One of the most important questions of our lives, of our history of human creativity, of philosophy is how we can find ourselves, how we define our values and how ultimately we can find meaning in our lives. In order to answer such questions, we dive deep into the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who is one of the greatest thinkers of all time and a precursor of existentialism(a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will). If one philosopher should be described as being “extraordinary”, then Friedrich Nietzsche would be one of the first names to come to mind. He was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, and philosopher whose work shook the foundations of human society on many aspects including culture, religion, philosophy, literature, and psychology. His goal was to pave the way for the Ubermensch or “Superhuman”, a superior and absolutely free man. Not only were his teachings extraordinary, but also his life, which was full of suffering, on an emotional, physical level and even career level. A good part of his life, he lived as a shadow, wandering in the Alpine mountains, where he wrote some of the most magnificent books the world has ever seen. Some notable mentions are: “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, “Beyond Good and Evil” and “Twilight of the Idols”. Sadly, he didn’t get much recognition and wasn’t able to sell much of his work. At age 44 he had a mental breakdown while watching a horse beaten by his driver, ran over to the horse, and said “I understand you”. He never recovered from the tragedy and his mental breakdown took his life after eleven years. However, in spite of his tragic life, Nietzsche achieved through his work something extraordinary and the world will forever read the work of a man, who challenged existing paradigms and took human thought to higher summits. Nietzsche, despite being a controversial and often misunderstood philosopher, through his teachings, wanted people to see the great height of their extraordinary potential, and to break the chains which kept them prisoners in order to conquer their true freedom.

According to Nietzsche, finding yourself is one of the most fundamental endeavors of your life in the way of becoming extraordinary. So here are four steps, inspired by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, which you can take from to help you get closer to finding yourself and becoming who you really aspire to be ” Extraordinary ”.

How to be Extraordinary

01. Don’t follow the herd mentality

Nietzsche says “What we’ve called universal values, what we have called truth, has always only ever been the personal expressions of those who promoted them.” Nietzsche believed a rigid societal code creates what he called the “herd mentality.” Like a herd of animals, a herd mentality aims towards sameness, comfort and the preservation of its population. Similarly, the “moral code” of society has been fabricated by individuals and then imposed on other people so that society can have control over human behavior. Although that can protect us from certain extreme human behaviors, it also limits our individuality and creativity. Not only that; but the strict dogmatic judgment of human behavior can even make some individuals more rebellious, resulting in extreme anti-social attitudes and – even worse – actions. If these dictatorial boundaries and rules become tyrannical and unreasonably harsh, the rebellious response can often be equally harsh. If the moral code of society is flexible enough, then the people who have opposing views do not have to be particularly forceful to make the change that they want to see in the world.

In real life, more often than not, it’s the case that morality is preached in a very strict way. It is not only that the societal, religious and educational structures present it that way. It is also the attitude of the majority of people that do not want to stand out from the group in fear of being rejected. Therefore, every person that stands out “too much”, according to the representatives of those groups, is someone that seems terrifying and dangerous. It is a well-known fact that people are afraid of the unknown and that is perfectly mirrored in this dynamic. This can be seen in our everyday lives. Whether it’s the middle ages or the modern day world, this dynamic is always present. Whether it’s Galileo being killed for thinking outside the box, or at school when your classmates ridiculed you or some other student for being different and standing out, it’s all cut from the same cloth.

The herd consists of people that have amputated their creativity dreams and goals and are feeling insecure and even threatened by everyone that exhibits those qualities. Those people are afraid of change, afraid of admitting to themselves that some of their potential has not been fully realized. Although that realization is scary, an individualistic and driven person must not let themselves be dragged down by other people’s mistakes in life. Instead, you need to go your own way, leave the herd behind and then shine a light so bright that it can’t be ignored. You can start by questioning and silencing those negative voices that you internalized when you were young. Whether it’s a parent, a harsh teacher, a narcissistic partner, it doesn’t matter…Whoever told you that you can’t do things that you would want to, probably told you that because they were afraid you will not be accepted in the society with doing thing out of the norm and customs of the people who made it, or probably there are afraid of your success, because it would expose everything that is bad about them. So they wanted to limit your individuality and pull you back into the herd. Also, being strong minded and courageous helps you withstand the frightening feeling of stepping out of your comfort zone, since it’s an integral part of becoming who you really are ” Unique and Extraordinary ”.

