Maximize Your Potential — Book Summary and Review

Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks and Build an Incredible Career

Redefining What Work Means Today

You need to maximize your potential if you are ambitious, think of yourself as a free radical, someone who wants and expects to manage his or her own career.


Here what Maximize Your Potential meant as a free radical:

  • You’re resilient.
  • You have genuine power.
  • You’re flexible.
  • You rely completely on yourself.
  • You dislike old boy networks, bureaucracy and fusty business practices.
  • You do your best to work around archaic, confining strictures. 
  • You believe in transparency.
  • Privacy makes you suspicious.
  • Meritocracy matters. You expect a lot from yourself and from your current employer, just as you did from your past employers and just as you will from your future employers. And, yes, having multiple employers is likely. In today’s world of work, the average person will have 11 different jobs over the course of a career.  

“People who love what they do are much better at it. They’re more successful, are constantly adding new skills and continue to drive themselves forward.”

“We expect to do more of what we love, automating the more laborious and monotonous parts of our work.”

As a free radical, you’re in the process of re-defining what work means today while you maximize your potential. You want to have a positive impact on the world and on those around you. You’re always ready to move on to another firm if you can no longer develop your skills or make significant contributions. You’re a fan of open-source technology and online resources such as Quora, Wikipedia, APIs and Internet communities. Whenever you can, you contribute to these online resources.

For you, networking means sharing.  

Maximize Your Potential on Following Your Passion?

Your career success depends on how well you sharpen your skills, how willing you are to take risks and how able you are to keep your ego from interfering with your progress. Career success doesn’t have anything to do with the tired advice to “follow your passion.

Instead, seek work satisfaction, which depends on a multitude of factors and not merely passion. Given that most passions don’t align with actual jobs. Even though you maybe passionate about your work, your job still may not satisfy you.

For example, a photographer may love to take pictures but could burn out after shooting hundreds of weddings. To achieve a fully satisfying work life, you must do more than match your job to your emotional inclinations.


Skill Precedes Passion

Consider the impressive career of environmental journalist Bill McKibben. While at Harvard as an undergraduate, McKibben began to write for The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. By graduation, he was its editor. This brought McKibben to the attention of William Shawn, editor of the New Yorker magazine. Shawn hired McKibben to contribute to the magazine’s up-front Talk of the Town section.

“We are all works in progress. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more and grow more.”

After five years, McKibben quit the New Yorker and moved to the Adirondacks to live in a secluded cabin. There, he wrote The End of Nature, now considered one of the crown jewels of environmental journalism. Since then, McKibben has written numerous books and has become a well-known environmental activist.

His work-life path offers two valuable lessons for plotting a career and maximize your potential: 

(1) What you do for a living matters less than you think

McKibben enjoys his life as a writer. Nevertheless, as an environmentalist, he could have achieved similar job satisfaction as a professor or as the head of a non-profit educating others about the environment. Besides his calling as a writer, what seems to matter most to McKibben is having autonomy and contributing to improving the world. This aligns with the life experiences of many successful people. What makes them most happy are not the gritty details of their work, but the satisfying high-quality lifestyle they’ve been able to attain.  000

(2) Skill precedes passion

McKibben began at Harvard without any experience in journalism. As a young writer, he would overwrite his pieces many times, a common failing among people learning the writer’s craft. While at Harvard, McKibben wrote upward of 400 articles for The Crimson. He used his years at Harvard and at the New Yorker to develop and polish his skills as a writer and journalist. People who fulfil their passion first must put in the time and effort to become experts at what they do. 

“The Better You knows, just as you know, that the thrill is in the chase, that happiness is motion and that fulfillment is the constant striving.”

A strong passion for how you want to make a living can be a positive force. But making the ability to follow your passion your only job criteria isn’t a smart strategy. Achieving career satisfaction depends on many factors besides passion.  

What Does Luck Have to Do with Career Success?

Lucky people take advantage of chance occurrences that come their way.”

They don’t go through life “on cruise control,” according to Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. In her view, lucky people make their own luck. And so can you if you keep an open mind, recognize the opportunities in new experiences and stay ready to jump at promising openings when they present themselves. No one knows what the future holds, but even amid uncertainty, you can prepare for your future and develop your career.


If you want to maximize your potential, heed these tips:  

Look beyond the job title, and focus on your mission

Job titles can be cages. Why confine yourself to a job and title that may be obsolete by next year? Instead, direct your attention to what you want to accomplish and put your energies into that. For example, you might tell yourself,  “I want to invent a new business model for online publishing,” and then focus on your ambition.  

Explore new technologies with enthusiasm

If you are in school today the technologies you will use as an adult tomorrow have not been invented yet,” says Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly. Technology moves so fast that mastering the latest high-tech gizmo may not turn out to be a smart use of your time. Instead, become knowledgeable about technology on a macro level. Experiment with new technology to learn what works best for you right now. What counts most is remaining aware of all the amazing high-tech developments now underway.

