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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Maximize Your Potential: It’s Never Too Late to Grow Great

by | Aug 1, 2012 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

Over a year ago I had a debate with an old friend around a campfire about maximizing your potential. Since then, I haven’t been able to get his words out of my head.

“By the time we are in our 40s our path is set your potential is channeled, you are just not going to accomplish anything significant you haven’t already started.”

Wait, what?

For some reason, that comment from a friendly conversation infuriated me, and I kept trying to decide why.

A Picture of You With Your Potential Intact

“I wish I could show you a picture of yourself with your potential intact.”
~John Maxwell, Beyond Talent

He and I both have great families, interesting lives, important work.

Both paths, even if they were truly “set” are good. And for some reason, I have to know there is more.

There are still many areas where “great” is an option, and I can’t imagine not opening my heart to new possibilities.

We all know people with incredible talent at all stages of life, who for one reason or another are not maximizing their potential.

Many of these folks are in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and workplaces. Sometimes they remain good (rather than great) because they are not investing the time and energy in the arena in which they could become great. There is also the crowd that seems to be in the right field, but for lots of “reasons,” don’t take it to the level they could.

The athlete who doesn’t properly train, the musician who doesn’t practice, the leader that does not hone her skills. There are usually lots of “reasons” for the settling, often beginning with the words, “not enough” money, time, energy, network, support.

I worry what they really lack is the belief in their ability to pull it off.

In his book, Beyond Talent: Become Someone Who Achieves Extraordinary Results, John Maxwell identifies 13 choices we make that can amplify our talent. A good read, and all focus areas to consider. He begins with a chapter called “Belief Lifts Your Talent.”

“Its one thing to believe that you possess remarkable potential. It’s another thing to have enough faith in yourself that you think you can fulfill it. When it comes to believing in themselves, some people are agnostic.”

Maxwell offers several “Talent and Belief” application exercises, designed to get people thinking about their opportunities for greatness.

As many writers do, he starts with a strength inventory (identifying top skills and talents) and moves on to thinking about what activities arouse your passion. What I like about his approach is that he then asks the reader to consider what opportunities might be presenting themselves, and to create a picture to bring it all together.

“Take some time to consider what kind of picture emerges based on these talents, interests and opportunities. How might they come together for someone other than you, someone with fewer obstacles or limitations– someone who is in the right place at the right time? Dream big– no idea is outrageous. Brainstorm what someone in that situation might be able to do, and what he or she could become.”

Ever since that conversation with my friend, I believe I am dreaming a bit bigger and looking for opportunities in more arenas.

What is your picture of greatness?

Other articles you may find useful:

Your Talent Strategy: How to Avoid This Human Mistake

How to Be an Even Better Leader

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  1. Patti Porco

    Hi Karin,
    I certainly hope your friend is wrong! Fortunately, the “hidden potential” in people may not show itself until much later in life. I believe it takes all of your experiences to make you who you are and every new experience can lead to exposing some previously hidden talent.

  2. Anonymous

    In the past year I went through a personal visioning exercise with a trusted coach. I was feeling stuck and on the “cusp” of something that I couldn’t put my finger on. Where I ended up for lack of a better way to describe it – was with a personal bucket list – prioritized by my fear or anxiety of being able to “do” the items on the list. We spent hours talking about the barriers I placed in front of myself for preventing my own success or fulfillment. Then….. I took the first step to start working on item by item. I found that once I got started “it was gravity.” My confidence grew and my willingness to try, enjoy success or fail was more in scope. A very cool journey.

  3. Sarah Y

    Your friend’s idea that there is an age limit on starting out on the path to greatness is just another way to talk oneself out of going after one’s dreams. Thanks for this reminder that no matter how old you are, you can find the courage to believe in your abilities. My own mother became a successful writer in her 60s. It’s never too late.

  4. Jonathan

    “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”

    John Lennon had it right but we all lose sight of it when we get wrapped up in the day to day of life.

    Dreams don’t die. They are conditioned, prioritized, planned, delayed, altered. They only die if you allow that. I had two big dreams for the longest time: Winning Wimbledon and being in a band that would last as long as the Rolling Stones. Did either happen? Nope. Tried to be good enough to go pro and qualify for Wimbledon and eventually jacked up my shoulder. That ended that idea. But I tried and I am proud of that. As for the Stones thing….well…I am still in a band! Hehe….

    My point is that what we choose to do, or not to do, is just that, a choice. I saw a show last night that was a Cirque Du Soleil show themed for Michael Jackson. One of the main dancers in the show only had one leg. Yes, one of the main DANCERS only had one leg. That kid moved me to my core……it was amazing to watch!

    We all owe it to the people in our lives to help them find the courage and the intestinal fortitude to go for broke.

    No day but today….

    I have to get back to practicing my guitar now!!

  5. letsgrowleaders

    Thank you all for your inspiring responses… game on!

  6. jide ologun

    “One unfortunate privilege is that there is always someone or something to blame for our shortcomings; this takes away the zeal to reach out and accomplish.” Jide Ologun Excuses prevents efforts. Imagine you are alone in the world, will you take it as it is or shape it as you desire?

    • letsgrowleaders

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation! Really appreciate the insights.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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