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.
…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.