100 People Doing Extraordinary Things (2012 Edition)


This following should serve as a big Fuck You to excuses.

Below I’ve listed out 100 people doing extraordinary things. All of these folks are made of the same star stuff as you, me, and everyone else. With the possible exception of that dude at #25, they weren’t born with any supernatural abilities. But they’ve gone ahead and done exceptional things anyways, excuses be damned.

In no particular order…

1. Fauja Singh is 100 years old and runs marathons.

2. David Calvo juggles and solves Rubik’s Cubes.

3. Matt Ramos is methodically destroying his social barriers with frequent social experiments, like this one.

4. Jacob Sokol was challenged to find a way to attend a Jets game with Gary Vaynerchuk, so he did.

5. Since 1998, Karl Bushby has been walking from the southern most tip of South America back to the United Kingdom. He’s currently stuck in Siberia due to visa issues.

6. Zoe Keating uses nothing but a cello, a laptop and a few foot pedals to create her own orchestra.

7. AK has Bipolar, Dyslexia and Asperger’s syndrome, but didn’t let that stop her from getting a PhD.

8. Crina Popescu became the first woman to climb the highest volcano on each of the seven continents, at 16 years of age.

9. Matt Horwitz did a backflip during his first Toastmasters speech.

10. Jamie Livingston snapped a Polaroid every day for eighteen years, until the day he died.

11. Chris Guillebeau is on a mission to visit every country in the world before his 35th birthday (just over a year from now). Last time I checked, he had less than twenty to go.

12. Tara Martin quit smoking, lost 110 pounds, and completed a triathlon.

13. Just last week, Richard Donovan ran seven marathons on seven continents in five days.

14. With no programming experience, Benny Hsu outsourced the creation of an iPhone app and made $50,000.

15. Dick Hoyt has completed more than 1,000 races (6 of them being Ironman competitions) with his quadriplegic son Rick.

16. Nikki and Jason Wynn sold everything, packed up their two cats, bought an RV, and hit the road.

17. Jackie Rose was an adventurous world traveler before falling off a roof in Argentina and suffering a string of serious health issues. Last year she re-learned how to read, strengthened her heart, and fell in love.

18. Will Peach said screw taboo and set up a blog about sex and travel.

19. Greg and Rachel Denning are driving from Alaska to Argentina in a veggie-powered truck, with their five kids.

20. Nate Damm walked across America.

21. 10-year-old Dalton Sherman gives keynote speeches.

22. Tyler Tervooren is on a mission to run a marathon and summit the highest peak on each continent.

23. Dave Kunst spent four years circumnavigating the globe on foot back in the 70’s, becoming the first person to do so. His brother joined him on the journey but was shot and killed by bandits halfway.

24. Benny Lewis moves to a new country every three months and learns the language from scratch to conversational fluency.

25. Dean Karnazes once ran 350 continuous miles, foregoing sleep for three nights.

26. Paul Ridley rowed solo across the Atlantic in 88 days to raise money for cancer research.

27. Josh and Ryan came late to the online minimalist party yet still managed to build an audience of 100,000 readers in less than nine months.

28. Kai Soremekun created a movement, complete with kick-ass web series, where every woman is a fucking superhero.

29. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt didn’t publish his first book until he was 66 years old.

30. Colin Wright moves to a new country every four months based on the votes of his readers.

31. Mike Roberts went on a 100% water diet for 21 days.

32. Sean Ogle quit the job he hated back in 2009 and moved to Thailand. Now he’s a successful online entrepreneur helping lots of other folks become the same.

33. Greg Hartle is starting with $10 and a laptop, building his life and documenting the entire experience online.

34. Steve Pavlina spent almost six months sleeping just two hours per day.

35. At 61 years of age, an Australian potato farmer named Cliff Young showed up at the Sydney to Melbourne ultra marathon wearing overalls and gumboots. Not only did he win the race, he broke the course record by almost two days.

36. Dusti Arab has had this many jobs (and I’m pretty sure she’s still in her 20’s).

37. My friend Lachlan busted his ass to create an online scheduling and billing app for your coaching business.

38. Just over a year after going bankrupt, Vic Magary was loving life as a professional blogger.

39. John T. Unger has been making a full-time living as an artist since 2000, selling firepits, firebowls, and other art made from recycled materials via his website.

