Straightaway, let me begin with a question:
If there were absolutely no constraints upon you, external or internal, what is the limit to your potential?
Please pause here…and take a moment to reflect on this question. No constraints upon you. No limits, self-imposed or otherwise. No impediments. The world is your oyster. What is the limit to your potential as a financial advisor (and as a person)?
I’m a professional coach. In my career, I’ve coached more than 1,000 financial advisors. Here’s what I believe: Every advisor is unique and brings distinctive skills and qualities to any situation. Within every advisor are “seeds of greatness,” potential for breakthrough success that goes far past their prior performance. It is also my observation that when we reduce and remove all of the obstructions that prevent us from being what we are justly capable of, the limits to our potential are truly boundless.
Of course, this is the essence of coaching—guiding others to go far, far, beyond what they’ve historically accomplished. Countless books are focused on this topic. Entire careers have been predicated on this belief that we all have the potential for accomplishing so much more (I’m thinking of Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar, and so on).
So…how does this happen?, you may be asking yourself. How can I make my “impossible dreams” possible? What techniques can I use to unlock my “boundless” hidden potential? And can I learn this in 2,000 words or less? Spoiler Alert! You can’t—it doesn’t work that way.
Here’s the thing about achieving your hidden potential. More than likely, it won’t be accomplished with one simple technique. Look at it this way. If it were possible to distill how to achieve your hidden potential down to one or two techniques, one of the many brilliant coaches who have gone before me would have figured it out, written his/her masterful book on the topic, purchased a yacht that would make even Donald Trump speechless, and sailed off into the sunset, smiling all the way to the bank.
Achieving your hidden potential is not about techniques. It’s a frame of mind.
Paul Walker was an advisor who had never given a presentation in front of an audience. Ever. He wasn’t especially phobic about giving presentations. It just never entered his mind that this was something that he wanted, or was able, to do. One day, Paul was presented with an opportunity to speak to an audience composed of exactly the sort of people who he loved to work with.
Can you imagine your absolutely positively “ideal client”? How about an auditorium filled with 1,000 of them? That’s who would be in Paul’s audience. There were just two hitches. First, Paul had to convince the organizers of the event that he could present to a group of 1,000 bigwigs—even though he had never presented before and the organizers knew that he hadn’t. Second, he had just ten minutes of presentation time.
Surprisingly, Paul got past the first hurdle. He got on the agenda. And with two months to prepare, he set about creating and practicing his presentation. He spent 100+ hours at the reference library, researching his topic to the point of becoming a bona fide expert. He whittled his presentation down to 12 powerful slides, each of which told a potent story by itself. And he practiced and practiced. Did he ever! Each day, he rehearsed his presentation once, twice, and thrice, until he knew it down cold. It got to the point where Paul would fall asleep at night with the presentation ringing in his head. By the big day, Paul had made a point of practicing this presentation more than 100 times.
When Paul bounded out to the center of the stage, he was nervous but quietly confident. As he launched into his presentation, he knew that he had it. The audience was smiling, laughing, and fully engaged. As was Paul. And when he reached the end, after a moment of brief silence, the audience exploded in cheers. Paul had killed it, and he knew it.
Ten years later, strangers still come up to Paul and ask, “Didn’t I see you…?” Recently, one woman came up to Paul and related how she had been in the audience and remembers sitting alone in her seat and being completely overcome with emotion and sobbing because Paul’s message was so resonant with her. To this day, she still tears up when she recollects what Paul said during that eventful ten minutes.
What happened to Paul?
How was he able to transform himself from a person devoid of any experience whatsoever as a presenter to someone whose message still reverberates 10 years after the fact?
I don’t know if I can fully explain what happened to Paul—what allowed him to become marvelously proficient at a skill in a few short months. I do know this, though: It wasn’t just one technique, nor a silver bullet, nor a magical answer that did it. More likely, it was a combination of building three essential qualities that enabled Paul to reach his hidden potential of being a masterful communicator. These qualities are: awareness, responsibility, and self-belief.
Awareness is the product of focused attention, concentration, and clarity. Like our eyesight and hearing, there are infinite degrees of awareness. Unlike sight and hearing, where the norm is typically pretty good, the norm of our everyday awareness is quite poor. While awareness includes seeing and hearing what is going on around us, it also encompasses much more than that. It encompasses gathering and clearly perceiving the relevant facts and information—and the ability to determine what’s relevant.
When it comes to identifying our hidden potential, our awareness turns inward as self-awareness. In particular, this is recognizing when and how much of our innate talents and passions exist deep down within ourselves…and how much these skills are embodied in our daily work.
In Paul Walker’s instance, he realized that part of him really liked to perform. He viewed his presentation as much as a performance as it was a speech. This enabled Paul to access never-before-used cleverness that allowed him to engage his audience in a much different manner.
It might be obvious, but self-awareness is the necessary and sufficient forerunner to finding our hidden potential. To get the best out of ourselves, we must perceive that the best is still inside of us. We are all capable of being better and doing more, yet not all of us quite believe it. Self-awareness triggers the curiosity, desire, and belief that activates our quest for self-improvement.
When it comes to finding our hidden potential, it is wholly our responsibility, and we must act accordingly. Most likely, you are nodding your head when you read this. This is intuitively obvious, right? It makes absolute sense that the ultimate accountability for your successful and fulfilling work-life resides with you. However, are your thinking and actions consistent with this understanding?
Here’s a quick self-test.
When you assess your overall career, what do you regret?
If you spend a lot of time thinking about “what might have been,” you are not alone. But here’s the fascinating thing about regret. Studies show that the regret that we produce in our brain is produced spontaneously with a very practical goal…to guide us toward improvement. Beyond this, our brains produce the most regret about things in our life…that we can still change! Neal Roese, one of the leading researchers on regret, considers regret as a flashing signal that is telling us, “It’s not too late!” In his view, regret is not a bad thing, but a golden opportunity to change what disappoints us.
And the responsibility for making this change rests completely within ourselves, and nowhere else.
Mark Twain has a marvelous quote about self-belief. He said, “All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, then success is sure.” In Paul Walker’s case, he didn’t know any better. He didn’t know that it was not “reasonable” to expect that he could become an instant expert and skilled orator/performer in a matter of a few short months’ time. Yet, after 200+ hours of research and practice, he became that person. Indeed, Walker reports that he became so immersed in the presentation that he virtually embodied the persona of a completely different character as he took command of the stage.
Your hidden potential is patiently waiting
Your hidden potential could be any number of things. It could be what you perceive as “impossible.” It might be the uniqueness that makes you…you. It might well be better health and physical fitness, higher job performance, more loving relationships, greater serenity and happiness…or whatever you could potentially accomplish and achieve during your life, but haven’t yet.
But, here’s the thing regarding your hidden potential. “It” is very, very patient. “It” can wait an entire lifetime before you tap into it. In fact, “it” doesn’t really care if you have under-used “it,” forgotten about “it,” or never have even known that “it” existed.
Whether or not you ever meet what you are truly capable of is an open question. But, it’s never too late. And, it’s 100% your choice.
Alright…early on, I asked you to consider what you think the limits to your potential might be. Any idea, yet?
It’s completely OK if you’re still unclear in your response. To be fair, a more reasonable question might be, “Do you perceive that your “best,” whatever that might be, is still inside of you…even if you don’t know what and where it is, and how to get it out?”
If your answer is “Yes!” that is good. (It’s also utterly fine if your response is “No”.) As a coach, I am captivated by this topic, which I will address from multiple angles and perspectives in upcoming articles.