100 People Doing Extraordinary Things (2014)

 

The past two years (2012 | 2013) I’ve put together lists of one hundred people doing extraordinary things. The message is simple:

All these people listed are made of the same star stuff as you, me, and everyone else. Nothing supernatural about them, yet they went ahead and did exceptional things anyways, excuses be damned.

Now, in case you’ve forgotten just how extraordinary your peers can be, here’s a fresh list for 2014…

1. Jessica Cox is the world’s only armless airplane pilot.

2. These dudes from the Czech Republic have driven the world’s cheapest car across Asia, Africa and South America.

3. Charles Ramsey rescued two teenagers from a ten-year kidnapping ordeal, then delivered an epic interview to the media.

4. Paul Salopek is on a seven-year walk to recreate the migration of early humans.

5. Hollie McNish refuses to be embarrassed by breastfeeding.

6. Kris Dim is a paralaysed pro body builder.

7. Ben Randall returned to Asia to find 100 random people he’d photographed five years before, and track down his young Vietnamese friend who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. He succeeded.

8. Dan Kraus has rescued a thousand cats.

9. Tania Hassounia is an illustrator and graphic designer, running her business remotely while traveling the world and offering her services (free of charge) to non-profit ministries. You can order some unique Christmas cards from her here.

10. Sam and Geoff dove into an active volcano.

11. A few years back an 8-second video of Lizzie Velasquez appeared on YouTube with the title, “The ugliest woman in the world.” In response, she went ahead and became a motivational speaker, wrote two books, and graduated college.

12. Peter Nonacs, a professor at UCLA, encourages his students to cheat.

13.  Ben Weiner paints paintings of paint.

14. Ghyslain Raza was made infamous and suffered relentless bullying on account of a video of him posted online eleven years ago. He’s since graduated law school and spoken out with words of encouragement for other victims of cyberbullying: “You’ll survive. You’ll get through it. And you’re not alone. You are surrounded by people who love you.”

15. This 12-year-old Egyptian kid is smarter than all of us.

16. The Pugh family spent a whole year without shopping in supermarkets.

17. Nathan Sawaya quit his job as a lawyer and became a LEGO artist.

18. Tyron Swan made a paraplegic’s surf dream come true by duct taping her to his back (no, really) and hitting the waves.

19. Thomas Backlund quit his job to live in a tent and write code.

20. Thor Pedersen is traveling to every country in the world… without flying.

21. Beth Whaanga, a mother of four, was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. Then she posed nude for a photographer and posted the photos online, proudly exposing her scars.

22. Jack Andraka developed a promising early detection test for pancreatic cancer that’s cheap, effective and non-invasive… all before his 16th birthday.

23. Shanna Syme bops along to your favorite songs in sign language. Like this one.

24. A group of schoolboys in the UK didn’t like an administrative ban on shorts. So they began wearing skirts to class.

25. Richard Dunn was trapped overnight at Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport with no one else around. So he made a music video.

26. Aaron Collins was just 30 years old when he died. In his will he asked his family to go out to dinner and leave an awesome tip, to the tune of $500. So they did. Word got out online and donations came flooding in, more than $60k in total, allowing the family to travel to all 50 states and keep on tipping.

27. This 65-year-old churchgoer sets an archbishop straight about gay marriage.

28. School clerk Antoinette Tuff encountered a man carrying an AK-47 assault rifle into an elementary school in Georgia and spent an hour convincing him not to hurt anybody. In the end, he didn’t.

29. Christina Stephens built a prosthetic leg from LEGOs.

30. Pieter Levels is launching 12 startups in 12 months while living out of a backpack.

31. Brittany and Scott both had life-long dreams of sailing around the world. Then they met, fell in love, bought a boat, and went for it. They’ve since started a family, and bought a bigger boat to accommodate the expanding crew.

32. Chinese artist Liu Bolin practices invisibility.

33. Maneesh Sethi and a few friends bought an island (more doable than you’d think).

34. Rob Lutter is cycling around the world and taking phenomenal photographs along the way.

35. Sébastien Soldevila et Mimi Bonnavaud pull off one of the most incredible dance performances you’ll ever see.

36. Andrei Rosu wanted to get in shape and set a good example for his son, so he began working out. One thing lead to another, and he became the first person to complete 7 marathons and 7 ultra-marathons on 7 different continents. He also became the first man to play drums at the North Pole.

