One of the most popular ideas in personal development is that all successful people have achieved mastery. Many of us believe in this false notion that you have to master a skill to achieve career success.
That’s because we, as a society, admire and glorify winners. We look at billionaires, champions, gold medalists, and other outliers. I must admit, there are many lessons we can learn from people who are masters at one particular skill.
But at the same time, it’s very daunting. Let’s be real, not everyone wants to spend 10 or 20 thousand hours to master a skill. We all have other things we value in life: Our family, friends, hobbies, health, you name it.
So when people write books and articles about outliers, we might get inspired, but from a practical point of view, the advice is useless. Not because we can’t apply the advice—most of the time, we don’t WANT to.
Do you sometimes feel like you’re wasting your potential? And do you also feel unsure about how you can even reach your full potential?
If so, you’re like any other ambitious person who wants to make the best of his/her life. Because to me, that’s what “reaching your potential” means.
We all have limited time on our hands. Some live longer than others. But you and I both know that it’s not about how long you live, it’s about what you do with the time you’re alive.
It’s about leaving everything on the table and making sure you live up to your inner drive. Look, when I talk about reaching your potential, I’m not talking about what other people or society thinks we should do with our lives.
I recently spoke with one of my students about her challenge to find a new job. Like you, she reads these types of personal development articles.
And she invests a lot of time in her own education. After speaking to her, I was convinced she would be an asset to any company that hired her.
However, she didn’t feel the same certainty as I did.
“But what if everybody else is trying the same strategies to get a job?”
Like many people who invest a lot in their education, she assumed that literally every single other person on planet earth is doing the same. And that her chances to land a great job diminished because of that.
Do you ever feel misunderstood by others? Maybe you feel that people at work don’t get you. Or that your friends are not on the same page.
Maybe others truly don’t get you. But that’s not because of them, it’s most likely because of your own behavior. I’ll tell you why.
When I started working for a major IT research firm in London several years ago, it was the first time I worked in an organization with thousands of people.
On my floor alone, there were probably two hundred people at work. For me, it was the first time that I was a part of such a big team.
One of the most important lessons I have learned from my mentor about working in large teams is this: People can only judge their perception of you. And often, there’s a difference between perception and reality, right?
When I got my business degree in 2011, I was ready to start my career.
I wanted to start a business, earn money, and also invest. Those were my main priorities for the past seven years.
I did all those things. You know what I found?
Every decision you make in life is either an investment or a waste.
Here’s what I mean:
- Browsing social media for hours is a waste of your time
- Eating junk food is a waste of your health
- Having a job that makes you miserable is a waste of your energy
- Working out is an investment in your health
- Spending time with people you care about is an investment in relationships and personal wellbeing
- Reading, taking courses, watching informational videos, are investments in your education
Those last three things are all good. And investing in your education has the highest return on investment. Why?
Do you ever get upset about the nasty behavior of your co-workers, friends, or even family? Well, if you let others upset you, it’s not their fault.
“It’s not me, it’s him!” is what most of us say. We’re always quick to blame others for how we feel.
We say that others make us feel that way. But that’s false. You decide how you feel about the things that happen in your life.
Events can’t harm us. Our perception of an event harms us. That’s one of the most important ideas of Stoic philosophy.
In other words, you decide what meaning you give to the things that happen in your life. If your friend tells lies about you behind your back, and you get upset, that’s because you decided to get upset.
If you think that you have to compete for better jobs or more market share, you’re as wrong as I was.
The idea of competition is engraved in our minds. We believe that we have to compete for the same jobs with others. If someone has a job, that means you can’t have the same job. And if a company has a certain market share, that means you have to compete with that company to “win” a piece of their share.
At least, that’s what conventional advice says. It’s also what I learned in business school. My entire education was based on competing with other businesses. And almost every business book that I’ve read, also assumes that business is competition.
They couldn’t be more wrong. When you assume that you have to compete with other businesses or people for money, jobs or attention, you’re engaged in limited thinking.