Hacking Your Future is a free weekly memo that provides readers with practical and applicable tips for uncovering their future success. Readers are challenged to re-imagine their personal and professional narratives, goals, and objectives, and re-invent their lives and work in a manner consistent with their new vision of the future.
This week’s focal point: Shortly after finishing my undergraduate degree I followed my soon-to-be-wife to Oxford, UK, where I worked in a local bike shop while she spent a year as a visiting student. I recall a heated debate between two of my co-workers regarding lung capacity and whether training can increase it. One of my co-workers pointed out that it is impossible to increase lung capacity, but you could increase the amount of potential actualized within the bounds of that capacity. This conversation eventually drew in customers who had stopped in for a quick repair, and as you can imagine, the capacity for pontification and debate in Oxford extends well beyond the classrooms and college courtyards. As the debate continued, it became clear that to increase or grow one’s physical capacity is, for all intents and purposes, impossible (you cannot change the size of your lungs). While you can certainly improve the condition and functioning of your lungs, a person’s physical potential is to a large degree limited by fixed predetermined genetic boundaries.
Fortunately, our potential for professional success is not so fixed. Although some may disagree, I believe our personal and professional growth potential is not limited to the boundaries of our profession, our niche in the market, or our position in a company. If we were to reframe the previous discussion about capacity and potential in terms of personal and professional growth, we would be having a much different conversation. Our potential for professional success is based on our current capacity to provide exceptional value where a market need exists; therefore, we can exceed our potential by simply growing our capacity to provide value. This may sound simple, but so often leaders and companies neglect to do this.
Because we allow external forces, such as the market, competitors, and public policy, to dictate the boundaries of our success, most individuals and organizations will never reach their full potential. However, there are those rare individuals and organizations that do realize their potential, evidenced by their place in the market and their ability to provide valuable products, services, and solutions. But even they are limited if their growth capacity does not continue to increase and evolve into new market space. Then, there is a third type of leader and organization even more rare, who consistently exceed their potential by creating new markets and driving the demand for their products and services. In a 1989 interview with Inc. Magazine, Steve Jobs commented, “You can’t just ask the customer what they want and then try to give it to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” That statement is more relevant today then it was almost 25 years ago.
The rate of change we are experiencing in the 21st Century demands exceptional leaders and organizations that have the foresight and ability to stay ahead of the needs and demands of society, pushing market boundaries and forcing new growth in areas once thought impossible. In order for you and your organization to exceed your potential and ensure your future relevance, it is imperative that you think beyond your next quarter and begin thinking about your next quarter century.
Tip of the week: The best way to increase your capacity and exceed your potential is to invest in your own personal and professional development. By adding new skill sets and competencies either to yourself or within your organization, you dramatically increase your chances to break into new markets and stay ahead of the competition.
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