When you made your first appearance in the world, you possessed the potential to be exceptional. I believe that we are all pre-wired to achieve, create, and produce amazing results. However, sometimes we disqualify ourselves through unplanned setbacks, limited thinking, and a lack of exposure. 

When I was in Bhutan a few months ago, I recognized a fire in the eyes of men and women who have taken personal inventory of their abilities and realized they are absolutely exceptional.

As I talked with each of them, I realized that they would never settle for the status quo or accept the crumbs of opportunity when they could own the bakery. They had high Absolutely Exceptional (AE) factors.

The AE factor refers to your qualification to be exceptional, and it is the new mindset of men and women with vision, vitality, and vicissitude. AE thinking is rare. It’s unusual. In fact, it’s extra-ordinary: it comes from ordinary people doing a little extra.

These individuals helped me identify three key areas of their lives that have helped them achieve a high AE factor, and I’d like to share them with you.

Here is the first of three distinct conditions that you can cultivate to increase your AE factor:

Quality Environment. My mother always said that you are a product of your environment. Even when we were living in the ghetto, my mother exposed me to a reality beyond my grasp. She intentionally put me in an environment where everyone didn’t look, talk, dress, or believe like us. This shrewd move forced us to increase our social intelligence and adapt in order to survive.

I now realize that every environment is like a garden. Seeds of thinking are planted in the soil of our soul and seep down into the innermost parts of our being. It happens through conversation, visual cues, and unspoken, deep-seated feelings and beliefs that are projected from one to another.

If we water what we see and hear, it eventually will sprout in our own lives. Every environment has the ability to shape your future. Realize that at times in life we have to be replanted into a new garden of thinking in order for our leaves to bloom.

A person will rise no higher than the environment they invest in. I have seen it time and time again. I recently visited the Sistine Chapel at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy. The artworks in the Vatican overwhelmed me. The tour guide happened to be an art history major and provided a backstory about key art pieces. I was in over my head and trying my best to keep up. This experience pushed me visually, intellectually, and emotionally. I was so impacted by this experience that my prayer every day since has been that God will speak through me similar to how He painted the Sistine Chapel through Michelangelo.

That was a quality environment with rich history. I sought it out. I appreciated it. Do everything within your power to be in a quality environment and continually seek out quality areas to plant yourself.

You already have the potential to be every bit as exceptional as those folks in Bhutan whom I met. You have everything you need to increase your AE factor right this very moment. To begin, think about these two questions: Are you pleased with your current environment? If not, why not, and what are you going to do about it?

For now, I want you to focus on answering these two questions. Then, check back to learn about the second distinct conditions that you can cultivate to increase your AE factor.