2. Embrace the difficulty of self-discovery

In the words of Nietzsche: “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Our instinctive and intuitive reaction is to evade all pain and suffering. The technology and the easiness of achieving everything has made us ungrateful and we have forgotten that suffering is an integral part of life. However, according to Nietzsche, it’s only when we are willing to face the challenges of life that we are spiritually growing. In 1873, when he was 29 years old, Nietzsche addressed this fundamental question of how we find ourselves in a beautiful essay titled “Schopenhauer as Educator”. In this essay, he argued that if someone wishes to be extraordinary in this life. To maximize their potential, they need to take the difficult path, which often leads to isolation. Being a loner is not easy, but this is one of the prices someone must pay for the privilege of owning themselves. To keep yourself from being overwhelmed by the tribe, you must distance yourself from others, you need to strive to be free and this might lead to severe difficulties in your life. You should refuse taking an easy path and you should decide to embark in the quest for gaining your freedom to be yourself, no matter how frightening it might be. To be free means also to be free from all physiological and psychological needs, in other words, to not let them drive you, but for you to drive them instead. For example, whenever you feel an emotional urge to do something, like complaining to somebody in a very passionate way, you must try to become first conscious of this impulse and then decide if you should act upon it or not.

Nietzsche’s philosophy on this point is somehow similar to many modern-day motivational gurus and ‘thought-leaders’, but the similarity is only on the surface. If motivational gurus focus on self-development mostly in order to achieve worldly success and a fulfilled life on a material and relational level, Nietzsche goes deeper. For him, the fight is an inner fight, the struggle is to find himself and this quest is a much more difficult quest, requiring a very different kind of sacrifice.

For example, if a motivational guru teaches you how to be more confident in order to become popular and attract investors for your business, Nietzsche teaches you to first analyze the primary root of your desire to be confident and, usually, you’ll find it is just the desire to impress other people such as your loved ones and your friends, or to prove a point about yourself to society in general. A simple analysis might make you give up this desire and focus more on what really matters in your life, on much deeper issues, likes self-discovery. And this endeavor might make you a loner. Not accepting to compromise yourself can very well put you in conflict with many people. It means changing your lifestyle, it means giving up friendships or other types of relationships, to look deep into your fears, to analyze your deepest emotions, your darkness and to rise above them. You have to break down the chains of opinion and fear. Nietzsche encourages us to “challenge our own demons”, but you should not cast them out, as, beyond them, there is a deep meaning which you should try to understand. You need to get out there in the world, do things, experience different temptations, but be always present with your entire consciousness, and, in the end, emerge as an individual with a distinct strength of character, a much richer inner nature, and a very much extraordinary view than those of the normal people. If you don’t go out and experience life first hand in a fully aware state, you cannot claim you have lived your life. How far you can go depends on how much you are willing to pay for that. To reach the state of self-ownership and to avoid going through life in a meaningless way, without direction, you must learn how to find your inner genius. To get in touch with your inner genius, you must walk a path no one has walked before, as you are unique and no one can walk that path on your behalf. Finding yourself is finding your uniqueness, that unique set of values and things you truly love and those things will make you extraordinary.

