Big Potential by Shawn Achor [Book Summary – Review]

We cannot think of a life where there is no competition. We have been raised with the belief that achievement is about the performance we achieve alone, and we have been assessing it by checking against each other. However, in reality, this is an incomplete tale. We can look for and obtain success by ourselves, however, we cannot fulfill our full potential in this way.

To reach our full potential, we require to have people by our sides. Attaching with rather than competing against each other enables us to learn from experiences of each other, gather assets and forces, and back each other up in achieving the purposes. Consequently, we all can achieve greater things than we could do individually.

This is called “Big Potential”, and this book review will explain the five hidden ways you should know to open it and enjoy the excellent advantages.

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Chapter 1 – Thinking achievement as a contest that other’s gain is equal to your loss, restricts the potential. The potential boosts when assisting and working together with others.

“Highest-ranking student”, “winner”, and “top”. In our student life, professional life, even in sports, we are raised to work for the best. Being good is not satisfactory, we need to be the best among others. However, it means that there are lots of successes to pursue. In consequence, these make us ambitious and center ourselves on achievements individually.

But thinking of achievement this way limits our potential. Although it may feel strange, to enhance what we can achieve and reach our full potential, we should quit rivalry with others. Rather than competing, we should give helping hands to people around us.

By working individually and only trusting to our capabilities, abilities, and assets, we can be successful only to a certain extent. This is what the author says the “Small Potential”. However, if we assist others to become successful, we increase our base of assets. Obtaining a bigger base of assets would enable us to achieve better things than we could do on our own.

What is called “Big Potential” is exactly this, and the work on the coupling act of fireflies gives us a sparkling sample of the excellence of this. According to the article on Science, if an alone male bug glows casually, the probability of getting a response from a female bug is only 3 percent. However, when males gather and glow cooperatively, the probability jumps to 82 percent!

Similar to fireflies, if we cooperate, we can all gain from it. And there is more.

It is not only once you benefit from obtaining the “Big Potential”. As we assist others more, they will develop more capabilities, abilities, and assets. We will be able to reach those assets and can benefit from them to achieve more and be more successful. The Big Potential gets bigger and bigger every time and simple and simpler to obtain since it is a continuous favorable loop, a “Virtuous Cycle”.

How to develop the “Virtuous Cycle”?

We should “plant” the “SEEDS”. Do not worry, we are not going out to the garden; SEEDS consists of the first letters of the five actions that will enable us to develop the Virtuous Cycle. These five actions we need to perform are: “Surround”, ”Expand”, “Enhance”, “Defend”, “Sustain”. In the next lines, we will talk about what these actions are.

Chapter 2 – To fly high, we should encircle ourselves with favorable and various impacts.

Did you experience jumping on a trampoline? If yes, you should be familiar with the “super bounce”. The super bounce occurs when multiple people bounce together. The influence of the total weight of the people bounces the jumpers too high that when alone, this height cannot be reached.

Big Potential is similar to “super bounce” that enables you to attain the heights which you could not attain individually. The key to attaining it is having the correct people around you.

With the energetic, sociable, inventive people around, you will see the good impact of it on your qualities. These people motivate you, help in harsh times, and assist you to perform your best. These are all multipliers of potential.

This favorable effect of people on others causes some firms to quit remote offices. According to a new study, firms such as Google and IBM recognized the increase in pace, innovation, and collaboration in people while they are together with others. This is amazing, especially if we think of the fact that IBM is being the inventor of the remote office idea.

Having favorable people around is not sufficient by itself, you should make sure that you have various people in your reach.

When everybody around is the same as you in thoughts or abilities, you constrain your development, potential inventive opinions, and eventually, your potential. Diversity does not only stop with people in your reach – what they are working for is also important. As the author states, you should have three kinds of people around. Pillars, bridges, and extenders; to be strong, to find new chances, and to experience new things, respectively.

To have different people around you, you need to speak with new people frequently. The basic word “Hello!” can amaze you with how it can open many doors to new links. After you form these links, this will be the spot where you develop mutual relationships. In other words, you will take to the extent and frequency that you give. You will feel more delighted and more connected with these mutual ties, as well as you will find the strength to achieve the “Big Potential”.

