March 1, 2024

22 gems from "Hidden potential" by Adam Grant

Understand more about what potential truly is and how to uncover hidden potential in yourself and others.

I devoured “Hidden potential” by Adam Grant and it has transformed a fundamental idea linked to potential. Potential is not a matter of where you are, but of how far you travel. Considering the distance one has traveled prompted me to reflect on my own journey and the distance that I’ve traveled and how far I’ve come.

This is your invitation to grab Adam Grant’s book and understand more about what potential truly is and how to uncover hidden potential in yourself and others. But if you still have any doubts, here are 22 gems I picked out from the book for you:

💎 The true measure of your potential is not the height of the peak you’ve reached, but how far you’ve climbed to get there. The achievement is in the growing.

💎 Personality is your predisposition - your basic instincts for how to think, feel, and act. Character is your capacity to prioritize your values over your instincts. Knowing your principles doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to practice them, particularly under stress or pressure. It’s easy to be proactive and determined when things are going well. If personality is how we respond on a typical day, character is how you show up on a hard day.

💎 Many people associate procrastination with laziness. But psychologists find that procrastination it’s an emotion management problem. When you procrastinate, you’re not avoiding effort. You’re avoiding the unpleasant feelings that the activity stirs up. Sooner or later, though, you realize that you’re also avoiding getting where you want to go.

💎 Absorptive capacity is the ability to recognize, value, assimilate, and apply new information.Grant focuses on two habits: i) how you acquire information? Do you react to what enters your field of vision, or are you proactive in seeking new knowledge, skills, and perspectives?; and ii) what’s the goal you’re pursuing? Do you focus on feeding your ego or fueling your growth? However, for me personally the most relevant part is “applying the new information”, because that’s the hardest step. Even people that love learning to fuel their growth oftentimes miss applying the new information to everyday life in a conscious and intentional way. Sometimes new knowledge just goes to the grave.

💎 Instead of seeking feedback, you’re better off asking for advice. Feedback tends to focus on how well you did last time. Advice shifts the attention to how you can do better next time. Rather than dwelling on what you did wrong, advice guides you towards what you can do right.

💎 Perfectionists get three things wrong. One: they obsess about details that don’t matter. Two: they avoid unfamiliar situations and difficult tasks that might lead to failure. Three: they berate themselves for making mistakes, which makes it harder to learn from them. Strive not for perfection, but for “perfectly acceptable”.

💎 Wabi sabi: the Japanese art of honoring the beauty in imperfection. Wabi sabi gives you the discipline to shift your attention from impossible ideals to achievable standards, and then adjust those standards over time.

💎 Beating yourself up doesn’t make you stronger - it leaves you bruised. Being kind to yourself isn’t about ignoring your weaknesses. It’s about giving yourself permission to learn

💎 The best way to unlock hidden potential isn’t to suffer through the daily grind. It’s to transform the daily grind into a source of daily joy.

💎The person you’re competing with is your past self, and the bar you’re raising is for your future self. You’re not aiming for perfect - you’re shooting for better. The only way to win is to grow.

💎 Taking breaks has at least three benefits: First, time away from work helps you sustain harmonious passion. Second, breaks unlock fresh ideas. Third, breaks deepen learning. Relaxing is not a waste of time - it’s an investment in well-being. Breaks are not a distraction - they’re a chance to reset attention and incubate ideas.

💎 The strongest known force of daily motivation is a sense of progress.

💎 Making progress isn’t always about moving forward. Sometimes it’s about bouncing back. Progress is not only reflected in the peaks you reach - it’s also visible in the valleys you cross. Resilience is a form of growth.

💎 The best teams have the most team players - people who excel at collaborating with others.

💎 The babble effect. Research shows that groups promote people who command the most airtime - regardless of their aptitude and expertise. We mistake confidence for competence, certainty for credibility, and quantity for quality. We get stuck following people who dominate the conversation instead of people who elevate it.

💎 The people to promote are the ones with the prosocial skills to put the mission above their ego - and team cohesion above personal glory. They know that the goal isn’t to be the smartest person in the room; it’s to make the entire room smarter.

💎 To  unearth the hidden potential in teams, instead of brainstorming, shift to brainwriting - asking everyone to generate ideas separately and then shared them anonymously among the group. Each individual member then evaluates them and only then does the team come together to select and refine the most promising options.

💎 In most workplaces, opportunity exists on a ladder - but that means that it gives all the power to shut people and creativity down. A better system would be a lattice system which gives employees access to multiple leaders who are willing and able to help move you forward and lift you up.

💎 Weak leaders silence voice and shoot the messenger. Strong leaders welcome voice and thank the messenger. Great leaders build systems to amplify voice and elevate the messenger.

💎 Too often, our selection systems fail to weigh achievements in the context of degree of difficulty. Selection systems need to put performance in context. It’s like having wrestlers compete in their own weights class.

💎 Impostor syndrome says, “I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s only a matter of time until everyone finds out.” Growth mindset says, “I don’t know what I’m doing yet. It’s only a matter of time until I figure it out.”

💎 Impostor syndrome is a paradox:

*Others believe in you

*You don’t believe in yourself

*Yet you believe yourself instead of them.

If you doubt yourself, should you also doubt your low opinion of yourself? What if impostor syndrome was a sign of hidden potential? What if people are not overestimating you, they are simply recognizing your capacity for growth - one that you can’t see yet?

Last but not least, I loved the end section of the book on “actions for impact”, because the learning process isn’t finished when we acquire knowledge. It’s complete when we consistently apply that knowledge.

Written by Andreea Pap

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