don’t have to be nice to. Show me someone famous who’s friendly to people coming up just to chat, someone who’s nice to an overloaded waitress, or an adult who takes the time to politely explain things to a child and it says something.
Well reasoned opinions: It’s surprising how often people believe things, even very important things, without understanding why they believe them. Maybe they just heard it said somewhere and it sounded right or sort of makes sense to them; so they adopted a belief. Even if you don’t agree with a person, it’s great to talk to a person who knows WHY he believes the things that he does. It speaks very well of his intellect.
Competence and dependability: Flakiness is one of my biggest pet peeves; so I love people who are dependable. Show me someone who tells you that he’ll get the job done and even if it’s turning a mountain into a canyon, you can bank on it getting done, and I’ll show you a human being worth knowing.
They’re generous with their time and abilities: It’s incredibly impressive when someone who’s able to help you, but doesn’t have to help you, takes the time to do it anyway without asking for anything in return. People like that, you’ll go through a wall for if they need you to do it.
Having concerns bigger than themselves: The best people I’ve ever met all have concerns that are much bigger than their petty little lives. They see themselves as doing things to make life better for God, country, or other people. Coincidentally and perhaps paradoxically, those tend to be the happiest people I’ve ever run into as well.