Summary: Big Potential By Shawn Achor
Summary: Big Potential By Shawn Achor

Summary: Big Potential By Shawn Achor

Surrounding Yourself with Positive Influencers

You can be a superstar; you just can’t be one alone. What you need is a star system: a constellation of positive, authentic influencers who support each other, reinforce each other, and make each other better.

The people around us matter—a lot. And while we can’t choose our family and we don’t get to pick all the people we work with, we CAN strategically choose to SURROUND ourselves with people who will give us a super bounce rather than knock us down.

It requires only three key steps:

STRATEGY #1: Tap into the power of positive peer pressure.

Strive to surround yourself with books, magazines, and other forms of the written word that uplift and inspire, instead of those that invite negativity into your life.

STRATEGY #2: Create balance through variety.

Biodiversity is the lifeblood of our relationships, and that the stronger and more diverse your network, the more support you’ll have in achieving your Big Potential

STRATEGY #3: Create reciprocal bonds.

To find people who are willing to be open, authentic, and giving, the greatest test is whether you are willing and able to be open, authentic, and giving yourself. And if you do find those super bouncers, hold tight because they are golden. The result will be not only greater potential for you but deeper and more meaningful relationships.


Leading from Every Seat

People who try to be superstars alone, who believe that they have the power to create change only if and when they occupy an “official” leadership role, will achieve only Small Potential. But when everyone in a system, no matter their official role or position, shares the work of creating change, there is virtually no limit to what can be achieved. We need to free ourselves from the tyranny of labels if we are to achieve Big Potential.

So many people believe that leadership is an individual sport—a burden to be shouldered alone. Yet, trying to carry all the leadership responsibility alone is the quickest path to burnout. What’s the solution?

EXPAND your definition of leadership and ownership so you can lead from whatever seat you are in, while also magnifying your power and influence by empowering others to do the same.

STRATEGY #1: Lead from the eleventh chair.

You must first recognize that you can create change wherever YOU are. If you’re an eleventh-chair cellist, you can offer your conductor suggestions that will elevate the performance of the entire orchestra. If you’re a student, you can shift the mood of the entire classroom for good or bad. If you are a middle manager, you can change how people you lead treat their kids after work by creating a culture of support instead of stress.

STRATEGY #2: Develop your Elevated Pitch.

Even parents can encourage their children to take more ownership, perhaps by asking them to take part in family decisions, or giving them a voice in what type of punishment or reward they should receive. Or you can “deputize” them by putting them in charge of watering the herbs you planted together or feeding the pets, or you can give older siblings a role in caring for younger ones.

STRATEGY #3: Use progress as fuel.

To sustain change, we must reward and reinforce people’s efforts to create change. If your child is learning to read, for example, you could keep a running list of all the books they have completed to remind them how rewarding reading a book cover to cover can feel. If your team decides to take on a volunteer project, you could bring data or photos to the next meeting reminding them of the impact of their work. Or, if your boss or manager entrusts you with a new project or account, you could show them exactly how your work contributed to bottom-line profits

STRATEGY #4: Lead from every lunch seat.

Helping others see the meaning in their personal lives and work lives does not diminish your own capacity for meaning; it magnifies it. And that meaning is what empowers us to lead.

When we are brave enough to expand power to others, suddenly we find that a huge weight is lifted off our shoulders, increasing our power to lift even heavier loads. And we can all inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, no matter what seat we are in.


Creating a Culture of Praise and Recognition

Some people treat praise like a limited commodity. They believe that the key to advancement and success must be to absorb and rack up as much recognition, admiration, and accolades as possible. This is the philosophy we learn in school, then hone to brutal efficiency in the working world. When we mistakenly believe success and recognition are zero-sum, everyone hoards recognition instead of giving it, we become starved for praise, and we eventually become misers of praise.

Yet what so many fail to recognize is that praise is actually a renewable resource. Praise creates a Virtuous Cycle—the more you give, the more you enhance your own supply. When done right, praise primes the brain for higher performance, which means that the more we praise, the more success we create. And the more successes there are, the more there is to praise.

STRATEGY #1: Stop comparison praise.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If we really want to enhance others, we must stop comparing.

STRATEGY #2: Spotlight the right.

Whether we run a cruise ship, a company, a classroom, or anything else, if we want to help others raise their performance and potential, we need to help them focus their attention on what they are doing right. Like light bending and refracting when coming in contact with a prism, when we deliver praise correctly, that praise is reflected right back in our direction, only magnified.

STRATEGY #3: Praise the base.

In the modern world, individual achievements have become passé. No single person makes computer chips with faster processing speeds, no single person invents a new drug, and no single person cures cancer. Going forward, the best discoveries and advances will be made by Star Systems, not individual superstars. We’d do well to keep this in mind when we dole out recognition and praise.

STRATEGY #4: Democratize praise.

A good leader praises the people who make success possible. A great leader does not merely praise other people, but, rather, turns other people into praise providers themselves.

STRATEGY #5: Don’t just praise the outcome; praise to an outcome.

For example, “You’d be such a great leader here because you care so much about the company.” Or “You’d make such a great asset to the crew team because you look so strong and athletic”. It acknowledges the beauty of future potential.


Protecting the System Against Attacks

We long for life to be perfect, both at work and at home. Surely we could experience more joy and achieve more success in a world where everything goes our way, everyone agrees with us, and work is always fun. And we get frustrated when these things do not occur.

We may not have the power to control the world, but we do have the power to DEFEND the good within it.

STRATEGY #1: Build a moat.

Building a moat doesn’t make negative influences disappear; it just keeps them temporarily at bay, giving you time to build your defenses against them.

STRATEGY #2: Build a mental stronghold.

In the military, a stronghold is a place the losing side will retreat to when things get bad; a well-stocked area that has been tightly secured in case of attack. A mental stronghold is a practice that creates a stockpile of mental reserves you can always fall back on in challenging circumstances. A daily practice of gratitude is one example of a mental stronghold.

STRATEGY #3: Learn the art of Mental Aikido.

Maybe that colleague who you think is intentionally slacking off is depressed or struggling with something in their personal life. Maybe that new acquaintance who you think is snubbing you is actually intimidated by you. When you catch yourself reaching for the most pessimistic solution to explain someone’s behavior, ask yourself if it’s possible that something entirely different might be going on

STRATEGY #4: Take a vacation from your problems.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, taking time away from your problems may actually help you reap one of the greatest competitive advantages that exist today.

STRATEGY #5: Pick your battles.

While it’s great to stay optimistic, if you’re truly unhappy and you have the means to change, don’t be a hero. Be honest with yourself. Instead of fighting a losing battle until the bitter end, why not pick a winnable one instead?


Creating Collective Momentum

Without some force helping you SUSTAIN momentum toward your goals, inertia and the world will slow you down. But when pulled by a positive force, you can easily collect more and more energy and momentum to propel yourself forward—at the same time increasing your power to pull others along.

Once we realize that our energy is interconnected, we see that the more you create across your ecosystem, the more potential you will unlock.

STRATEGY #1: Generate more positive energy by creating Tours of Meaning.

Energy alone is not enough to propel us toward Big Potential. If we want to sustain the momentum we have created, we also need a clear direction

STRATEGY #2: Use Vivid Direction to generate a path for that energy to flow.

One of the most effective and well-studied ways to vividly envision our future is to write about it. The act of consciously crafting your narrative of an event—past or future—directs our energy toward it.

STRATEGY #3: Accelerate the momentum you have created through the power of celebration

Celebration is the oxygen of Big Potential. And if we want to sustain the gains we have achieved, we need to keep breathing it in. We need to remember that whatever seat we sit in, we have the power to create change worth celebrating.