From Lost to Legendary: The 6 Pillars of Hacking Human Potential

Written by Scott August 10, 2011

reach potential

“There are powers inside of you which, if you could discover and use, would make of you everything you ever dreamed or imagined  you could become.”

– Orison Swett Marsden

As it turns out, Living Your Legend is synonymous with Living Your Potential. That’s why we’re all here. So let’s start with a question:

Are you reaching your full potential?

It’s a question that haunts all of us from time to time. A question that casuses people to dream and act big, but also a question that forces people to do some of the most foolish things.

A reader recently came to me with this very problem. She didn’t feel like she was using everything she had. She genuinely enjoys what she’s doing and is damn good at it but feels like something is missing. Like she doesn’t use her brain as much as she’d like (as she put it). She mentioned going back to medical school or nursing school – something that had been on her mind since university.

She was starting to think a few years of school was the only way to solve the problem. This got me thinking…

Potential is nothing more than a feeling.

Realize that there are a million and one ways to experience it. It’s simply a feeling of adequacy and fulfillment with what you’re doing. That you’re using all the gifts and talents you have. Something only you can be the judge of.

Sure we often let others help us decide whether we feel fulfilled but at the end of the day it’s bull sh*t. It doesn’t matter if the world puts some certified genius on a pedestal for being a surgeon if the person knows deep down that they are only using half their brilliance.

Staying in your current role or traveling the typical path may keep others happy, but will it keep you happy? It’s doubtful. Sooner or later that feeling will get the best of you. The later you catch it, the harder it is to correct.

The good news is you can live your potential in just about anything you do.

If you know your mind is more sophisticated than your current work demands, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go get a PhD or become a neuroscientist. Maybe it means you take your excitement for fitness and cooking and turn it into a small academy to spread your passion and help people as much as you can. Then perhaps you license it out and create a movement.

Or maybe for you it just means finding one person close to you, who you know needs your guidance, and dedicating your time to them getting fit. That didn’t take 10 years of additional study and a few hundred grand. Instead you might experience your potential overnight.

For most it takes a lot less than you think.

It’s not about how big or small the dent is that you put in the world. All that matters is you make one.

Here’s a test for you. Which of the following is a good indication of whether you’re reaching your potential?

  1. You don’t use your unique talents on a daily basis to make a difference that you care about.
  2. You think others around you expect more from you.
  3. You spent 8 years learning and studying something specific and you aren’t using it.

Here’s a hint: #1 is all that matters.

The problem is most of us judge our lives, actions and value to society based on the second two (or reasons very similar).

Don’t do things just because you may have represented you wanted to do them in the past or because it will look good to others. So you were pre-med or passed the Bar. If you’ve since stumbled into something you happen to love doing and are damn good at, don’t penalize yourself because you’re not a doctor. And how many lawyers do you know who’ve gone rogue? More than I can count…

It’s about the feeling the activity brings. Not the activity itself.

As soon as you tune out the influence of others, you might find you’re already where you want to be.

Peak potential is more accessible than you realize. Here are a few places to start…

peak potential

How to start living your peak potential, right now:

1. Use your gifts to mentor someone. Maybe find a child who you can teach about nutrition (or whatever topic you deeply care about). Or a close friend or colleague who genuinely needs and wants the help. This may or may not be a part of your job currently. That’s fine. Helping people makes us come alive. That’s what we’re going for. Don’t have the extra time? Either create the time off hours or teach people while at the office, maybe over a brown bag lunch session or through a current project. Take the initiative to help people.

2. Live your strengths. If you’re a brilliant public speaker but spend your time 150 cells deep in an excel spreadsheet for 10 hours a day, sooner or later something is going to have to give. You cannot keep your superpowers suppressed forever. If you do, they’ll either disappear, you’ll be miserable or likely both. Instead of emailing your completed spreadsheet to your boss like usual, start sitting your colleagues at a table so you can present your findings. Impress them and before long you may become the go to communicator. Start to seek bigger stages. It’s impossible to reach your potential without giving your strengths daily respect.

