“When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that’s when passion is born.”
– Zig Ziglar, American author and motivational speaker
There’s a story I enjoy sharing whenever I speak to people about unleashing their potential.
In his 1993 book, “You’re Born an Original, Don’t Die a Copy,” John Mason shares the story of a young boy who lost his left arm in a car accident. When he was 10 years old, the boy decided to enroll in judo classes with a Japanese master.
After three months, the sensei had taught the boy only one move. One day, the boy asked him, “Sensei, when are you going to teach me more moves?” He replied, “That move is all you need to know.”
The boy didn’t understand, but he trusted the judo master and kept on training. A few months later the sensei decided to enter the boy in a tournament. He won the first two rounds, surprising not only himself, but also many other people.
As the day went on, the boy won round after round until he reached the finals. He was up against a bigger, stronger and more experienced opponent. At one point, it looked as if the match was too one-sided and the referee wanted to stop it. The sensei insisted that they continue.
Then the bigger boy made a critical mistake, and his opponent used the only move he knew to pin him down. The boy had won the match and the tournament – he was the champion.
Turning Weakness Into Strength
On their way home, the boy asked the sensei how he was able to win with only one arm, knowing only one move. The sensei told him that there were two important factors that played a role.
“First, you mastered one of the most difficult throws in judo. Second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab you by your left arm.”
Upon meeting the boy, the judo master immediately saw how he could unleash the boy’s potential by turning his biggest weakness into his biggest strength.
Based on the story, I’d like to ask you two questions:
1. If you were the boy with one arm, would you have enrolled for judo lessons? In other words, would you have given yourself the chance to explore and unleash your potential despite an obvious drawback?
2. If you were the judo master, would you have accepted a boy with only one arm as a student? In other words, how do you look at people as a leader or manager: do you see their shortcomings, or do you see the potential behind the shortcomings?
Unleashing Potential in Ourselves and Others
Believing in your abilities, and being disciplined enough to follow through on a decision, might help you to reach your potential. Believing in others, supporting them, and providing them with the right tools might help them to reach theirs.
During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last week, we discussed unleashing potential in ourselves and others. Here are the questions we asked and some of the responses:
Q1. How do you know what your potential is?
@DreaVilleneuve Your potential is limitless. Your commitment to discovering it needs to be, too.
@SayItForwardNow Our potential is linked to our ability to learn new skills, and our belief in ourselves.
Q2. What holds you back from reaching your full potential?
Sometimes we find ourselves in an environment where we aren’t encouraged to unleash our potential. That aside, it seems we are often our own worst enemies.
@SaifuRizvi Our laid-back attitude holds us back from reaching our full potential.
@KrisGiere Many things can contribute to holding back our potential: a deficit mindset, shunning our authentic selves, and an overreliance on external praise, among others.
Q3. What difference would it make to your life and career if you unleashed your potential?
The central theme that emerged here was that unleashing your potential definitely improves your life and career. What’s more, it has a positive impact on the people around you.
@maat333 That’s the beautiful thing: you can’t know it beforehand, but it will surely improve your life in every aspect… and it will also be good for others and society. Of course, we are talking about good potential!
@OliviaGriffinMA Unleashing your potential can make an enormous positive impact, not only on an individual’s life, but on the world around them as well. We inspire people more than we realize when we take that path.
@harrisonia When others recognize and appreciate your greatness, it helps strengthen your confidence. Being unleashed helps the individual AND others.
Q4. What help do you need to unleash your potential?
@PG_pmp You need the right coach or mentor to guide you, and to help you realize the capabilities you possess.
@ZalkaB I try to take every opportunity life puts in my path as a tool to work on my potential and growth. Also friends, family, colleagues, Twitter chat friends, online connections, inspiring talks, books, and podcasts.
And thanks for this beautiful thought, @GThakore: “You need a happy mind, healthy hands and a hateless heart.”
Q5. What’s the link between a person’s purpose and potential?
Everyone who responded felt that purpose and potential are inextricably linked: one fuels the other.
@Midgie_MT With a clear sense of purpose, we can head in a straight line toward our goals and stretching our potential. Purpose helps us to deviate less from our goals.
@SanabriaJav One’s purpose is the vision and/or mission they have for themselves. To accomplish that, an individual needs the skills, qualities and support to achieve the mission. If they link up, the potential is there.
Q6. How does the external environment impact a person’s ability to unleash her/his potential?
@MicheleDD_MT Roadblocks that prevent people from achieving their full potential – poison work cultures, bosses that keep their people “small” to make themselves look good, environments where failure is punished.
@s_narmadhaa A positive environment believes in us even when we don’t. It sees our potential and helps us seek it despite our insecurities. A doubtful environment only dampens our spirit.
Q7. What might “unleashing potential” actually look like for a person?
@Yolande_MT The detail won’t be the same for everybody, but it’s about becoming the best possible version of you.
@DrRossEspinoza Giving yourself permission to be on the road to fulfilling your purpose.
@KobusNeethInst Doing something bigger than you thought you could do. Doing something that scares you, and doing it well.
Q8. How can you support employees to help them reach their full potential?
@Mphete_Kwetli Be there for them. Share the success of winning. Give them room for improvement and give credit where it’s due.
@TwisterKW Ask questions. Listen. Remove barriers. Offer tools. Challenge them. Celebrate with them. Give feedback. Be available. Be honest. Believe.
Q9. What are the benefits of unleashing the potential of your team, and/or the organization?
@carriemaslen When a team performs at peak potential, you’ll see teamwork, employee engagement, job satisfaction, and the ability to solve complex challenges together.
@JusChas Unselfish growth and opportunities for your team to be the best they are capable of. Even if you lose them. Those members will forever credit you for their success.
@MaryEllenGrom Innovation. Engagement. Collaboration. Creativity. Satisfaction. SUCCESS!
Q10. What can you do differently tomorrow to start unleashing your own potential, and to help others reach theirs?
@yehiadief Making sure that I realize how deeply my own actions affect me.
@MarcyLField Allow my light to shine. Doing so gives others permission and hopefully motivation to let theirs shine. Just imagine how that light would drive back the darkness.
@thevijaymahajan Set small goals and achieve them. By adopting these habits, you can start reaching your full potential. And in the end, it all comes down to believing that nothing can stop you from achieving what you want to do. The only thing holding you back is yourself.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat, here.
We’d like every workplace to be happy and healthy, and a place where everyone has equal opportunities. But, unfortunately, sexism is still alive and well. In our poll this week, we’d like to know which type of sexism you most often experience or observe in the workplace. Click here to cast your vote.
In the meantime, here are some resources that will help you to learn more about unleashing potential in yourself and others:
Managing High Achievers
How to Stop Procrastinating
Coping Under Pressure
Dweck’s Fixed and Growth Mindsets
Members of the Mind Tools Club can also access the full versions of the following articles: