"Your ability to realize your potential will depend upon your willingness to hone your skills, to take bold risks, and to put your ego on the line in pursuit of something greater."
Maximize Your Potential, a compilation of 21 essays edited by Jocelyn Glei, is a hefty treasure chest filled with dozens of glittering golden eggs and actionable GEMs, and is an absolute delight to read. The book is a collection of insights and lessons on how to “develop your talents and craft an incredible career” and does not disappoint!
Glei has organized the short essays around four areas deemed essential to long-term career success:
- Identifying and creating new opportunities
- Developing expertise over time
- Cultivating collaborative relationships
- Learning to take risks
Each section ends with a ‘Key Takeaways’ summary which is truly inspirational and action-oriented. I’ve picked three of my favourites to showcase here and you will find dozens more should you decide to read the book.
Embrace ‘BETA’ Mode
"Keeping yourself in ‘permanent beta’ makes you acknowledge that you have bugs, that there’s more testing to do on yourself, and that you will continue to adapt and evolve."
As a self-described ‘lifelong learner’, I like to think I’m doing fairly well living in permanent BETA mode. I constantly seek out books, videos, courses, blogs and other tools to quench my thirst for knowledge and hone my skillset. I readily acknowledge that I am a ‘work-in-progress’ and always will be.
Where I often fall short with the BETA mindset is in my business. My perfectionist/attention-to-detail tendencies frequently override my common sense and I spend inordinate amounts of time ‘sweating the small stuff’ despite Richard Carlson’s sage advice not to! I attribute this to a desire to minimize failure, protect my credibility and presumably only take calculated risks. I’ve read enough business books to know intellectually that this is not as helpful as I believe. Now if only I could commit to following through behaviourally!
On further reflection, it occurs to me that I have begun to adopt a BETA philosophy at work. My website wasn’t perfect when I launched it (still isn’t) however it is good enough. My workshops contain great content and are well-received by participants even though I constantly identify things that could be tweaked. I’ve joined a number of online communities yet haven’t delineated an overall social media strategy nor developed a content calendar. Hmmmm! Embracing permanent BETA mode at work is not as reckless as I once imagined. Your turn. How are you embracing BETA mode?
Play Twenty Questions
"Always be asking ‘What’s next?’ If you’re not asking questions, you’re not going to find answers."
Actually, as a professional facilitator, I’m pretty good at asking others thought provoking questions and encouraging people to go beyond their initial response – to dig deeper. The reason I chose this as a noteworthy GEM was the realization that I don’t always take the time to fully answer the multitude of questions that would lead to deeper insights and help me make more effective, sustainable decisions.
Do I want to grow my expertise and build an incredible career? (I picked this book up so I must want to do something differently!) In what areas? Why? What opportunities are available? Do I have the time, energy and resources to pursue those opportunities? What would I consider to be a ‘bold risk’? What’s preventing me from being bold and taking those larger leaps of faith?
These are all great questions in need of answering. Which then led to my decision to dedicate more time to asking and answering questions and my second noteworthy GEM.
Automate for Success
"By changing your habits, you reprogram the behaviours that control most of your life and ultimately determine your success."
Once you are comfortable being in permanent BETA mode and have the answers to your most critical questions, the next commitment you need to make is to periodically reboot your system and invest in automation. This is where Scott Young’s essay, Reprogramming Your Daily Habits hit home for me. Young didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t know already as much as package it in a way that made the proverbial light bulb in my brain click on.
Young asserts that many of our so-called daily ‘choices’ are really not choices but automatic or subconscious behaviours and habits. Harnessing the power of habits to create sustainable success reduces our need to rely solely on mental will-power and frees up our energy for other important tasks and decisions.
Following two key principles will increase our effectiveness in the quest to establish positive habits – focus and consistency. Young describes focus as working on one habit at a time while consistency means doing the desired new behaviour regularly at the same time and in the same way. He recommends selecting one habit to focus on each month (which gives you the potential to adopt 12 success enhancing habits each year) and being deliberate about execution to help ‘automate’ the behaviour.
I’ve always liked the idea of journaling and have started one numerous times only to eventually revert back to my non-journaling ways. I used to chalk this up to a lack of motivation and a busy lifestyle. I now see that I was haphazard with my execution and did not create the necessary focus and routine to automate the habit.
So, I took Scott’s advice and this month established a Monday evening journal time. I use Box of Crayon’s Great Work Provocation questions to focus my writing (the Provocation conveniently arrives in my inbox Monday mornings) as well as questions posed by other bloggers I follow. I reflect and write Monday evenings when I’m enjoying my tea (a long-standing habit that I rarely miss) after my post-dinner walk with my husband. It’s still early days, however I am feeling more confident about my success rate this time around.
I’m also excited about the impact that establishing 12 success-oriented habits in one year can have on my life. While I’ve heard the idea before, it somehow seemed daunting and unrealistic. As with my journaling, I had good intentions and lackluster follow-through. Young’s simple formula for execution and automation makes it seem far more attainable now and I have started to generate a list of ideas for other habits I’d like to adopt. Next month I’ll probably focus exclusively on re-introducing a weights workout to complement my cardio training and the month after that…who knows?!
What about you? What new habits will help you maximize your potential? What existing (bad) habits need to be eliminated and replaced with more positive behaviours? Pick one and think about how, where and when you can consistently focus on executing that behaviour. Then commit to doing it for the next four weeks so it becomes a natural part of your day (or week).
Well, those are just three of the actionable takeaways I pulled from the 99U book. What advice do you have for readers who wish to maximize their potential, grow their expertise, take bold risks and build an incredible career? Share it below. I’m looking forward to benefiting from your wisdom!