3. Reach for something meaningful. Do the things you usually only think about. Stop telling yourself they’re impossible. It’s too easy to sit and sulk in a toxic life situation that doesn’t leverage who you are. People can end up sitting there for years not doing anything about it. Snap out of it. Launch that business, apply for that job or negotiate that promotion or new work schedule you’ve been dreaming about. You will never get anything if you don’t ask for it. When you do, you’ll likely get a lot more than you expected, especially if you deserve it. Step up, take it and feel freakin good about it!

For a little inspiration, check out this sweet 60-second video I stumbled on from Monster: Are you reaching your potential?

4. Find someone to do the work you don’t have to do. The goal is to spend as much of your time as possible doing what you’re uniquely good at. If 80% of your day is spent battling your calendar, fighting email and putting out small fires, you’re going to start pounding your head against the table. There is someone out there who thrives off of scheduling and admin work and is likely kick ass at it. It’s your job to find them so you don’t have to do the work that takes away from who you are.

Don’t tell me you want to save money and do it yourself. Not a good excuse. I used that one much too long and I assure you that if you find the right person to do the things in life that put your fire out, they will be worth a fortune to you in the extra time you have to create and be you (especially at $5-$30/hr which is what most people charge). As Jonathan Mead says, “every time I’ve hired someone, I’ve made more money.”

I’ll cover outsourcing more in future posts but for now you could check out my Elance article on outsourcing 101. And for a few good hiring resources check out Hire My Mom.

5. Listen to yourself first (i.e. stop doing things because other say so!). There are two ways to measure whether you’re reaching your potential: What other people tell us and what we think of ourselves. The second is the only one that matters. The first is meaningless. So why do so many people do things for other people and not for themselves?

This constant attempt to please others over ourselves is killing us. It’s not enough that your parents, friends or teachers believe you should do something. They may provide insight and reason to explore things but if you don’t want to do it then don’t. It’s pretty simple. We have to start doing the things that matter wholly to us. Get that right and they will matter a lot more to others.

6. Reframe your meaning. Most real questions of potential come from not feeling what we’re doing matters. So we need to redefine why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s time to start seeing the beauty of the forest instead of just the stump two feet in front of you. One person might just be laying bricks but the guy next to him is building a cathedral. Their day to day actions are identical but the meaning behind them is a world of difference.

You are not just crunching numbers, making sales or managing a workforce. Those are roles. Each of them contributes to a bigger vision. Find the vision that fuels you and you’ll immediately feel like you’re doing more your part. Chip Conley nailed this with his book and philosophy Peak. He’s got a killer TED talk too.

The intersection of talent, excitement and uncertainty is where your potential lies.

There is no one credential or job role that defines the above. That’s the beauty of it and that’s why it’s so possible to experience your potential on your terms, not someone else’s. You just have to be willing to work for it and want it badly enough.

Ask yourself daily ‘Is this my full potential’? Is what I’m doing right now putting my passionate dent in the world the way I know I could? If the answer is no for too many days in a row, it’s time for some disruption. Think of the smallest things you could do to make the answer to that question yes. The majority of the time it will not require a massive and drastic shift. If it does then embrace it. But first start small.

Live Your Legend is here to help you do the little things that will move mountains over time.

What shortcuts will allow you to experience your full potential? What uncertainties can you embrace? They are out there. They are everywhere. They take creativity but it’s worth it.

For a deep dive into uncertainty and how it harnesses potential and builds Living Legends, you gotta check out Jonathan Fields’ latest book and epic 60-second trailer, The Uncertainty Book (just released).

Experience your potential short term so you can live it long term.

The above are quick fixes. They are meant to create a spark. To reignite some excitement in what you’re currently doing – so you can then take that spark and light the world on fire. This is just the beginning.

Imagine a world where everyone lived at their full capacity. How insane would that be? Apply the above and use the new energy to do something epic. For some it may be a huge change and for others a slight shift. Either way it will make all the difference.

Remember it’s the spark that starts the forest fire.

You are the only one who can be the judge or your potential. Letting others dictate it will only get you into things you likely never wanted to do in the first place. It’s time to start doing things for the right reasons.

Potential can be reached any way you want. You get to decide.

How are you reaching yours?

What could you do right now to get you closer to your potential? Share in the comments (even if it’s just a sentence). 

If you haven’t yet, come join the community and get the free Passionate Work Toolkit. We are now over 60,000 strong!

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Image courtesy of my wife 😉 &  The Flannel Photographer
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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn