"In every company where I have ever worked, and in organizations of every type around the world that I have visited, there have been employees with extraordinary potential who went to the office each day and put their best efforts not toward making the most of their gifts and knowledge, not toward reaching their personal best in the service of what was best for the organization, but toward fitting in and not getting fired. The Gallup organization’s 2016 ‘State of the American Workplace’ report confirmed this, finding that a truly scary seven out of ten American workers are either ‘not engaged’ in or ‘actively disengaged’ from their work."
Extreme You is much more than a guide on “how to be successful”. It’s about how to become the best version of who you can be, contributing in a way that you are uniquely qualified to do. Sarah Robb O’Hagan was never a top student nor a top-tier athlete. Yet, she learned how to develop her “own average level of talent” into becoming a powerful business woman, with an impressive list of successes. She has been listed on Forbes “Most Powerful Women in Sports” and one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business”.
Sarah is an entertaining storyteller, relaying one story after another about her own epic failures and successes along with those of many others including Angela Ahrendts, Bode Miller, Will Dean, and Condolezza Rice. Her sense of humor and engaging style of writing make this a fun book to read, yet still full of excellent advice on developing your full potential.
The Big Idea
You can’t fear failure
"…game-plan around the failure you fear. In your mind, welcome the fears, get to know them. Once you play them out in your mind and get comfortable with how you would handle even worst-case scenarios, you’ll find you have not just more tactical ideas but waaaaay more confidence."
We all experience failure, in one way or another. Some people never learn how to handle the pain of failure. They let it stop themselves dead in their tracks and then they try to insulate themselves from further failure. But this is no way to live a full-out life, one where you are continually pushing yourself to become everything you are capable of becoming.
When you find yourself facing failure, here are some things you can do to get beyond it:
- Be very honest with yourself, and with the people you trust, about what happened, where you failed. Spend a bit of time, but not too much, grieving over your failure. Feel it then get over it.
- Journal about the failure. What did it really feel like to fail the way you did? Relive it as you get it all down on paper. In a study by University of California Psychology Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, people who used journaling to deal with painful things saw the biggest benefits when they “replayed the story in their writing rather than just analyzing it.”
- Get active. Start working toward your next goal. Positive steps toward a new goal will help you get beyond the pain and will have you focusing energy on that new goal.
Narrow your focus and find an equally narrow target audience
"It’s very different to turn your Extreme qualities into a breakthrough success. The secret to that kind of success, I’ve found, is specializing—in two different ways. On the one hand, to develop out of the broad range of your extreme skills and interests one narrow, specialized method or product or area of expertise, something that’s all yours. On the other hand, to find an equally narrow, specialized audience that absolutely needs and loves what you’ve got to offer."
Inventory your skills, knowledge, experience, passions. Which interests are calling you? Where can you narrow your focus and further develop your expertise? Then, how can you narrow your target audience? The products and businesses most likely to succeed, out of the thousands that are launched every year, are those that appeal to a small segment of the population. The most successful are those products that customers love or services they need to have done.
A perfect example of this idea is the story of Alli Webb and her business, Drybar. Her niche is salons that offer hair blowouts. No haircuts, no hair coloring. They blow your hair dry. Back in 2010, Alli inventoried her skills, what she loved to do and where she thought there was a market. She knew salons preferred to focus on higher-priced services like haircuts and hair coloring. When she began traveling to women’s homes and charging $40 for a blowout and had so much business she had to turn down customers, she knew she was on to something. She founded Drybar along with her husband and brother. Today they have over 70 locations and it’s a $100 million dollar business. A great example of a very narrow niche!
Rethinking your goals
"Sometimes you realize, when you’re halfway up a mountain, that you’ve given so much of your passion and energy to get there but it’s not the mountain you thought you were climbing. That’s a deeply sad, disorienting feeling. What should you do? Should you hold on in the hope that your feelings of frustration will pass? Should you settle for playing at less than your full potential?"
People can spend years pursuing a goal. But there may come a time when they realize that their heart isn’t in it anymore. They might be comfortable. They might have achieved a certain stature, level of income, satisfaction. Yet complacency isn’t part of the journey to becoming your “Extreme You”. When you know the goal isn’t right for you anymore, it’s time to reevaluate. Which goal would you be better off pursuing right now? It might mean that you will have to start all over, start at the bottom of the ladder, learn new things. But, along with all you’ve learned and done in the past, you’ll be adding new knowledge and skills and be closer to achieving your potential than if you stay “stuck” on the wrong goal.
What could YOU do next in your journey to become your “Extreme You”? What is something you are passionately interested in that you could learn more about? If fear is holding you back, can you think about worst case scenarios and how you could deal with them? Can you imagine what it would feel like to really become your “Extreme You” in this particular area?