40. Kristy Powell wore one dress for an entire year.

41. Janet Brent quit her comfortable 9-to-5 lifestyle back in 2009 and hightailed it to Asia with very little money. She’s lived in temples and ghettos while building her mobile business. You should hire her for your next design project.

42. Mick Keane is doing an experiment every month for a year. The latest: film a movie in seven cities around the world.

43. Joel Runyon runs triathlons, travels the world, and throws spears on occasion.

44. Ashley Ambirge went from $26 and a quarter tank of gas to earning six figures the very next year.

45.  Self-confessed nerd Steve Kamb started a fitness blog in 2009 and less than two years later was speaking at Google.

46. Tom and Lara circumnavigated the globe without flying.

47. Alistair Gill is aiming to complete 52 resolutions this year.

48. Before turning 25 Maggie Doyne had opened a home for 40 Nepalese children and a school for 250 more.

49. Spyros Heniadis makes excellent videos teaching people about photography.

50. Ben Davis lost 120 pounds, completed two Ironmans, and went from depressed recluse to motivational speaker.

51. Farnoosh Brock walked away from her six-figure, super easy, work-from-home corporate career to pursue her passions.

52. Sam Felsenfeld ran 61 marathons in 2010 with a median time of 3:21, raised more than $90,000 and had a role in the creation of seven new Train 4 Autism chapters.

53. The petite Jodi Ettenberg quit her job as an NYC corporate lawyer back in 2008 and has since been traveling solo to all parts of the globe.

54. Anthony Middleton set a one-year countdown timer for quitting his job and moving to a foreign country, then proceeded to beat that clock.

55. Vicky Lynn is a middle aged, mid-menopausal, cancer survivor, who survived molestation at the hands of two relatives, survived rape and twelve years of domestic violence, and is now traveling solo by bicycle around the world.

56. Jillian Cottle will make you think twice about gender.

57. Paula Pant traveled the world for two and a half years without a job, without going into debt, and without being wealthy.

58. Adrian Collins is giving up drinking for a year, in Ireland.

59. Jenyne Butterfly makes the case for pole dancing to be considered an Olympic sport.

60. Caroline Leon will soon be homeless, unemployed and single, and she couldn’t be happier.

61. Mark Webster and Gael Breton set up an SEO company just over a year ago. Now they’re making serious profit, have dozens of employees, and land big name clients on the regular.

62. Jon Morrow has a fatal disease and can’t move from the neck down. He also quit his job, moved to paradise and gets paid to change the world.

63. Josh Hanagarne tells you what it’s like to have Tourette’s.

64. Swedish couple Robin and Amanda hitchhiked and chicken danced 25,000 km from Poland to India in six months last year.

65. At the age of sixteen, Sean Swarner was diagnosed with cancer, given fourteen days to live, and read his last rights. He went on to climb Mt. Everest with only partial use of his lungs.

66. Josh Lipovetski can do a full split.

67. Leo Babuata was married with six kids when he quit his job and created one of the most popular blogs on the planet.

68. María Ortega García will make you fluent in Spanish.

69. These French guys dance across the top of the world on a highline.

70. Dan Andrews helps aspiring entrepreneurs work while they travel.

71. Chantelle Baxter quit the drink and drug culture of her early twenties to co-found One Girl, a non-profit which educates and empowers young girls in Sierra Leone.

72. Greg Dion is having tea with one hundred strangers.

73. Lewis Pugh swam across the North Pole.

74. Claudio Torresan rode a 50cc scooter more than 12,000 km from Bulgaria to Kazakhstan.

75. Despite being three feet tall and confined to a wheel chair, Sean Stephenson seems to be enjoying life more than any of us.

76. Juan Villarino has hitchhiked all around the world, and even wrote a book about his adventures hitching in “the axis of evil.”

77. Manu Loigeret stares down discomfort by writing a blog in his second language.

78. My friend David Nagy — who’s kindly hosting me right now in Bucharest — once organized a same-day free hugs event across 50 towns and cities in Romania. These days he’s putting together a book of travel stories by lots of adventurous people, the majority of the proceeds going to charity.

79. Emma Couttie combines raw food, unicorns and expletives.

80. Ramon Stoppelenburg spent two years traveling the world without any money.

81. Karol Gajda went to India to build his own guitar.

82. A new friend of mine here in Bucharest, together with his brother, built an impressive music television site called Zebralizer. Combining YouTube and LastFM, it helps you discover kick-ass artists like Thievery Corporation.

83. Pat Flynn tells you exactly how he earns more than $30k per month online.

84. Stupid Time Machine are raising comedy awareness in New Orleans.

85. On one of his many travel adventures, Earl Baron found himself smoking some fat joints with five Taliban fighters in Pakistan.

86. A good friend of mine hit rock bottom with drink and drugs not so long ago. He managed to get clean, earn a tough degree, and just last weekend celebrated seven years sober.

87. Mark Pollock has been blind for a decade but hasn’t let that stop him visiting both Poles and running six marathons in one week across the Gobi Desert. 18 months ago he fell 25 feet from a bedroom window and shattered his spine. He’s currently learning how to walk again.

88. Mark Robertson wrote a really kick-ass short fiction story for Falling While Sitting Down.

89. Johnny Ward spent six months freestyling from Cape Town to Cario, making sure to stop off and climb Kilimanjaro along the way.

90. Jen Gresham fired her father.

91. Lewis Howes bounced back from a shattered pro football dream to build a 7-figure online business.

92. Benjamin Spall just quit his job and jumped on a plane to Spain to expand his comfort zone.

93. Martin Strel has swam the length of the Danube, the Mississippi, the Yangtze, and the Amazon.

94. Right after the birth of their daughter, Adam and Courtney Baker spent a year getting rid of their crap and paying off $18,000 worth of consumer debt before hopping on a plane to Australia.

95. Benjamin Jenks hitchhiked 14,000 miles across the USA and made an incredibly cool stop-motion video along the way.

96. At just 22 years of age, Glen Allsopp is a highly successful blogger and online marketer who gives away a ton of solid info for free.

97. Alexandra Vasiliu (and team) created an NGO that helps rural communities develop sustainably.

98. 17-year-old Natalie Warne helped rescue Ugandan children from child armies by getting a nation-wide campaign featured on the Oprah Winfrey show.

99. Raam Dev donates all gross annual income exceeding $15k to charity.

100. Michelle Ward wrote a happy little ditty about her boob cancer.

Like I said up top, all these folks are just like you and me. The only thing stopping any of us from doing something extraordinary is ourselves. Let’s set those excuses aside and go do something amazing.

In the comments below:

  • Add to the above list with more tales of people doing extraordinary things.
  • Tell me what extraordinary things you’ve done, are doing, or are about to do.

Follow-ups to this post:

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  1. you have two of my favorite people on the list…Spyros and Kai…so I’ll be spending some time getting to know the rest of them.

    Thanks man.

  2. Some of the descriptions along sound amazing. Can’t wait to get in there and read some of the stories. I’m guessing they will give plenty of people (like myself) a swift kick in the pants.

  3. Wow! So many cool people on the list I’ve got a lot of web-surfing ahead of me checking these peeps out. And thanks for including me.

    I know it’s your no self-promotion month but I want to add you to the list.

    You rock ND! So brave and courageous with what you’re doing I tell everyone about you. :)

  4. Thanks for this amazing list, Niall. To add to the people, I just found out about Matt Stillman. Since April 2009, he has been sitting in Union Square with 2 chairs and a table, basically talking to strangers, listening to them, and giving them creative solutions to whatever problems they have.

    He then writes about some of these problems on his blog. http://stillmansays.com/about/

    I think you’ll find it cool that he has a 15-year background in Improv, too :)

    Josh Lipovetsky

  5. Hey, I know you’re not doing self promo, but I still think you should be up there at the top! You’ve challenged the way I think about things and you’ve definately made a huge differnce to me.

    I’m so very humbled to be on this list, thank you :)

  6. Now this is an awesome resource. I agree with so many and have not heard of so many more.

    Please wake me up in twenty-four hours if I’m still deeply absorbed by the above links.


  7. Sebastian Marshall should be on this list. He’s always doing tons of cool shit like breaking his book contract with Simon & Schuster without a shirt on, taking on Hong Kong Air like a pitbull, building orphanages in Ulaan Baatar, etc.

    He’s easily my new favorite blogger.


  8. What an awesome list! Thanks for creating it Niall! So many people on there doing amazing things! I feel very honoured to be included and look forward to getting to know some of the others!

  9. This is an amazingly interesting and inspiring list, Niall, and not only for me, there are a few friends I shall pass this on to. And thanks to Josh for the reminder about Matt Stillman and his blog. Now I have the link which I had totally forgotten. I’m excited now!

  10. I find it pretty humbling to be included on that list, it will only strengthen my resolve as well. Also helps that I don’t consider it all that big a deal either. I just get on with it.