3. Say yes to what gives you meaning

To quote Nietzsche “He who has a why, can bear almost any how ”Nietzsche’s philosophy proposes that we say yes to whatever that gives meaning to our lives – the things we find value in personally. In ages past, the meaning of everything was assured by God. However, according to Nietzsche, in an increasingly secular and scientific society, one can no longer turn to religion to find meaning. He found this concerning, as the typical person would be driven to nihilism, meaning general apathy and an unwillingness to find meaning in life, without help. So he offers us three solutions that we, as individuals, can try to use to find meaning in our lives. His first suggestion was to replace religion with philosophy, art, music, literature, theater, and other parts of the humanities to provide us with a medium for self-expression. The mediums offer us the ability to contextualize our sufferings, our efforts, and a chance to see our lives as so different from those around us, we can analyze, perform, and observe everything around us and the one we become highly obsessed with are they one we mostly value. However it is important that we see them as a tool for living and not just as an academic study; reading history not just for the facts ,but for what those facts tell us – seeing them as a way to edify yourself, or watching tragic plays to see and comprehend the beauty in sad events, not just the entertainment. This art of self-expression will help you find the extraordinary values which is part of your individuality. If humanities do not interest you, then Nietzsche suggests a second option of becoming an Übermensch. The Übermensch is a superhuman that creates his own meaning and values without reference to outside influences. Such an individual can overcome the problem of the meaning of life by simply inventing his own meaning and taking full responsibility for it. According to Nietzsche, only a few extraordinary men came close to being an Ubermensch, and they were Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, The Buddha and Goethe. For us humans, we can hope to find some meaning in looking inward and evaluating what things we really value and what things we only say we like because society tells us to. Nietzsche sees the psychological evolution of humanity as an ever-advancing story, and one which we should take a part in. If becoming a superhuman isn’t something you value, then Nietzsche suggests another method to find meaning, which is loving your life, no matter what it has in it. Amor Fati, the love of fate, is one of Nietzsche’s most interesting ideas and one which can offer us a great deal of solace when we most need it. To love your fate is to know that everything that has happened in your life, the good, the bad, and indeed the ugly, has contributed to who you are and what you are doing at this very moment. Trying to create yourself will lead to some failures, but embracing those failures alongside your successes can help re-spark the love of life and can help you see the meaning of it even in the worst moments.

4. Find your true values

Nietzsche asks us “What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more … Would you not throw yourself on and on and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?” Nietzsche believed that we need to create our own values to lift the ‘Greatest Weight’. The ‘Greatest Weight’ is a metaphorical situation put forth by Nietzsche which represents the feeling that crushes you into repeating past mistakes, because of the unevaluated values you adopt from your herd. The goal of this concept is to make you ask yourself – is what you are doing truly meaningful, or are you just acting out what your herdthink’s is right? If you think that the things you are doing are worth repeating eternally, that you can be sure you are fully individuated, you will have enough courage and strength to lift “the greatest weight”. If you do not think that the way you have been living is worth repeating innumerably, chances are, you haven’t formed your own values and you are still a slave to your society and worse yet, to yourself. If you find yourself repeating the same mistakes you always have and are left feeling crushed, the chances are, you haven’t reevaluated the morals imposed on you by your herd. Thus, you are not a fully developed individual, yet. Once you reevaluate your moral landscape, only then “the greatest weight” can be lifted. How many times have you found yourself turning a blind eye to someone gaslighting you, just because you didn’t want to confront the person? Or how many times have you heard your friend or yourself saying ”I’m with the identical person with identical problems”. If you were your own, with your own set of morals, you wouldn’t find yourself staying in toxic relationships just because it’s “the right thing to do”. You would know that it’s just you just trying to be a good person by society’s standards and that’s not worth it. Nietzsche suggests that “in every little thing ask yourself, do you desire this once more and innumerable times over?” If the answer is no, then you need to change yourself and reevaluate your values, then and only then the weight can be lifted.

True good lies beyond standard definitions of good and evil. Most of us live our lives in our self-imposed jail. Our jail cells are blandly pre-subscribed by social beliefs that captivate the wildness and individualism of the human spirit. Many of us submit to the comfort of this cage. Nietzsche recognized that we can escape our enclosure of forced beliefs and awaken ourselves to what we value personally. To break free and to create your own values and meaning in life, you have to undergo this transformation, you have to go through this rebellious phase. You need to have the courage to break the chains of tradition, of religion, of society and perhaps you even have to distance yourself from several people in your life. It doesn’t need to be a violent and sudden reaction, it can – and should – be a smart, calm, but definitive one. You can start with making a list of everything and everyone you think limits your freedom to be yourself. It can be an unfortunate, unwritten rule at your workplace, it could be your spouse who always tries to control and correct your behavior, or it may be your friends or your parents who criticize you when you behave in a particular way. Once you’ve done this, try to think of possible strategies of how to change that situation: maybe you could have a discussion with your spouse in which you can talk about the issue, perhaps you talk to your colleagues or supervisors in a meeting at work regarding the problems you are experiencing, how it affects you and how you would like it to change, or you could find new friends who can appreciate you better. When you feel overtaken by “the greatest weight,” you don’t need to hide your aspirations, but instead you need to breakout from yourself-made herd-based prison and chase after the dreams that give meaning to your life. If only you could lift the greatest weight upon your shoulder you shall become extraordinary and with a sense of individuality, freedom and responsibility.

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