Want an Incredible Career? Discover What You’ve Got. | Maximize Your Potential

maximizeyourpotential_small_2__V355563455_Amazon Publishing was kind enough to send me a copy of Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks, & Build an Incredible Career, so I could read it for a blog post. Because I got so much out of Jocelyn Glei’s first book, Manage Your Day-to-Day, I was eager to read this one. It’s a winner.

Ever been told, “You have potential”? What was being predicted about you? What did those words actually mean?

In business, “potential” generally means having the capacity for growth or development. It’s that latent capability that portends something bigger and better for our careers and the organization’s success.

Potential is a nice sounding word that can puff us up, giving us reason for optimism about our future. Too often that’s where it ends.

We get no details to build on, only those indecipherable clues imbedded in the occasional feedback from our bosses.

Generally, the best we can do is try to surmise how others think our potential will play out. It might mean we have:

  • what it takes to achieve leadership greatness or simply to take one step up the company ladder
  • the intelligence to earn multiple degrees/certifications or the ability to master html to support the company website
  • the assertiveness needed to sell the company’s high end products or the emotional intelligence to handle customer care services

Typically, there’s a trap here–believing what others say about your potential and charting your career course based on it.

Own your potential.

Your potential resides within you. When others tell you what they “see” as your potential, it’s through their lens, often one biased by what they and the organization need.

Jocelyn Glei’s new book, Maximize Your Potential, focuses us on the “you” of “your potential.” Since it’s an asset, you need to own it fiercely, developing it to take you where you want to go.

Like Glei’s earlier book, Maximize Your Potential is an integrated collection of short pieces from important thought leaders who help us find clarity and focus in our careers.

Cal Newport, Georgetown University professor and author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, confronts the oft cited advice to “follow your passion” in the context of maximizing potential.

He writes:

…few people have pre-existing passions that they can match to a job. Telling them to ‘follow their passion,’ therefore is a recipe for anxiety and failure….

If you’re like me,  you’ve struggled to align how you see your potential with the elusive specter of something you might construe as passion.

Whenever someone I respected at work expressed optimism about my potential, it seemed like another bread crumb trail that would lead me to my passion. It wasn’t.

If I had known  these two lessons from Newport’s research, I may have fared better:

 Lesson 1: What you do for a living matters less than you think.

To build a career, the right question is not “What job am I passionate about doing?” but instead “What way of working and living will nurture my passion.”

Lesson 2: Skill precedes passion.

..if you want something rare and valuable, you need to offer something rare and valuable in return–and in the working world, what you have to offer are your skills.

Now I see. Because developing skills comes before passion:

It doesn’t matter if we fully understand our potential at any given moment.

          I just matters that we develop as many skills and as much job knowledge as we can.

The byproduct is discovery or rediscovery of our passion.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, author and researcher, currently at Columbia Business School, reminds us to focus on getting better, rather than being good.

When we look at our passion and potential as co-contributors to our success, take a steadied and positive approach to tapping into both, we position ourselves for an incredible career.

Tend to your garden.

Understanding your potential starts with you. But you can’t uncover it unless you turn over the ground where your career is planted.

Maximize Your Potential gives you tools you need and explains how to use them well: diaries, daily rituals, skills practice, and relationship building.

Your potential may always be a bit of a mystery. All of us need help cutting through the weeds to find the fruit. Luckily for us, this book is a sharp scythe.

5 Ways to Save Yourself from Blind Exuberance | Hold Your Horses

Nothing beats it–that heart-pumping excitement that comes from the prospect of:

  • Landing a great job or promotion
  • Getting an overseas assignment
  • Buying into a promising start up

Our minds are flooded with seductive images of what we can make happen.

That’s all good, except, to be successful, we need to be in touch with our naiveté, replacing it with solid knowledge .

Face what you don’t know.

It’s easy to get sold a bill of goods:

  • The job description isn’t what the job is
  • The promotion is a dead end, not a growth opportunity
  • The start-up was poorly managed so it folded

Our exuberance for an opportunity is often rooted in our emotions, so we’re inclined to make our decisions based on incomplete information.

Career opportunities are, first and foremost, business decisions, so they require the same due diligence as any corporate merger. Your life is your business, remember?

I’ve certainly had plenty of experience reining in my own boundless exuberance throughout my varied career..

I learned the hardest lessons as a race and show horse breeder. My knowledge of the industry was zero before I started. (There’s your first sign!) I’d learned to ride as an adult, did a little showing on my first horse, bought a broodmare, and then a small farm that needed to be made horse-ready. Next I met a work colleague into horse racing and “I was off.”

This experience taught me these five lessons for any career move :

1. Understand the economics: Calculate the hard dollar benefits and exposures over time for any career change you make. Discuss this openly and without discomfort.

I learned: Horses are expensive even when you take care of them yourself: feed, vet care, farriers, trainers, gear, trailering, and endless supplies. There’s no escaping the cost.

2. Assess the physical demands: Be honest about whether or not you are up to the demands of the job over the long haul–the hours, the stress, the travel, the expectations.

I learned: Horses are work every day all year: lugging, lifting, stacking, dodging, restraining, and getting dragged around (mostly by foals). Hurting is a constant.

3. Face your emotions: Determine the level of your self-confidence and self-esteem, tolerance for criticism and disappointment, anticipating exposures that lie ahead.

I learned: Horses die, get severely injured, and often lack needed talent. Making the decision to euthanize a beloved sick or severely injured horse was tormenting. Learning to face reality is one thing; acting on it another.

4. Study the players: Dig into what’s driving your opportunity and who the beneficiaries are if you particpate. Ask probing questions about expectations, authority, and the key players.

I learned: Commercial horse breeding is an industry. Every product (horse) is one of a kind. If you don’t know how to sell or buy, it’s easy to get cheated. And I was, more than once.

5. Analyze the market:  Examine the path ahead and what it will take to get there. Your coworkers and others are also competing for available opportunities, so position yourself for the future. Don’t jump at just anything.

I learned: Horses aren’t easy to sell. The market is glutted, many buyers are clueless, games can be played, and seller “celebrity” often rules. Selling privately is different from selling at auction. In this game, it’s every horseman for him/herself.

Hold your horses.

We all need passion and drive to be successful. That’s how we weather the storms of disappointment and fuel our resilience.

No matter what career you’re in, there are cold hard realities that need to be grasped, managed, and overcome to achieve and advance.

I can remember every “beating” I took in the horse business. Each one left both a welt on my psyche along with a priceless gem of understanding. Some lessons I learned after one whack and others after many. In time, I was able to anticipate the obstacles and side-step them before they got me. I wouldn’t swap the experience and all the joy and excitement for anything.

These lessons are where business savvy comes from. Once you’ve got your arms around them, you can act on your exuberance with confidence. YAY!