    Also, who can’t help but at least laugh with #75. so silly but it seems like he is having so much fun! I’ll need time to go through the list properly.

  11. Man, this post is AWESOME! This page is definitely getting saved, printed as a PDF, saved in google docs, and bookmarked LOL ! So many great resources and people to connect with and be inspired by!

    I just watched #73, Lewis Pugh swim 1km in the north pole sea – WOW, was that moving and inspiring!

    Great stuff Niall – keep up the awesomeness :-)

  12. Brilliant, Niall!! I think it’s so fascinating how many people are doing fascinating things every day and all the time. This list shows that everything is possible. People are out there doing the crazy, the impossible, the kickass stuff showing everyone: You can do it too.

  13. Super inspiring list, so many great people on here!

    I’d like to throw in a shout out for my friend Dave who is on a mission called Expedition1000 to raise $1.5 million for charity by doing 25 journeys each 1,000+ miles all by non-motorized transport.


    In his free time, he gives motivational talks to kids about following their dreams, and writes an occasional book or two.

  14. That is a great list of people. I’m so amazed to read what so many different people are doing. Thank you for adding me to this list. I feel like what I’ve done pales in comparison!

  15. I loved this post and you are truly inspirational. You need to be on this list of extraordinary people. Good luck on your journey and thank you for sharing your amazing can-do attitude- it is a blessing.

  16. I think what’s awesome about being in a community like this, on or off the list (though I’m grateful to be on it!), is that it really does push you mentally to think about how you can keep living up to expressed courage here. It’s easy to say, “I did this courageous thing!” and then fall back into the rut of easy.

    I love that you are always encouraging me to push my boundaries, Niall. Thanks!

  17. Niall what an incredible post and I’m not just saying that because you mentioned me but you are an absolute legend for adding me in :-) There are so many amazing people in this post and reading through this list reminds me that there are no excuses. As an ordinary person making it on a list of people doing extraordinary things I can vouch for that! Thanks a million.

  18. Wow. I am amazed by this post and all it offers. I have so many tabs open to read right now during my lunch hour. I’m passing along this post to my readers so they can be inspired too. Thanks so much!

  19. SO glad Christian put us in touch… looks like we run in a few of the same circles! I only know a couple people on the list, but looking forward to bookmarking this and reading more about the others!

  20. Humbling and challenging! What a bunch of incredible people you have gathered on your list (I just HAD to sign up to follow a few). I promised to do a video reply for you and I’m working on it!

    I agree with some other comments, you should be on top of that list, I understand why you haven’t included yourself though LOL!

  21. Wow! What a list! I’m a little late to the party just discovering this. Thanks for including me, Niall.

  22. A truly amazing list! (Being at the absolute epicentre of not 1, not 2, but 3 >6 earthquakes, with number 2 being a world record for recorded ground movement, is my claim. Google up Christchurch earthquake.)

  23. What a great list you made for us here. very inspiring and I’m sure there are many other people who did or will do amazing things.
    What about you? Why are you on top of that list? :)

  24. You’re the man Niall. Great post. I shared it with friends and got thanks for sharing it! Keep up the good work buddy, Like Seth says, “keep doing the good work, we need you.”

  25. What a fascinating list! I too met Greg Dion for a cup of tea…sort of. We met through Twitter and he crashed on my couch in NYC for a night. What an amazingly inspirational fellow, as it seems everyone on this list is! Thanks so much for putting this together!

  26. Niall,
    I stumbled across your web page while search for extraordinary people over 50 doing extraordinary things.

    I think I’m one of them and want to let those of us in the second half of our lives know that we don’t have to quit on life or ever “retire.”

    At the age of 56, I quit my corporate job which was sucking the life out of me and returned to school to become a chiropractor! I graduate in about 7 weeks from this unbelieveable journey. People looked at me like I was crazy and I am so excited about my journey! I want to inspire others that they can do anything all they have to do is just speak it into the universe! Thanks for listening and I’ll be following your incredible webpage from now on!

  27. Hi Nyall, I came across your blog today and I am hooked! Thanks so much for the inspiration! These are also 2 awesome people: Nicholas James Vujicic (Never Give Up. No Arms no Legs, No Worries). And Lizzie Velasquez, a courageous girl born with a strange illness who was voted by trolls “the ugliest woman on the internet”. She challenged them in this amazing YouTube video: Courage & Determination.