100 People Doing Extraordinary Things (2013)

Last year I presented you with a list of one hundred people doing extraordinary things. The message was simple: Everyone listed is 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…

1. Matt Madeiro raised $43,870 and bought a school bus for kids in Nepal to celebrate his 25th birthday.

2. Malala Yousafzai started blogging as an 11-year-old, encouraging fellow Pakistanis to resist the Taliban and their crackdown on education. As a result, the Taliban tracked her down and shot her in the head. She survived, and continued her studies from a hospital bed.

3. James Greig cycled a hundred miles to meet his first customer.

4. Vasile Adamescu has learned to read and write, became a university professor, speaks five languages, and published a book, all while being completely deaf and blind since he was two years old.

5. Shane Koyczan delivers a powerful, artful message about bullying…

6. Shannon O’Donnell tells you exactly how much it costs to travel around the world for a year, visiting fifteen different countries.

7. Marathon runner Abebe Bikila was a last-minute addition to the 1960 Ethiopian Olympic team. So last-minute that he couldn’t find a comfortable pair of shoes to wear for the race in Rome. In the end he ran it barefoot, finished first, and set a new world record.

8. Nina Sankovitch read and reviewed one book every day for an entire year.

9. Andrew Kim took on the self-appointed challenge of updating Microsoft’s branding and messaging in just three days. Microsoft then hired him.

10. Graham Hughes recently became the first person to visit every country in the world without flying. That’s 201 sovereign states over four years on a shoestring budget.

11. Maria Brilaki helps you produce better online video.

12. This year Momekh is running three triathlons around the world, hoping to inspire his fellow Pakistanis and introduce the sport of triathlon to the country.

13. Brothers Joshu and John eat catfood to kill bad habits.

14. Team Shoebaru dressed their cars up like sneakers (no, really) and drove them through 24 countries (UK to South Africa) in four months to raise money for charity: water and build an orphanage.

15. Danny and Annie‘s love story will make you cry…

16. In a series of photos and short stories, Phillip Toledano recalls beautifully the last days of his father.

17. Kevin Richardson walks with lions.

18. Gregory Berg hosts Radio Enso, a weekly podcast about “conscious living” which features in-depth conversations with personal development and thought leaders and inspirational people around the world.

19. Caroline Leon wrote a 50,000 word novel in 9 days.

20. Romanian Dumitru Dan was the first person to walk around the world, losing three friends along the way. From 1910 to 1923, “he crossed five continents over three oceans, through 76 countries and over 1,500 cities, wearing out 497 pairs of shoes.”

21. Mike Hrostoski spent an entire summer driving 12,000 miles across the United States doing volunteer work in 35 cities with his younger brother.

22. Kellee Rich quit her job, left her home and moved to the countryside with her beau to fulfill her dreams of becoming an illustrator. She’s creating and publishing a piece of typographic art every day in 2013.

23. Taylor Jones started the perfect website for the nostalgic among us.

24. Tom Neale spent 16 years of his life living alone on an island.

25. Cesar Kuriyama records one second of video every day…

26. John Bardos has been living abroad for more than 16 years and has given up everything to change careers and countries, twice. He’s now on a mission to spread the Unconforence for Social Good around the world.

27. Eszter Hámori writes prose/poetry in four different languages.

28. Allen and Violet Large won $11.3 million in the lottery and gave almost all of it away to good causes.

29. Jean-Dominique Bauby suffered a massive stroke, leaving him capable only of blinking his left eyelid. Regardless, he went ahead and wrote the bestselling book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking when the correct letter was reached by a person slowly reciting the alphabet to him over and over again.

30. This dude is doing 100 days of rejection therapy, aiming to have one rejection per day by making crazy requests.

31. A clergyman feared nobody would attend the funeral of a royal marine with no friends or family, so he sent out an invitation via Facebook and 200 strangers showed up to pay their respects.

32. Richard is a piano tuner living in London who chooses to be homeless.

33. Since April 2009, Matt Stillman has been sitting in New York’s Union Square, with a table and a second chair, providing creative solutions to strangers’ problems.

34. Michael Lovan delivers a fascinating article with a Japanese sex worker.

35. Heidemarie Schwermer has spent the last 16 years living without money…

36. Josh Sundquist has one leg and a better Halloween costume than you.

37. My buddy Amit Sonawane launched an entrepreneurial learning community and start-up lab in Chile. Traveling creative types, take note.

38. This guy performed a random act of kindness every day for a year, such as delivering care packages to the homeless, naming a star after his wife, and taking a leukemia patient out to a ballgame.

39. Maria Arpa trains prisoners in mediation skills so they can help themselves and other inmates have better quality dialogues with their families.

