I walked on the ground sporting heavy cricket gear and nervous, palpable energy. The bowler saw right through my edginess, and he sent the delivery swinging back on my inner thighs.
I was standing right in the front of the wickets, disoriented.
My bat was flying about 5 feet away from the ball. The opposing team appealed in unison, and I was ruled out via leg before wicket (LBW).
I slowly walked back to the pavilion, shattered and disappointed.
At the end of the practice game, the coach inquisitively enquired if we had given our best. I WOBBLED my head animatedly in disagreement.
I remember many such moments in my life when I felt like I could do more.
You may say, “Good for you. Keep living in your imaginary world of possibilities!”
But don’t push off yet.
The Genius in All of Us
What if I tell you that you can achieve superlative artistry and greatness? That too without the special biological tickets of genes and innate talent!
In his New York Times best-seller, David Shenk says that there’s a genius in all of us.
So how can you race past your current self-calibrated potential, and instead reach your HIGHEST potential?
Here’s the recipe to get you started.
1. What are your zing(s)?
Don’t fall for the gimmicky marketing slant – ‘anyone can be anything.’ Google Ngrams shows that since the 1980s we have seen a huge rise in the use of this phrase.
But don’t fall for the mere exposure effect (familiarity and liking for these words because of their excessive usage). Higher frequency doesn’t mean they hold true!
If you’re in your thirties, then you will most likely not break Usain Bolt’s records.
Then in which fields can you ‘exceed your potential?
You probably have an awareness of your innate talents – so begin there.
Maybe prose glides like butter from your fingertips. Or maybe you have the gift of hitting all the high and low notes perfectly.
A decade ago, Scott Adams shared a valuable piece of career advice, that holds true today.
“Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.”
We’re all good in some areas of life. With enough effort, it’s possible to break into the top 25% of an industry. By becoming better in that skill than the majority of the population, you can attract extraordinary success.
You may not want to indulge in preachy thoughts like ‘my purpose is something bigger on the planet.’ But you at least need to define your zone of competency.
2. Get in the right kind of mindset.
A central aspect of improving yourself is “believing that your brain and intelligence are fluid entities – that they aren’t fixed.” Psychologist Carol Dweck calls it the growth mindset.
In all probability, you can’t become the next Einstein (I’ll trade that with being ’Mr. Bean,’ anyway).
But if you believe that you’ve low intellect and you’re dumb, then so you become. It’s called having a fixed mindset, and it’s the opposite of what Ms. Carol advocates.
And – the fear of success is real. It’s easier to submit yourself to mediocrity and drown in the routine of life. But don’t let the fear be your life dictum and arrest you into your comfort zone.
Human guinea pig, Tim Ferriss, didn’t settle for his lack of fast twitch muscle fiber – which he would need for power training. Rather he tested the obvious by getting a tissue removed from his leg in a muscle biopsy.
Do you know what he found?
‘Even genetics are often times negotiable.’
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: your beliefs determine your behavior, and eventually, your potential.
So consider your talents, intellect, and learning capabilities as unlimited. Push yourself and take action in spite of the fear.
Next up, you need to question traditional wisdom by setting extravagant goals…
3. Set ambitious goals and practice 10x thinking.
You might have welcomed the New Year with challenging goals like ‘becoming a powerlifter.’ By late January, you’re falling off your goals and entering dangerous territory.
If you continue your average behavior, then by the end of February, your life might return to normal.
Stop living such an average story.
Most resolutions are simple in theory. But they aren’t easy.
You need the discipline to show up every day at the gym. And it takes a lot of mental overhead to remember your commitment to healthy superfoods.
Besides undisciplined behavior, there’s another reason most of us fail – vagueness. You might get lost if you just set ambitious goals that have no defined way of moving forward.
For every achievement, your brain releases a chemical called as dopamine, which creates a sense of pleasure.
Your brain craves a clear, quantifiable, and specific metric – so think big, but break it down into simpler steps.
For example: ‘Become an intermediate-level guitar player’ can be made more precise and measurable with ‘improvise a blues solo for 5 minutes.’
When writing down your goals, another essential aspect is pushing the envelope by practicing 10x thinking.
Instead of taking it from me, here’s Peter Thiel summing it up: “How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next six months?”
The idea is to get creative and attack the problem in an extremely unconventional manner. You’ll research your field, interview experts, and find out the necessary ingredients that lead to peak performance.
Remember, it’s not about accomplishing a massive 10-year goal. Rather, you’ll force your mind to look beyond the obvious and renegotiate with the standard systems in place. Also, note that you’ll need to amplify your efforts to match your 10x intentions.
Once everything is set…
4. Ultimately, let go and ‘unthink!’
You got over the fear and committed. You’re all in. You learn the ropes and internalize the rules so that you no longer need the rulebook.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have weaknesses. You might still struggle; even fail. But your biggest roadblock is that you’re intellectualizing the event.
Your most creative output won’t take shape when you’re judgemental about it.
Artists craft their masterpieces in a state of trance. Everything flows so seamlessly that they lose the sense of time. Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, calls this state in which our consciousness recedes, as flow.
Our culture has made such a fanfare around self-awareness, that it almost seems like the panacea for identifying the loopholes that hinder success. Well, not in this case.
Don’t let the inner chatter drown you into limiting thoughts around your potential. As David Shenk puts it, “many of us mistake early difficulties for innate limits.”
Once you’ve put in the toil and learned the ropes, remove your thinking self, and let your inner genius unveil and carve itself out.