Day 1: Composition
BELIEF LIFTS YOUR TALENT
The first and greatest obstacle to success for most people is their belief in themselves. Once people figure out where their sweet spot is (the area where they are most gifted), what often hinders them isn’t lack of talent. It’s lack of trust in themselves, which is a self-imposed limitation. Lack of belief can act as a ceiling on talent. However, when people believe in themselves, they unleash power in themselves and resources around them that almost immediately take them to a higher level. Your potential is a picture of what you can become. Belief helps you see the picture and reach for it.
What are your beliefs about yourself?
How do these beliefs affect your behavior?
Describe the type of person you believe you can become.
BELIEFS WORTH BUYING INTO
I don’t know what your talent is, but I do know this: it will not be lifted to its highest level unless you also have belief. Talent alone is never enough. If you want to become your best, you need to believe your best. You need to . . .
1. Believe in Your Potential
Your potential is a picture of what you can become. Inventor Thomas Edison remarked, “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves.”
Complete this sentence: I have the potential to become
Too often we see what is, not what could be. If you could see yourself in terms of your true potential, you wouldn’t recognize yourself.
When my daughter, Elizabeth, was in high school, she had a “glamour shot” taken of herself to give me as a gift. That was the rage at the time. A person would go into the photo studio and be made up to look like a movie star. When I first saw the picture, I thought, That’s not the way she looks every day, but that’s Elizabeth. That’s truly her. Likewise, that’s what it’s like when you see and believe in your potential. If you were to see yourself as you could be, you would look better than you ever imagined.
Poet John Masefield wrote,
And there were three men
Went down the road
As down the road went he
The man they saw, the man he was
And the man he wanted to be.
The only way to get the “third man” into the picture is to believe in your potential. Doing that lifts you up, allowing you to respond to God’s gift to you. I believe the old saying: “Our potential is God’s gift to us. Our gift to Him is fulfilling it.”
TALENT IS NEVER ENOUGH
Describe yourself as you are right now and as others see you. How do these descriptions differ from the statement you wrote about the type of person you believe you can become?
Indian statesman Mohandas Gandhi said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” Closer to home, it would also suffice to solve most of our individual problems. We must first believe in our potential if we are to do what we’re capable of.
Executive coach Joel Garfinkle recounts a story by writer Mark Twain in which a man died and met Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Immediately realizing that Saint Peter was a wise and knowledgeable individual, the man inquired, “Saint Peter, I have been interested in military history for many years. Tell me who was the greatest general of all time?”
Saint Peter quickly responded, “Oh, that’s a simple question. It’s that man right over there.”
“You must be mistaken,” responded the man, now very perplexed. “I knew that man on earth and he was just a common laborer.”
“That’s right, my friend,” assured Saint Peter. “He would have been the greatest general of all time, if he had been a general.” Cartoonist Charles Schulz offered this comparison: “Life is a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.” What are we saving those gears for? It’s not good to travel through life without breaking a sweat. So what’s the problem? Most of the time it’s self-imposed limitations. They limit us as much as real ones. Life is difficult enough as it is. We make it more difficult when we impose additional limitations on ourselves. Industrialist Charles Schwab observed, “When a man has put a limit on what he will do, he has put a limit on what he can do.”
Describe some of your self-imposed limitations, and note when you first started believing you were limited in these areas.
In If It Ain’t Broke . . . Break It! Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler write,
We don’t have a clue as to what people’s limits are. All the tests, stopwatches, and finish lines in the world can’t measure human potential. When someone is pursuing their dream, they’ll go far beyond what seems to be their limitations. The potential that exists within us is limitless and largely untapped . . . When you think of limits, you create them.
We often put too much emphasis on mere physical challenges and obstacles, and give too little
credence to psychological and emotional ones. Sharon Wood, the first North American woman to
climb Mount Everest, learned some things about that after making her successful climb. She said,
“I discovered it wasn’t a matter of physical strength, but a matter of psychological strength. The
conquest lay within my own mind to penetrate those barriers of self-imposed limitations and get
through to that good stuff—the stuff called potential, 90 percent of which we rarely use.”
