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Big Potential

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Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being
Shawn Achor
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.

How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Wellbeing by Shawn Achor.

Big Potential (Introduction)

In his book “Big Potential” Shawn Achor suggests that achieving our highest potential is not about the survival of the fittest, it is about the survival of the best fit. (Achor, 2018, 21).

Achor (2018, 19) argues that our society has become overly focused on the power of one alone versus the power of one made stronger by others. According to Achor the interconnection with others and cooperation is the key to a greater success than by oneself. (Achor, 2018, 22).

Firstly, in part I Achor describes the problem that our society is only focusing on individual achievement and eliminating others from the equation. By doing so, there is a loss of human capabilities and efficiency.

Secondly, in part II Achor introduces five strategies and means to consciously craft connections and capabilities in order to improve one’s performance.


The Big Problem with small potential

Our society has taught that competition is the way to differentiate ourselves from others. This is what Achor calls small potential which is limited success one can achieve alone. (Achor, 2018, 24). Parents want their children to do well in exams. Our school system is based on individual scoring and judging. Therefore, it is a very competitive environment. (Achor, 2018, 24).

According to Achor, instead of competing, one can actually increase the available opportunities by helping others to be better. This is how one learns to coordinate and collaborate with those around. Furthermore, this is how we all begin to shine brighter and what Achor describes as a big potential. This kind of success can be achieved only in a virtuous cycle with others. (Achor, 2018, 24).

The book shows the writer’s new understanding of “positive systems”. Achor’s (2018, 18) message is that by becoming a “positive node” in a workplace or community and by helping others, one can improve their capabilities and performance.


The power of others

Achor (2018, 20) says that in our school system students have been told that the better they do in tests and the more creative they are, the more successful they will be in the future. Based on Achor’s studies this formula is inaccurate. He argues that this type of individual testing raises stress levels dramatically and robs the students of social connection. Those students who are tested well individually struggle when they need to work with others in teams. Those who rise are not the ones who do everything by themselves.

In communities and work places the biggest impediment to success and potential is not a lack of productivity or intelligence. (Achor. 2018, 22). It is the way in which one uses it. According to Achor (2018, 22), if one follows the old formula for success one a lot of talent and power is wasted.


Lifting the invisible ceiling of potential

Another thing Achor emphasizes is team work. He states that there are certain things in this world that require the support of other people and should not be attempted alone. (Achor, 2018, 30). Achor’s point is that Big potential, like genius and creativity is not something you have naturally; it is something you tap into. (Achor, 2018, 37).

In ecosystems people share the same goals and are committed to working together, helping others to succeed. (Achor, 2018, 49). By doing so, they generate a virtuous cycle and are more likely to gain competitive advantage from others. (Achor, 2018, 51).



The Seeds of big potential

In this chapter Achor suggests five areas with which one is able to find strategies and means in fostering people to find their potential:






Surround yourself with positive influencers: Creating star system

The height of potential is predicted by people who surround you, states Achor (2018, 63). He introduces three ways to achieve this.

Firstly, tapping into the power of positive peer pressure means that you should find such people to work with you that bring the best out of you. (Achor, 2018, 69).

Secondly, create a balance through variety. You should trust in diversity of the ecosystem, because that forces individuals to find their personal boundaries and beyond them. (Achor, 2018, 75).

Thirdly, create reciprocal bonds which means that you should learn a habit of first giving something to people before you can expect something from others. The most successful networkers always look for ways to give more to their contacts.” (Achor, 2018, 81).


Expand your Power: Leading from every seat

Achor (2018, 90) claims that leadership should be shared to some extent. People should be involved and motivated so that they understand their own strengths and capabilities and are brave enough to use their talent for the benefit of the group. (Achor, 2018, 92).

1) Lead from the eleventh chair. Recognize that you can create change wherever you are. (Achor, 2018, 99).

2) Develop your elevated pitch (instill the desire to lead). What is great about elevated pitch is that it not only motivates people to lead from every seat, but the elevated pitch can also come from any seat. (Achor, 2018, 101).

3) Use progress as fuel (reinforce leadership). To sustain change, we must reward and reinforce people’s effort to create change. (Achor, 2018, 108).

4) Lead from every lunch seat (find meaning from every seat). You can find a path to leadership in almost any job. But first you need a path to meaning. (Achor, 2018, 109.)

Helping others to see the meaning in their personal lives and work lives does not diminish your own capacity for meanings, it magnifies it. The meaning is what empowers us to lead. (Achor, 2018, 112).


Enhance your resources: Creating a prism of praise and recognition

Achor states that one should build a culture where not only the leader praises employees for their good performance, but also everyone in the organization does the same to colleagues. (Achor, 2018, 119).


Defend against negative influences: Protecting the system against attacks

Ancor points out that this is the most strategy dense chapter in the book. The idea is that one should learn ways in handling negative issues that might affect the organization. Building a mental stronghold which is a daily practice of gratitude, is one example of mental stronghold and Pick Your Battles method. (Achor, 2018,1 51). These methods also help you to reach the big potential.


Sustain the gains: Creating collective momentum

Achor states that one can reinforce the performance of one’s team by showing it the goal and the path and remembering to celebrate the progress. (Achor, 2018, 182). He suggests three good ways to do so, namely:

1) People need meaning and clear goals to feel motivated and to generate more positive energy by creating tours of meanings. Meaning is that “unbalanced force” that keeps us going, especially during busy or stressful times. (Achor, 2018, 187).

2) By showing direction one can generate a path to the team’s energy to flow. (Achor, 2018, 190).

3) Accelerate the momentum you have created through the power of celebration. (Achor, 2018, 200).



In the last chapter Achor refers to the Kenyan saying “All the children are well” reminding us that we should take care of others first and our wellbeing and big potential will follow. (Achor, 2018, 210).


Achor S. 2018. Big Potential: How transforming the pursuit of success raises our achievement, happiness, and well-being. Currency: New York.



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