Chapter 3 – See your ability to guide and develop great transformations, and spread them to other people.

Think of a case where you have excellent solutions to make operations in the work better, and you would be thrilled to make them real. However, the novelty disappears fast and desperation comes to you. You start to think: I am not the head, how could I transform whatever everyone is used to?

The belief that only authorized can transform things is a frequent belief that blocks your reach to the “Big Potential”. If a team wants to reach Big Potential, everybody should believe in their ability to guide, no matter what their place in the order is. You can achieve this with the second action for “Big Potential”: ”Expand”.

You can cause transformation without a name or clout, the belief in your abilities and utilizing them are musts to do it. A singer in an orchestra is not the boss; however, by talking to the conductor, she may impact the yield of the whole.

The utilization of the leadership capacity may influence people you are surrounded by because this develops the “Elevated Pitch”. This is a memo for people to lead and it is useful if you have the same goals as the receivers of this memo. For example, a sociable young person that does not want to go to university might be persuaded to organize events for campus and groups.

When all the people are motivated to guide, the pace must be kept. Here the “highlighting” operation enters. If people can observe that their job is not for nothing, they want to move forward to guide and work to transform.

However, what happens when there is no place for the “Big Potential” or leadership in your occupations? The profession of yours may not be the place you want to be in or what you would like to do, maybe the boss disheartens you every time.

The answer is to search for sense and satisfaction in whatever you are in, that we will talk about it later on.

Everybody, from the boss to the doorman, could perceive sense in whatever they do, and this would allow “Big Potential” to come. With just a two-minute practice every day, you can initiate your discovery of the Big Potential; writing the times that you feel the sense in work. This is an exercise for our brains to realize these times better and search for means to increase them.

Chapter 4 – Amplify people with the correct type of compliment and hearten everyone to compliment each other more.

Previously, we talked about the occurrences when people perceive success as scarce. They become rivals and look for individual benefits. Our thought of compliment is influenced similarly. We think that not many people can have compliments and for this, we look for getting compliments more than we compliment. This is the wrong way of acting.

Compliment connects and inspires people by adding up to the “Virtuous Cycle”. The more compliments one receives, the more they are motivated to succeed and find ways to get more compliments. In consequence, the third act in the way of actualizing Big Potential is “Enhancing” people around you via compliments.

But which type of compliment works?

The correct type of compliment does block others. If we compliment our friend as being the “best”, this may be understood that the others are not as great or there is the “worst” as well. This compliment compares your friend with anyone else, you should refrain from it by not using the superlatives such as “the most clever” or “the nicest”.

Complimenting correctly forces people to work for future successes. People stick with the idea that they can be successful when they hear this from others with compliments. This energizes them to seek these achievements. Do not expect to take a compliment before you compliment someone else – show people that they can get a compliment.

Simply complimenting an individual is not enough. All worthy people should be given recognition. For instance, a great achiever has a lot of people working with this person that contributes to the achievements. Compliments should also go for this assisting team, not just to the achiever individual seen in the front.

At this point, we need to develop a “Virtuous Cycle” of compliment, if we want to invent a space for the “Big Potential”. We need to motivate more people and be the compliment givers. 

A researcher friend, Michelle Gielan, and Shawn Achor found in their research that 31 percent of employees in firms do not speak up about it even though they think positively about others. These called “Secret 31” could make perfect compliment givers.

Achor thinks we should try finding the Secret 31 by chatting and interviewing and afterward, represent a role model that gives compliments at any time suitable. We can motivate “the Secret 31” to speak up by offering less scary ways of complimenting such as writing emails or agreeing with somebody else’s compliments. Finally, they will find the courage to speak up about what they feel favorable for others.

Chapter 5 – We need to know how to object to and defeat negativity, and when to run away from it.

Negativity is just like smoking a cigarette, how you heard? When we breathe other’s smoke even though not having one, we get other’s negative emotions to our inside.

This is a huge issue in the way to find the Big Potential. Just exposure to negative thoughts decreases our willingness and makes us doubtful about future achievements. Fortunately, the fourth action on the way to Big Potential is to “Defend” ourselves against any negatives.

Because we are talking about defending ourselves, let’s take strategies from war, a place where powerful protection is vital. During a war, while moats stop enemies as much as they can, strongholds assist hosts to regain their power.

