the myth of your potential

I'm glad for a friendship I formed a few years back with Brian Dowd, a personal and professional coach who heads up Next Step Leadership. In an article he wrote last year, he really nails the idea of "potential" and common myths that go along with it.


An acorn is the picture of potential. A tiny acorn that isn't even the length of a paperclip can take root and, over a number of years, grow into an enormous oak tree. That tree is thousands of times larger than the size of the original acorn and produces countless more acorns.

As developing leaders, we may look at the giants around us, other leaders who are oak trees to our acorn. Like the acorn, we can acknowledge the potential that lies within and aspire to become that oak tree. Potential holds power.

Unfortunately, the reality of potential is often accompanied by three myths. These myths undo the possibility of reaching that potential.

Myth 1: Your potential will inevitably be reached.

There is no doubt that you have great potential. There is plenty of doubt that you will reach that potential.

It is likely that you have a grasp of your potential, an idea of what you can and want to be in the future. But between where you are now and reaching that potential has risks and obstacles in the way. These risks and obstacles derail the path to potential more often than leaders care to admit.

What is needed is a plan, perseverance and preparation for what is to come in order to reach your potential.

Myth 2: Your potential lies along your current path.

You have a number of different abilities and talents. What you are good at may not be where your potential genius is. Do you have a sense that you could be more, do more or have more? The difference between good, great and genius is remarkable. You have the potential to be a genius when you do your best stuff and that is the path towards your greatest potential. Does your current path point you towards genius? If not, you're potential points elsewhere.

Myth 3: Your potential exists independently of other people.

Leaders that operate at less than their potential do too much on their own. In order to operate as a genius, you will need others around you to complement you where you aren't a genius.

An author needs a publisher, an athlete needs an agent and every product needs promotion. You may be able to do it all yourself, but your potential is not in every aspect.

Refuse to be a jack of all trades so you can be a master where your potential lies. Wherever your potential lies, it will need the involvement of others to help you go the distance.

As a coach, I work with leaders on their way to be the future giants, the big oak trees. I'm working with several directors in a telecommunication company right now that expects to be twice as big in two years. These leaders have the potential to manage twice as much responsibility, but they see the need to develop that potential now, before they get behind the curve. Each of these directors have unique potential and I'm helping them on their unique path to get there by working on their Development Plans.

Your potential and path to get there is unique. The need to actively develop that potential is universal. Don't wait until the need is overbearing.

Potential needs to be developed, targeted and complemented with the involvement of others. You can be like a giant oak tree if you reach your potential.

My Next Step:

1. What is something you can do to develop your potential this week?

2. What do you do that is great with the potential to be genius? How can you align your efforts more in that direction?

3. Who does or can help further your efforts towards reaching your potential?

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