Potential is one of the “must-haves” I look for in candidates, but potential alone is NOT a good predictor of success. It’s positively crazy-making when you look at the number of people with exceptional potential who never fulfill it. They never figure out how to translate the gifts they were born with into anything real, and often go through life wondering why no one ever gave them a chance. Please…
The reality is that in life and in work, you have to create your own opportunity. Period. I don’t care how talented you are…there is no excuse to not figure out what you really want and do what you need to get there. Potential alone might get you hired in your twenties, but if by the time you are thirty your potential hasn’t materialized into results? Trust me, you will have A LOT of explaining to do. And by the way, nothing is more depressing than seeing a talented twenty-something turn into a deadbeat, dreamy loser by their late thirties with nothing but feeble excuses.
And don’t even get me started on the excuses…an excuse is potential’s pathetic, enabling friend. I mean, come on. Does it even make logical sense? Oh, poor you – “They” just won’t give you a chance. You “deserve” some great opportunity to just fall in your lap. Sorry, it’s not “them” creating your reality, it’s you. Just like there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as any kind of real success without hard work and discipline.
Read the biography of any great CEO or entrepreneur and you will see very distinct keys to their success. They are so obvious, you’ve got to be blind to miss them. Great careers, great businesses, great leaders wouldn’t have gotten there without these three things: 1. potential, 2. focus and discipline, and 3. unwavering stick-to-it-ness.
So how to you build the bridge from potential to success? First, you need to think like a successful person. Successful people do a good job because doing anything less just feels wrong – doing their best is a part of their DNA. They continually work to exceed their own highest standards. It’s not about the actual job they are doing at all…it is about doing a good job at being the most exceptional version of themselves.
The saying “Fake it til you make it” has never been more true. No matter what job you are in today, do it to the best of your ability – to your very highest personal standard. Even if you hate the job, think of this as strength training. Discipline and focus are habits that can be learned and they are an essential part of the success formula. Smart, less-talented people know this and work harder to compensate for the potential they don’t have. I promise, changing jobs won’t mean a thing until you learn how to do this. And what better place to learn from your mistakes than in a job you don’t want? No one ever feels bad about putting in solid work. Give it your all and just go for it. It will become a “highly successful habit” that will help you excel in your next position.
Potential is not only a gift, but a responsibility. You just don’t have the right to play the blame game. It is your responsibility to bring your unique value to the world. If you were blessed with talent or potential, you owe it to yourself, and honestly, everyone else to do something with it. Potential is really only something of value if you back it up with the substance to achieve success. People overcome incredible odds…disability, abuse, personal tragedies, and worse to become gold medalists, change-makers, captains of industry…You control where your life goes, not the other way around. Take the reigns here. You have more control than you think!