By refraining from any possible place of negativity such as television and the Internet sometimes, we can develop our moats in daily life. For instance, our states of mind are unprotected just after we woke up and just before we fell into sleep. The strongholds of our minds can be the appreciation times to remember what is positive, and the routines of being conscious to avoid negative disturbances.

Sometimes, even the greatest strongholds cannot prevent the take over of negativities such as stress. At these times, ”Mental Aikido” is a beneficial practice. Aikido assists fighters to change the course of the attack of their enemies. Similarly, the negatives can be turned into positives.

We can do it by making sense of the occurrence that we caught up the negativity. By focusing on things that we care we should ask ourselves whether the thing we are stressed about really worths it and see the whole truth. For example, the root cause of a writer’s stress over the last day could be the willingness of the writer to produce a publication. When the writer remembers this, this will motivate the writer to move further.

Another strategy to change the course of the negatives is to make ourselves remember not being lonely. When we recognize that others such as peers or relatives are also having alike emotions, we can direct ourselves to assist them. Furthermore, in this way, our relationships would get better.

However, at the times when our defense and redirection are not successful and cannot get off negativity, this might be a ring to stop. Studies demonstrate that resting enhances effectiveness, efficiency, and well-being.

A constant rest may be needed as well. If we constantly lose over negativity and trials are not useful anymore, it is time to change the ways. If you are wasting all your vigor on a despairing occupation, you are missing opportunities where you can achieve great things.

Chapter 6 – To sustain impetus, focus on significance, draw achievements in your mind, and congratulate every achievement.

The former part of this review told us the ways to cease negativity in our path to reach the Big Potential. In stopping negativity, we should also create its contrary which is positivity.

Since positivity will motivate you and the people surrounding you to keep fighting for your purposes. The final action for Big Potential is this: “Sustain” momentum.

For this, it is necessary to continuously add positivity to the “Virtuous Cycle”. However, you may find it challenging to accomplish when you are anxious or you are doing things that do not inspire you. Under these circumstances, Achor recommends developing a “Tour of Meaning”. An enlivened tale of you that you author about your occupation.

Think about a teacher, for instance. He might define his occupation as giving marks to student exams all the time, however, this is not a motivating definition. When he portrays his work as developing forthcoming leaders, he finds something more significant and thus, more encouraging. If you come up with a question to describe your work, or business, tell the significance of it in your tale.

You can also sustain momentum by the force of envisioning. When you visualize something lively with your brain, it feels like it is easier to achieve, and this drives you to move forward. To put it another way, picturing forthcoming achievements and favorable results attracts you through them like a magnet. An excellent way to picture a brilliant future is by authoring your thoughts with any features.

Eventually, at the time you got what you wanted and have been picturing in your mind, you should congratulate yourself. This is not only because this success is a turning point, but celebrations, either little or grand, can also enhance momentum. The instances of celebrations make you remember your advancements so far and this motivates you to achieve more.

Only congratulating your turning points or advancements is not enough. Congratulating others’ abilities and work is also useful to enhance momentum. Toyota’s North American administration ascertained this with the start of a routine to congratulate workers’ abilities and achievements. A six percent rise in productivity presented an excellent advancement that year, when contrasted to the one percent rise they perform annually.

With the power of congratulating, envisioning, and finding significance to keep momentum, we also keep the “Virtuous Cycle” that allows our “Big Potential”.

Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being by Shawn Achor Book Review

If we work towards getting engaged with others and assisting them to perform the best they can, all of us can obtain the “Big Potential”. To make it possible, there are five actions to be taken. First of all, we should have people around us who unearth our best selves. Later, we need to transform with the power we have and increase that power of others as well. Then, we should advance other people by compliments and take defense against negativities around us like anxiety. Finally, we should keep momentum by significance, envisioning achievements, and congratulating.

Focus on the correct things people do.

Our brain tends to take whatever we highlight as a focal point, and when we highlight negativities, somehow, we are strengthening those. This shows why we always need to focus on positivities. Make it your habit to mail people your recognition or compliment for the correct things they do. These mails will motivate them to work for the perfect, thrust them to always look for valuable actions that they can take compliments for, and unearth hidden favorable things.

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Savaş Ateş

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