40. Dwight Turner finished university in the US, then moved to Thailand and set up his own non-profit which provides food, housing and education for 13 families.

41. Sebastian Marshall made up a word.

42. Right now, Brendan van Son is riding a scooter from Bamako to Cape Town (that’s pretty far).

43. Sal Khan makes it a joy to learn about the French Revolution.

44. Andrew Caldwell traveled the world for a year and took an amazing photo every day using just his iPhone.

45. Pakistani actress Veena Malik bravely defies a mullah accusing her of immoral behavior on an Indian reality TV show…

46. Carou Llou and her husband have been living the nomadic lifestyle since 1994. You know, before wifi and iPhones and all that other stuff that makes travel a breeze these days.

47. CJ Hunt is recording and posting a character video every day for the month of February.

48. Tunisian student Khaoula Rashidi stood up to religious activists who replaced the national flags at her university with a black banner.

49. This dude dances his ass off while riding public transport.

50. Scott Harrison used to promote nightclubs in NYC, convincing people to buy $16 drinks and $300 bottles of vodka. Now he runs a popular nonprofit that provides clean drinking water to millions of Africans.

51. Akiyo Kano is spending this year making every item in her wardrobe by hand.

52. Ian Robinson moved to Australia to gain a better understanding of where food comes from. Within a year he’d picked 10,000 lbs. of apples, harvested enough broccoli to feed a nation and learned to herd cattle on horseback, all while earning enough money to travel to Africa, Indonesia, Hawaii, the Philippines and back to the USA.

53. This Gulf War vet lost 140 pounds in ten months and proved wrong all those doctors who told him he’d never walk unassisted again.

54. Nora Roberts became a best-selling author under two different names.

55. Danny MacAskill can ride the bejesus out of a bicycle…


56. Terry Laughlin will teach you how to swim effortlessly.

57. Maggie Reyes waited a long time for her first kiss. Now she’s blissfully married and sharing her journey.

58. Tim and Emma present dietary tips for the impending zombie apocalypse.

59. Maneesh Sethi got on the front page of Reddit by hiring a stranger to slap him in the face every time he got distracted from his work.

60. Felix Baumgartner skydived from space.

61. Brian Cameron‘s father and grandfather both died of heart attacks. Starting this May, he’s going to cycle across Canada to raise money for the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.

62. Sophie Cadwell composes cool music to spread the minimalist mindset.

63. Sal Bolton spent five months in Ghana teaching underprivileged kids how to play tennis, founded her own voluntary charitable campaign to provide more sports opportunities to kids in Africa, and is currently raising funds to rebuild a destroyed tennis court at a school in Sierra Leone.

64. Greg Goodman captures surreal photos of a thousand lanterns rising in unison at Thailand’s annual Yi Ping festival.

65. This 19-year-old kid stands up at the Iowa House of Representatives and tells everyone in no uncertain terms why same-sex marriage should be legalized…

66. Dane Maxwell extracts a profitable business idea from a prospect over the phone in 45 minutes.

67. The Umbrella Foundation fights child trafficking in Nepal.

68. Tynan smuggled human bones out of the Parisian catacombs.

69. Kendal Brenneman challenges limiting beliefs as she learns aerial skills.

70. Drew Jacob is walking/biking 8,000 miles to Brazil.

71. For her 29th birthday, Sarah K. Peck swam naked from Alcatraz to San Francisco and raised $29k for charity.

72. This Romanian team makes really cool whiteboard animation videos.

73. Gavin Gough’s photos show the harsh effects of climate change on the southern coast of Thailand.

74. Turner Barr is traveling around the world in 80 jobs.

75. Ido Portal encourages you to move…

76. Karol Gajda took on a no negativity challenge for the month of December and learned some interesting lessons.

77. Nina Katchadourian recreated 15th century art in an airplane lavatory.

78. Jess Grossman makes ostomy sexy.

79. Brandon Pearce makes thousands of dollars a month from his mostly-automated business, while traveling the world with his wife and three kids.

80. Maddox blogs about gender transition, from personal experience.

81. Matt Bailey is on a mission to visit all 962 UNESCO world heritage sites.

82. Thea Gavin, grandmother of five, hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim… barefoot.

83. Scott H. Young completed the entire 4-year MIT curriculum for computer science in less than twelve months, and without taking any classes.

84. Michael and Benjamin document inspiring morning routines from people across the online world.

85. This toddler plays better basketball than you…

86. Johanna Quaas is this old and regularly partakes in gymnastics competitions.

87. Dave Cornthwaite is on a mission to raise $1.5 million for charity, undertaking 25 journeys of at least 1000 miles in length, each one using a different method of non-motorised transport. He also dated 100 women in 100 days and wrote a book about it.