TALENT IS NEVER ENOUGH
What limiting beliefs about yourself do you need to modify? What truth about your potential can re-
place these limiting ideas?
In 2001, I was invited to Mobile, Alabama, to speak to six hundred NFL coaches and scouts at the
Senior Bowl. That’s the game played by two teams of college seniors who have been invited to par-
ticipate because they are believed to have NFL potential. In the morning I taught from The 17 Indis-
putable Laws of Teamwork, which had just been published.
And in the afternoon, I attended a workout session in which the players were tested for running
speed, reaction time, jumping ability, and so forth.
One of the coaches in attendance, Dick Vermeil, chatted with me as I watched. At some point he
said, “You know, we can measure many of their skills, but it’s impossible to measure the heart.
Only the player can determine that.”
Your potential is really up to you. It doesn’t matter what others might think. It doesn’t matter
where you came from. It doesn’t even matter what you might have believed about yourself at a pre-
vious time in your life. It’s about what lies within you and whether you can bring it out. To reach
your potential, you must first believe in your potential, and determine to live way beyond average.
2. Believe in Yourself
It’s 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! That’s not only a shame; it also keeps them from becoming what they could
be. Psychologist and philosopher William James emphasized that “there is but one cause of human
failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his true self.”
People who believe in themselves get better jobs and perform better in them than those who
don’t. Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, did some re-
search at a major life insurance company and found that the salespeople who expected to succeed
sold 37 percent more insurance than those who didn’t.³ The impact of belief in self begins early.
Some researchers assert that when it comes to academic achievement in school, there is a greater
correlation between self-confidence and achievement than there is between IQ and achievement.
Attorney and marketing expert Kerry Randall observed, “Successful people believe in themselves,
especially when others do not.”
3. Believe in Your Mission
What else is necessary to lift your talent? Believing in what you are doing. In fact, even if the odds
are against your accomplishing what you desire, confidence will help you. William James asserted,
“The one thing that will guarantee the successful conclusion of a doubtful undertaking is faith in
the beginning that you can do it.” How does this kind of belief help?
Belief in your mission will empower you. Having confidence in what you are doing gives you the
power to achieve it. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright noted, “The thing always happens that you really
believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.” Confident people can usually evaluate a task
before undertaking it and know whether they can do it. In that belief is great power.
Belief in your mission will encourage you. A woman with a will to win will have her naysayers. A
man on a mission will have his critics. What often allows such people to keep going in a negative
environment? Belief in the mission.
Playwright Neil Simon advises, “Don’t listen to those who say, ‘It’s not done that way.’ Maybe it’s
not, but maybe you’ll do it anyway. Don’t listen to those who say, ‘You’re taking too big a chance.’
Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out today.”
Simon should know. He has been awarded seventeen Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, and
two Pulitzer Prizes. Obviously he believes in what he does.
Belief in your mission will enlarge you. The more you believe in your potential, yourself, and your
mission, the more you will be able to accomplish. If you keep believing, you will someday find your-
self doing what you once considered impossible.
What is your mission?
Why is it important for you to accomplish this mission?
Do you believe in your mission? Are you confident that you can accomplish great tasks? Do you
expect to achieve your goals? These are necessary ingredients to lift your talent from potential to
I need to say one more thing about mission. It needs to include people. Only a life lived for oth-
ers is worthwhile. As you fulfill your mission, will others around you say . . .
“My life is better as a result,” or
“My life is worse as a result”?
If you think it won’t be the former, then the mission may not be worth doing.
TALENT + BELIEF = A TALENT-PLUS PERSON
PUTTING THE TALENT-PLUS FORMULA INTO ACTION
So how do you become a talent-plus person? You tap into a natural chain of actions that begins
with belief and ends with positive action:
BELIEF DETERMINES EXPECTATIONS
If you want your talent to be lifted to its highest level, then you don’t begin by focusing on your tal-
ent. You begin by harnessing the power of your mind. Your beliefs control everything you do.
Accomplishment is more than a matter of working harder or smarter. It’s also a matter of believing
positively. Someone called it the “sure enough” syndrome. If you expect to fail, sure enough, you
will. If you expect to succeed, sure enough, you will. You will become on the outside what you be-
lieve on the inside.
