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Reaching Your Potential

https://hbr.org/2008/07/reaching-your-potential

hbr.org

Reaching Your Potential
Fulfillment doesn’t come from clearing hurdles others set for you; it comes from clearing those you set for yourself.

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The questions to ask for success

The questions to ask for success

Ambitious professionals often spend much time thinking about strategies that will enable them to reach greater levels of success. But, despite their accomplishments, they still lack a true sense of professional fulfillment and are often deeply frustrated with their careers.

The question to ask is not how to reach the top, but rather to take a personal look at how you define success, and then finding your path to get there.

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Managing your career is your responsibility

To define success for yourself, you must take a step back and reassess your career. It starts with acknowledging that managing it is your responsibility.

Taking control requires you to take a fresh look at your behaviour in three areas:

  • Knowing yourself
  • Excelling at critical tasks
  • Demonstrating character and leadership

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Knowing yourself and your skills

Taking responsibility for your career starts with an accurate assessment of your current skills.

  • Write down your three greatest strengths and your three most significant weaknesses. This requires reflection and seeking the views of people who won't mind telling you the truth. It takes a willingness to confront your weaknesses, fears, and blind spots.
  • Figure out what you genuinely enjoy doing. Then ask how well it matches what you currently do. Loving what you do gives you the strength to weather personal setbacks, overcome adversity, face and address your weaknesses, and work long hours required to reach your full potential.

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Excelling at critical tasks

It isn't easy to succeed if you don't excel at the tasks that are central to your chosen field.

Many executives can't identify the three of four main activities that lead to success in their business. The ability to identify critical tasks helps you determine how to spend your time and develop your skills.

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Demonstrating character and leadership

Character and leadership often separate the good performance from the great performance.

One measure of character is the degree to which you put the interests of your company and colleagues ahead of your own. Excellent leaders coach and mentor. They will make recommendations to benefit the company, even if the actions may not be in their own short-term interest. They are willing to speak up and realize they can hit a plateau by playing it safe.

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Authenticity has become a mark for leadership

Authenticity has become a mark for leadership

An oversimplified understanding of what it means to be transparent can prevent your growth and limit your influence. When we feel out of our comfort zone, we can often use authenti...

Why leaders struggle with authenticity

  • In trying to improve our game, a firm sense of self is a compass, but when we want to change our game, a too rigid self-concept can prevent us from moving forward.
  • In global business, we often work with people who don't share our cultural norms. They may have a different expectation for how we should behave than what feels authentic.
  • In today's world of connectivity, how we present ourselves is a critical aspect of leadership. We have to carefully curate a persona and that can clash with our private sense of self.

Leadership styles

There are two ways in which leaders develop their personal styles:

  1. High self-monitors are naturally able to try on different styles until they find a good fit for themselves. They adapt to the demands of a situation without feeling fake. They care about managing their public image and may mask their vulnerability.
  2. True-to-selfers tend to express what they really think and feel, even when it is counter to situational demands. It may make people question their ability to do the job.

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Skill 1 x Skill 2 x Skill 3 = Ability

If you lack a skill, you'll lack ability. If you have a zero anywhere in your equation, no amount of strengths will make up for it.

For instance, in Business, you will need Sales/Marketi...

The 80/20 approach vs. 10,000 hours rule

  • The 80/20 method: You can get 80 % proficiency in a subject in about 6 - 12 months.
  • The 10,000-hour rule: You can become an expert at something if you spend 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on it. 

To go from zero to 80% (good enough) requires a different approach than that needed to get from 80% - 99% (world-class). The last 20% also requires a different level of commitment. For instance, Stephen King spent 6 - 8 hours daily for ten years before he succeeded as a commercial writer.

The people at the top

The gains disproportionately accrue to people at the topStephen King probably sells more books than the rest of his category combined.

Being good at many things probably means that you are at 80% of your potential in all of them. It is not enough to stand out. 

Pick a very few things to tackle through the 10,000-hour rule and try and reach 99% of your potential in them.

Specialize

Every field has its standards. Once you’ve got the basics down, reach for a lesser known—but still needed at your office—skill or competency.

Embrace conflict

Don’t create unnecessary conflict with your co-workers, but don’t run from it, either. See it as an opportunity to better understand someone you’ll be spending 40 hours a week around. 

Chances are, the other person will respond the same way. Goodwill is taken for granted less often than you might think.

Ask for help

At first, asking for help might sound like the opposite of creating your own opportunities. 

Opportunities are tied to personal relationships. Consider the Ben Franklin effect: By asking someone for a small favor, you endear them to yourself. The reason is that, when you help someone, your brain rationalizes your actions by assuming that you must like that person.