Forward thinking: Growing to your full potential

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Think with me for just a moment…

Did you ever know someone who was especially good at something? Perhaps he/she was an outstanding singer. Or perhaps that person had a unique ability to get others to talk about themselves. Let’s stop there for a moment.

Have you ever known someone who should’ve risen to the top… but didn’t? All the evidence would seem to indicate that they had all the talent they should ever need, but they still didn’t succeed.

Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson must have known people like that. He is quoted as saying, “Talent for talent’s sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in the cause of universal truth lifts the possessor to a new power as a benefactor.” In case you are wondering, a “bauble” is an attractive toy or trinket that is useless or of no value.

So is talent ever enough? No. Absolutely not. My observation has been that in the beginning, talent separates you from the rest of the pack. But the advantage it gives you lasts only a short time.

Years ago, I found myself in agreement with the songwriter Irving Berlin. He understood this truth when he said, “The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success. Talent is only a starting point in any business or endeavor. You’ve got to keep working that talent.”

In other words, too many talented people who start with an advantage over others lose that advantage because they rest on their talent instead of raising it.

They assume that talent alone will keep them out front. But it takes more than just talent to succeed.

Over the years, I have talked with multiple mentors. I’ve read dozens of books and hundreds of articles about what one should do if he/she wants to succeed. If you want to succeed, I share with you what I have observed and believe it takes to be a success.

Find your “Strength Zone”

People have equal value, but not equal talent. Some people seem to be blessed with a multitude of talent. Most of us have fewer. But know this: All of us have something that we can do well.

A number of years ago, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton wrote a book entitled Now, Discover Your Strengths. They stated that every person is capable of doing something better than the next ten thousand people. They called this area the ”strength zone.” And they encouraged everyone to find it and make the most of it. It doesn’t matter how aware you are of your abilities, how you feel about yourself, or whether you previously have achieved success. You have talent, and you can develop that talent.

Develop the talent you have, not the one you want.

If I were to ask you who would be more successful, the person who relies on his talent alone or the person who realizes his talent and develops it, the answer would be obvious. So I ask you, why do most people spend the majority of their time focused on strengthening their weaknesses? And I have been just as guilty as the next person over the years.

If I could persuade you of just one thing in this column, it would be to stop working on your weaknesses and start working on your strengths. It has been my observation that people can increase their ability in an area by almost two points on a scale of one to 10. So, if you find yourself at seven, you have the potential to become a nine, maybe even a 10. That brings me to my next point.

Make choices that will add value to your talent.

So, what creates the effectiveness that is necessary for converting talent into long lasting results? Answer: the key choices you make – apart from the natural talent you already have – will set you apart from others who have talent alone.

Orator, attorney and political leader William Jennings Bryan said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” I personally believe that and have found it to be true in my life.

Recognize key truths to maximize your talent.

As an adult, I have discovered several key truths that have helped me and can help you to maximize your talent. Read slowly and carefully:

Belief lifts your talent.
Passion energizes your talent.
Initiative activates your talent.
Focus directs your talent.
Preparation positions your talent.
Practice sharpens your talent.
Perseverance sustains your talent.
Courage tests your talent.
Teachability expands your talent.
Character protects your talent.
Relationships influence your talent.
Responsibility strengthens your talent.
Teamwork multiples your talent.

Make these choices and you can become a talent-plus person who does not just rely on their inborn talent, but makes choices in life that develop their talent to the fullest potential. It is truly life transforming.

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make, makes you. And one of the most important choices you make is who you will become! Take an inventory of your God-given talent. Then start making the right choices that will empower you to become the person you were meant to be!

In closing, I ask you… are you one of those people who spends the majority of your time focusing on strengthening your weaknesses? If so why?

Over the years, automotive tycoon Henry Ford became well known for his insightful comments about life. One in particular stands out in my mind. Mr. Ford is credited with the observation that, “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you are right again–you won’t be able to.”

I have found myself pondering Mr. Ford’s observation many times over my life.
In some instances, I found myself applying it to my own life. On other occasions, I observed it in the lives of relatives, friends and professional colleagues.

My conclusion is there is a faint discernible dividing line that separates achievers from dreamers. At first glance this line may be difficult to discern.

You may be tricked into believing that talents, titles or available resources draw the line between the doers and the dreamers.

However, if you spend a significant length of time with a particular group, the line splitting the achievers from the dreamers will be become crystal clear – it’s having a can-do attitude!

Being a self-appointed student of human behavior, I have concluded there are several keys to cultivating a can-do attitude. Allow me to share ten observations and my conclusion – feel free to agree or disagree as you read along.

Key no. 1: Disown your helplessness

Can-do people aggressively pursue solutions, and in the process uncover creative solutions others never even try to find. Can-do people take responsibility for the future, whereas less motivated people blame circumstance or other people when facing roadblocks. Rather than wallowing in helplessness, can-do people search diligently to overcome the obstacles in front of them. Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 2: Take the bull by the horns

Can-do people are fearless. They go straight to the source of their solution. Their very effort commands attention as they wrestle a problem to the ground with expediency. I have discovered people with a can-do attitude have an aggressiveness about them – this turns a lot of folks off. Nevertheless, when they enter into the arena of action, they don’t wait; they initiate. Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 3: Enter the no-whining zone

Can-do people abstain from complaining. They recognize its futility. They guard their minds and mouths against indulging in time-wasting activity. As George Washington Carver once observed, “Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses. As my father used to say to me, “Loren, an excuse is nothing more than a skin of reason stuffed with a lie!” Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 4: Put on another’s “pair of shoes”

Can-do people empathize with others. They attempt to see any predicament from the other person’s perspective in order to make the best decisions. This is particularly true of leaders who use their own perspective to give direction, and they use others to forge relational connections. In short, both direction and connection are indispensable to taking the team/group on a successful journey. Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 5: Nurture your passion

Can-do people are immune to burnout. I did not misspeak. They love what they do because they’ve learned how to fuel the fire that keeps them moving. The prize is not given to the person who’s smartest, nor to the person with advantages in resources and position. Rather the prize goes to the person with passion. Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 6: Walk the second mile

Can-do people exceed expectations. While others settle for an acceptable solution (just getting by). Can-do people are not satisfied until they have achieved the unimagined. They set expectations for themselves higher than what is dictated by the people or situations around them. Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 7: Quit stewing and start doing

Can-do people take action. While others are crippled by worry, fear and anxiety, they have the fortitude to press forward. The perfect moment when all is safe and assured may never arrive, so why wait for it? Can-do people take calculated risks. Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 8: Go with the flow

Can-do people can adjust to change. They do not get caught griping about an unexpected curve in the road – and there are usually several. They accept transition with an optimistic outlook. They realize it’s less important what happens to them, than it is what happened in them. Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 9: Follow through to the end

Can-do people not only initiate, they finish. They are self-starters with the capacity to finish the deal. Do you agree or disagree?

Key no. 10: Expect a return as a result of your commitment

If you make an all-out commitment with a can-do attitude, expect a return. Passionate commitment is contagious, and resources follow resolve. Committed people will reap rewards and find open doors as others are drawn to the excitement and energy emanating from them. Do you agree or disagree?

In summary, achievers have a can-do attitude that sets them apart from mere dreamers.

Achievers are sold out to success – no matter the obstacles – and they are willing to put forth the effort and pay the price of success and accomplishment.

So, I ask you, are you an achiever or a mere dreamer?

Just remember, if you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you are right again, you won’t be able to!

Until next time…

Loren (1)–By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 35 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years and is currently a member of the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. Loren works as a consultant, writer, speaker and trainer. He is currently a member of the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation.

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