Personal breakthroughs begin with a change in your beliefs. Why? Because your beliefs determine
your expectations, and your expectations determine your actions. A belief is a habit of mind in
which confidence becomes a conviction that we embrace. In the long run, a belief is more than an
idea that a person possesses. It is an idea that possesses a person. Benjamin Franklin said,
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” If you want to achieve
something in life, you have to be willing to be disappointed. You need to expect to succeed. Does
that mean you always will? No. You will fail. You will make mistakes. But if you expect to win, you
maximize your talent, and you keep trying, then you will eventually succeed.
Review the beliefs about yourself that you wrote at the beginning of this chapter. Rewrite these be-
liefs so they support your potential statement. (Example: I have the potential to become a great
teacher because I am an excellent communicator.)
Are there beliefs about yourself that do not line up with your potential statement? What about self-
imposed limitations? If so, how will you change or modify these beliefs?
Attorney Kerry Randall said, “Contrary to popular opinion, life does not get better by chance, life
gets better by change. And this change always takes place inside; it is the change of thought that
creates the better life.” Improvement comes from change, but change requires confidence. For that
reason, you need to make confidence in yourself a priority. You need to put believing in your poten-
tial, yourself, your mission, and your fellow human beings at the top of your list. President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt asserted, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of
today.” Don’t let your doubts cause your expector to expire.
EXPECTATIONS DETERMINE ACTIONS
Fred Smith Sr., one of my mentors and the author of Leading with Integrity, says that a linguist with
Wycliffe Bible translators told him that in twenty of the world’s most primitive languages, the word
for belief is the same as the word for do. It is only as people become more “sophisticated” that they
begin to separate the meaning of one word from the other.
That insight is very telling because most people separate belief from action. So how can we bring
these two things back together? Through our expectations.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who want to get things done and those who
don’t want to make mistakes. If you’re of the first type, then you already expect to believe in yourself
and take risks. But what if you’re of the second type? There’s good news: you can grow.
A story in Robert Schuller’s book Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do! is about Sir Ed-
mund Hillary, who was the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest along with Tibetan
Tenzing Norgay. Prior to his success on Everest, Hillary had been part of another expedition, in
which the team not only had failed to reach the summit, but also had lost one of its members. At a
reception for the expedition members in London, Hillary stood to address the audience. Behind the
platform was a huge photograph of Everest.
Hillary turned to face the image of the mountain and exclaimed, “Mount Everest, you have de-
feated us. But I will return. And I will defeat you. Because you cannot get any bigger, and I can.”⁴ I
don’t know what challenges you face. They may be getting bigger every day, or they may already be
as big as they can get, like Mount Everest. But I do know this: the only way you can rise to meet the
challenges effectively is to expect to. You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller. You
overcome them by making yourself bigger!
ACTIONS DETERMINE RESULTS
Results come from actions. That may seem obvious in the physical realm. Sir Isaac Newton’s third
law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. However, in the
human realm, many people don’t make the connection. They simply hope for good results. Hope is
not a strategy. If you want good results, you need to perform good actions. If you want to perform
good actions, you need to have positive expectations. To have positive expectations, you have to
first believe. It all goes back to that. Radio personality Paul Harvey observed, “If you don’t live it,
you don’t believe it.” It all starts with belief.
Consider the talents, interests, and opportunities you currently possess. How might they come
together for someone other than you—someone with few obstacles or limitations, someone who
is in the right place at the right time? Dream big—no idea is too outrageous. Brainstorm what
someone in that situation might be able to do, what he or she could become. What would be this
What you just wrote is a description of who you could be. It is a picture of your potential. How
does it compare with the description you wrote earlier about who you are today?
Believe in your potential, yourself, your mission, and your fellow human beings.How can you
light the fire of your belief and increase your expectations to become that person? What steps
will you take to move toward the person you could be? Enlist the help of others if needed.
Live the life you were meant to. Try to see yourself as you could be, and then do everything in
your power to believe that you can become that person. That is the first important step in becoming
a talent-plus person.
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