88. Ramit Sethi helps you improve your social skills in less than 30 minutes.

89. Emmett Cooke is earning a full-time living writing music he loves every day and licensing it online for TV, games and films.

90. Apollo Robbins turns pickpocketing into an art form.

91. Paula Pant owns five rental units that put about $20,000 of passive income in her pocket each year.

92. Alastair Humphreys has cycled around the world, walked across India, and rowed the Atlantic.

93. Tao Porchon-Lynch is a 93-year-old yoga teacher.

94. This year Catherine Howard will be traveling to 13 oft-misrepresented countries and publishing a sketchbook in each location.

95. All these people

96. Chris Buck gives celebrities thirty seconds to hide before taking their photo.

97. Adam Gottlieb makes poetry cool in school.

98. Travel blogger Sab explored an abandoned skyscraper in Bangkok.

99. Benny Lewis reached conversational fluency in Egyptian Arabic… after just three months of study and practice… while living in Brazil.

100. Rick van Beek completed a triathlon while carrying his 13-year-old cerebral palsy-afflicted daughter.

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:

  • 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.

P.S. Thanks to Will, Anthony, Olivia and all the responsive folks on my mailing list for their help putting this post together.

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  1. Thanks for the shout out brother. Love the opening video. Don’t know how many people have ever juggled eggs in a temple full of giant cocks. Soon we’ll see that popping up on people’s life lists. 🙂

  2. What an amazing list Niall, it’s humbling to see all the good work people have done considering they’re the same stardust as you and me. Being off the list this year is something I did on purpose because I had to realign what I wanted out of my mission in life. I hope this year gets geared to something amazing so I could be on the list again (according to my standards) in 2014. I have a particular goal in mind so it’s getting close to good times here. Great list again and I appreciate the awesome acknowledgements of older folks and more publicized folks as well as the fellow bloggers.

  3. People just astound me and it’s to concentrate on the positive astonishments for once. To all the above, check your bad selves out! Inspirational!

  4. What a wonderful list of people doing amazing things. I just spent most of my morning reading their stories and being inspired by what everyone is working on and the different passions we are all funneling our efforts into to create positive changes. Honored to be on the list, thank you Niall!

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  9. Very cool–thanks for including me (part of Team Shoebaru) on the list! Currently searching for new ways to astound, amaze, and give back…

  10. allô Niall !

    I was enjoying reading the stories of the people who made it to your special list, thinking it was such an inspiring project… until oops! I saw my husband and I in there ;-)… We’re humbled to be side by side with all these special people who live their life in their own unique way.

    It takes an extraordinary person to see extraordinary people and things… and that, “YOU ARE” Niall…

    And for your friends who do not know yet the story of our special encounter… here how we met Niall… Here is why I call it Synchronicity! : http://CarouLLou.com/synchronicity-niall

    We are very enthusiastic to the idea of seeing you again next week to ‘brainstorm on life’! … (and when we see you, we’ll tell you about another little coincidence… relating to you again 😉

    huge hugs !!

    Carou LLou
    http://CarouLLou.com / Nomad since 1994

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  13. I’m happy you’ve done this again, it’s a wonderful list. However I fail to see what is extraordinary (in the positive sense) about number 68, stealing human remains is not cool. Especially as the author refers to them as “souvenirs”.

  14. Hi, first of all.. amazing list of people and its interesting to know what all kind of crazy stuff people are doing in this world. There’s only one lady i dont understand why you find inspiring.. Im not sure if i totally understand the way of living of lady number 35 Heidemarie Schwermer, but i think its a bit hypocrite to give away everything you owe and live without money.. she is traveling and staying at other peoples places and that way she consumes all the stuff indirectly. Other people need to work and sustain houses etc. so that this lady can stay over and travel from place to place. I understand that today’s over consumption is not a good thing but I disagree that her way is a way to make this world better.

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  16. Niall – what a delightfully wonderful surprise to be included on this list!

    I just found out today. And guess what? Good news is still delicious no matter when you get it.

    Big Hugs to all The Extraordinaries – the ones on the list and the ones reading this now, who are making their own lists of wonderful adventures.


  17. Hi Niall, you’ve put together one amazing list here and your doing something truly amazing. While I travel around the world quite a bit, more specifically Asia. Your doing it in a way that I must say that I admire and respect.

  18. niall thank you so much for this list it is very helpful for a project that I’m doing and I think ’cause of you, I’m gonna nail my grades ty so much I am very thankful you put a lot of time, effort, and love into this website it is so helpful and a reminder for you all on this website I hope you have a good day today I hope you have many more amazing days may you all live a long happy life and always keep in mind you are always loved sometimes it may not seem to you but I know at least one person loves you all or maybe just likes you but you will always be in someones heart

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