This is the second blog post in the ‘Core Principles’ series - where I share and define the core principles I try to live and work by….
This has been a very difficult blog post to write. You see, in my head, I know exactly what I mean when I have ‘Fulfil Your Potential’ as one of my core principles, but every time I try to put it into words, I hit a block, so I’m hoping that by just forcing myself to write, it will end up making sense. (And if it doesn’t, I’ll apologise now….)
Our potential is a difficult thing to define - if you are of a fixed mindset, you see your potential as, well, fixed - whatever talents you are born with are the talents that you will use (or not) throughout your life. But if you have a growth mindset, all bets are off, and you believe that you can do pretty much anything that you set your mind to; sure it will take work, and depending on the goal, it can take a lifetime of work, but anything is ultimately achievable; any child can become a concert pianist or an astronaut, any middle-aged bloke can become an artist, and any teenager can become a Silicon Valley billionaire.
So, perhaps the real problem is, with an almost limitless list of possibilities, which potential do we choose to fulfil, and what’s more, when we have made our choice, how do we realise that potential and take the disciplined action we will need to ultimately deliver upon it ?
Identifying your potential
To me, it’s fairly logical that our potential is linked to our purpose - our purpose tells us what we are on this earth to do, and our potential is how much of that purpose we are capable of delivering. But wait a minute, I hear you say, two paragraphs back you said we can be and do whatever we want, and yes, I do believe that, but there are some inevitable limits. Train, practice and try as I might it’s unlikely that from a standing start in my 50th year I am going to become an inspirational Olympic athlete. But, if I believe that my purpose is to live an inspirational life and help others to make positive changes in their own lives, and I’m willing to invest 10 hours a day, every day for the next 20 years, then I’m confident that I will be able to deliver on the potential of that purpose.
For me, therefore, our potential is the greatest possible achievement of our purpose relative to the maximum resources we are willing and able to invest in it’s achievement.
Want to be one of the world’s best graphic designers, but are only willing to spend a couple of hours a week learning the required skills, then it’s pretty unlikely that you will deliver on your potential. Want to be a best-selling author, and are willing to sit and write for 4 hours a day for the next 10 years, laying yourself open to feedback and criticism ? Then there’s a pretty good chance we’ll see you on the Amazon best seller list.
At this point, I’ll ask you the obvious question - what is what is your potential ?
Fulfilling your potential
So, to fulfil your potential, you need to know which skills you need to develop, what tasks you need to work on, and who you need to be, and for me there are three ways to work all of that out - planning forward, reverse engineering and modelling others.
It might be that fulfilling your potential is pretty clear and well-trodden path. If your purpose is to be a great teacher, then it’s pretty easy to work out what you need to do - qualifications, practice and experience will help you to get there. In that case, you just need a plan, and the determination to execute on it.
However, whilst for many careers and lifestyles there is a pretty well established route to greatness, for others, there is no one standard route. In that case, you need to be able to identify the end goal, and then reverse engineer the path that’s right for you. Perhaps you have the potential to be a great public speaker? Then you need to take every opportunity to speak. But before you can speak you need something that people will want to listen to. And to have something worth listening to, you need to put in the effort to build up your skills, experience and stories. In taking the ultimate goal and working backwards, it becomes clear what we will need to do to fulfil our potential.
And what if there simply is no path to plan towards or work backwards from ? Well then you need to model the journeys of others. Want to be a great entrepreneur ? Then you’re going to need to identify the types of people who have had the success you desire, and reproduce their habits. Now that doesn’t mean that you can just copy Richard Branson and suddenly have a billion-dollar empire - but with some detailed research and reading, it would be pretty simple to map out the habits and beliefs of Sir Richard, adapt them to more closely align with your own goals and desires, and then work very, very hard on them every single day.
Regardless of the approach you take, fulfilling your potential is going to involve a LOT of hard work - but anything worth having does….
And if you still don’t know what your potential is….?You might not know what your purpose is yet (mine didn’t come to me until my mid-40s), so does that mean that you can’t fulfil your potential ? Well, that would be a big fat ‘NO !’. You see, just because you’re not 100% sure what you are aiming towards, doesn’t mean that you can’t start developing yourself right now - and in fact, starting on the journey of personal development is what actually helped me to understand my purpose. So if there is something that you enjoy doing, or even something that you’ve always just liked the look of but never thought you would be able to do it, start working on it today. If you want to learn how to draw, start drawing. If you want to turn your hobby into a business, start cutting out everything that is just a waste of your time, and put those extra hours into mastering your hobby. So, even if you aren’t sure what your potential is, get started now - you’ll be glad you did when the lightbulb finally comes on.
Hopefully all of that makes sense, and I hope you can see why ‘Fulfil Your Potential’ is high on my list of core principles - it’s partly to remind me of the the power I believe lies deep within me (and all of us), and partly to serve as a reminder to do my absolute best work whenever I’m not sure what to do next….