37. Mitchell Roth saved $439 in thirty minutes of negotiation practice.

38. Mike and Anne‘s honeymoon lasted 675 days and took them through six continents and thirty-three countries.

39. Devin Lyttle helps you find places to refill your water bottle, so you don’t have to buy a new one.

40. Morten Rustad traveled 10,000 miles around Norway to create an epic time-lapse video.

41. Kirill Oreshkin takes selfies… while hanging from the top of very tall buildings.

42. Cheri Lindsay has a rare skin condition. Cassandra Bankson has had severe acne since she was in third grade. Both of them usually go heavy on the makeup to hide their imperfections. Until now.

43. Kate McCulley survived a shipwreck off shore of an Indonesian island most famous for its aggressive, man-eating Komodo Dragons.

44. This US solider would have made the forefathers proud.

45. Derek Cullen overcame crippling fear and anxiety to ride his bicycle across Africa.

46. Greg Goodman shares spectacular photos from nine years of world travel.

47. David Downie was more than your typical beer guzzler: he actually wrote the Australian portion of a famous beer bible. Then he quit drinking.

48. Leif Harum ran away from home at age 16 and traveled through Europe and the Middle East without a cent to his name.

49. Amichay Rab gets his picture taken at famous destinations around the world… while naked.

50. Eighteen years after a plane crashed in an African desert and all 170 people on board perished, the families of the victims gathered at the crash site to build a striking memorial.

51. Every day all around the world, millions of women living in poor rural areas have to carry big pitchers of water on their heads for miles and miles in blazing heat. Cynthia Koenig has a better idea.

52. Michelle Nickolaisen quit her job at an agency and started freelancing. Within ninety days, she’d replaced her day job income.

53. Josh Plotkin makes a hell of a Gangnam Style parody.

54. Canadian astronomer J. W. Campbell traveled the world for fifty years trying to see twelve different eclipses. He ran into overcast skies every time :-/

55. Frank Medrano defies gravity.

56. Scott Neeson was once president of 20th Century Fox International, overseeing films like Titanic and X-Men and driving his porsche around Hollywood. Now he lives in Cambodia, devoting all his time and energy to helping some of the poorest kids in the world.

57. Francis Tapon has walked across America four times.

58. This shirtless dude holding a dog at a wildfire is interviewed live on TV and immediately asks the reporter out on a date.

59. Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn paint favelas.

60. Maura Ward was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age sixty-four. For her sixty-fifth birthday, she skydived for the first time and raised a bunch of money for a Parkinson’s charity.

61. This flight attendant performs safety instructions like a comedian.

62. Stanford students were challenged to make as much money as possible in two hours starting with just $5, and then create a presentation to share their results. One group thought far outside the box and made $650.

63. Laura Hames Franklin invites people out to dance with her in public places.

64. A drag queen named Mama Tits grabbed a mic and bitch slapped the anti-gay protesters at this year’s Seattle Pride Parade.

65. Marina and Ulay ended their decade-long relationship by starting from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and, after ninety days of walking, meeting in the middle to say goodbye. The plan was to never see each other again. But, twenty-two years later…

66. These three lads Irish danced their way around the world.

67. Benjamin Von Wong pulled off a surreal underwater photoshoot of beautiful women surrounded by shipwreck.

68. Andrew Lenz co-founded a climbing school which provides free climbing instruction to kids from the biggest favela in South America.

69. Anthony Vincent sings your favorite song in twenty different styles.

70. James Holman circumnavigated the globe… as a blind man… in 1832.

71. Xhongkai Xiang built a life-size Iron Man out of cardboard.

72. Claire Wyckoff combines her running routes with Nike+ to draw pictures of dicks (among other things).

73. Kayla Montgomery is one of the best young distance runners in America, despite suffering from multiple sclerosis and collapsing after every race.

74. Lee Thompson managed to convince the Brazilian tourist board to let him climb the famous Cristo Redentor statue in Rio de Janeiro.

75. Kawehi covers the uncoverable.

76. Anjan Manikumar‘s restaurant in downtown Toronto is completely staffed by deaf waiters and waitresses.

77. Jack Hyer decided he wanted to marry his girlfriend after their first date. But he also wanted to travel the world, so he traveled to twenty-six countries during four years of dating, filming an epic proposal video all the while.

78. Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the Fields Medal — known as the “Nobel Prize of mathematics” — since the award was established in 1936.

79. Shantanu Starick is traveling the world without any money.

80. Kyle Maynard climbed Mount Kilimanjaro without arms or legs.

81. Bruce Campbell lives in a Boeing 727 in the middle of the woods.

82. Brendan and Gillian Lally are driving themselves and their three kids home to Ireland… via Alaska, Patagonia and Africa.

83. Sam Simon helped create The Simpsons back in 1991, and thus amassed a great fortune over the years. Having recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he’s spending his final months giving it all away.

84. Masarrat Misbah has turned her Pakistani beauty salons into refuges for women who have suffered acid attacks.

85. Alex Chacon takes an epic selfie.

86. Fearghal Jo quit his job as a vice-president at a private equity firm to cycle from Ireland to India, where he then lived for several months in a forest community.

87. Joel Runyon is running seven ultra marathons on seven continents in order to raise money and awareness to build seven schools.

88. Alfred Ely Beach built New York City’s first subway line… in secret.

89. Princess Umul Hatiyya Ibrahim Mahama is a mother of six from Ghana, on a mission to visit every country in the world.

90. At 64 years of age and on her fifth try, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim the treacherous 100-mile stretch of ocean between Cuba and Florida.

91. Back in the 1950’s, Miguel de la Quadra-Salcedo invented a new way of throwing the javelin that added twenty meters to the existing world record. However, the record was never approved because the technique was deemed too dangerous.

92. Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived two atomic bomb blasts.

93. A dude named Winter is on a mission to drink a coffee in every Starbucks in the world.

94. Chloe and Nikita trained a wild Kaimanawa horse to gallop through the surf with a wakeboarder skimming along behind.

95. Fr. Ray Kelly is not your average priest.

96. Seventy-seven years after her namesake went missing over the Pacific, a lady named Amelia Earhart flew 24,300 nautical miles around the world.

97. Mike Hrostoski fell out of his office chair and started crying.

98. At 65 years of age, Mervyn Kinkead crossed the Irish Sea in a bathtub.

99. Dean Potter base jumps with his dog.

100. These three Norwegians broke the world record by visiting 19 countries in 24 hours.

Like I said up top, all these folks listed 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:

  • 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.

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    1. This is inspiring stuff!

      I left Ireland in September 2012 with the intention of traveling overland from Paris to Japan and doing something extraordinary along the way. I didn’t know what that something was going to be but I had an open mind. I made it as far as Iran overland then continued by various modes of transport. Along the way I hitchhiked thousands of kilometres, worked on farms, met countless people whose small and great acts of kindness and generosity helped and humbled me, travelled the length of India overland, did a meditation retreat, spent two nights in hospital, trekked in the Himalayas, fell in love a few times, worked in Vietnam teaching English for a year and finally made it to Japan last month, all the time keeping record of what I seen and did through thousands of words and photos in a blog. I’m now at a Kung Fu retreat in Thailand and will return ‘home’ for Christmas. A lot of this seems mundane compared to many of the cases above but I’ve probably learned more in these last 2 years than the past 20:

      freetoramble.wordpress.com

      During my trip I met two French guys traveling to every country in the world without flying. I met a couple cycling from England to Australia. I met another guy who was indefinitely traveling the globe without money. My friend traveled all the way overland from England to SE Asia and visited me in Vietnam. I met so many people with interesting stories, trying to live a more fulfilling life while daring to dream, and not all of them were travellers.

      Imagine what the world would be like if we dared to dream collectively. I’m still aiming towards doing something that I can say is truly extraordinary.

    2. I’ve boycotted the word awesome – but I’m not sure what else to say about this list and the work you must have put into it?!

      Well played!! And I’m honored to be on it!

      Cheers :)

    3. I love this list you curate Niall! I don’t even think the script of video is chronologically aligned with your journey around the world — and pair that with the spectacular and diverse backgrounds — that makes for one epic video! I tip my fedora in your direction m’sir!

    4. Do you know how Aaron Collins died? He killed himself (strangulation). You make it sound like he had a terminal illness (which is what I assumed before looking into the story further).