Make a habit of helping people whenever you can

In a co-dependent world, where relationships count most, always be helpful. This is good for your career, and it’s the moral way to live. If you are generous with others, they will be generous with you.

Be proactive about taking on additional responsibilities and pitching new projects

According to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, employers want to hire those who can devise, mould and recreate their work every day. Become this type of employee by embracing and expressing your inspiration daily.

Always ask, “What’s next?”

Most people move to new jobs every few years. These inescapable changes require preparedness, an alert mind, an adaptive personality and a “what’s next?” attitude. 


Be Bold and Ready to Take Risks

In order to build a satisfying, successful career and move ahead in life, you must create promising opportunities for yourself. This requires developing impressive expertise and cultivating meaningful relationships. And you must be bold and ready to take risks. 

Set out to accomplish these steps:

Develop a career plan

Adapt it as needed. Have an A plan, a B plan and a Z plan.  

Never become too comfortable in your job

If you feel that you’re in an easy rut, strive to find and take on new challenges. Remember this basic truth: The status quo is your enemy.

When it comes to your work, think big

Don’t see your job as just a job. Elevate your thinking. Make your job your mission.


Work with the full intention

Make a conscious degree of focus one of your defining personal characteristics. Operate so that your opportunities bump up against your interests and skills.

You’re not perfect 

Don’t try to be flawless. Messing up occasionally is human and acceptable. Learning from your mistakes is one of the most effective paths to growing professionally.

Build new skills in “sprints”

To master new skills, engage in intense, distraction-free work-study sessions or sprints. Schedule regular breaks for temporary decompression.

Seek challenges

It’s the hard stuff, not the easy stuff that challenges you and enables you to build new capabilities and skills.  

Seek constructive feedback

Honest, perceptive insights fuel your growth.

Build the right habits

You are more likely to excel when you make your positive behaviours automatic or habitual. Solidify one good, new habit every month. Classic conditioning is a great tool for changing your habits. It calls for being consistent in practising new behaviours. 


Maintain a journal

Maintaining a journal gives you an opportunity to reflect daily on your life and to learn from your actions and behaviours.

Seek help from people you trust

You don’t have to do everything alone.  

Promote diversity

Diversity promotes cross-pollination of new ideas. It encourages original thinking and breeds creativity.

Give your team members a chance to shine

As a leader, you don’t always have to shine, but you should make sure that the other members of your team shine. Build on their skills and ideas. Give team members credit for their accomplishments.

Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze you

Always default to action.


Make small bets, but make them

Be cautious when you begin new initiatives. Small bets make more sense than big ones. The more bets you make, the better chance you have that one will hit. 

You can’t avoid uncertainty

Uncertainty is a basic condition of life.  Regard uncertainty as a possibility, not as a problem.


To come out on top, persist regardless of obstacles.

Be your own entrepreneur

Think of your career as a start-up and of yourself as the entrepreneur planning and managing this start-up.

Become the “best-connected person

When it comes to networking, strive to be the best-connected person, not the most-connected person. Possessing a fat address book with many names means nothing if the people listed aren’t real allies who will collaborate and help you when necessary.

Learn to build new skills

The best possible skill is the ability to develop new skills.  


Believe that you can improve

If you don’t believe that you can move beyond your current abilities, you won’t. Avoid self-defeating, self-fulfilling doubts.


You can’t master any skill without extensive practice. Leverage the power of ritual to manage your practice sessions. Practice at the same time each day so practising becomes habitual.


You can’t practice, learn or work if you don’t get enough rest. Sleep at least eight hours a night and nap for 20 to 30 minutes during the day.

Do the jobs you delegate 

Monsieur Pitard, the top chef of the Hotel Majestic in Paris,  cooked one dish a week himself instead of delegating it his staff. Do some of the work you assign to others to keep your skills fresh. 

Always ask 

You can learn a lot from other people and advance your career in the process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to build your knowledge.   

Build social contracts 

Management expert Peter Block developed the concept of social contracting. That’s when you agree upfront with your partners or collaborators on how you and they will work together.


Maximize Your Potential: Your Better You

A Better You waits in the wings. Your Better You works harder than the standard you. Your Better You procrastinates less. 

Step up and claim this admirable Better You. Your Better You is your believable possible. Each successful person has his or her own believable possible.

For Bruce Lee, becoming the world’s most deadly fighter was his believable possible. For Muhammad Ali, becoming the world’s most successful boxer was his believable possible.

Your believable possible lives in the Better You at your core. You tap into your Better You with every positive action. It will direct you to the satisfying career you should and could have. This and more will become possible when you put your Better You in charge.

Other books we’ve reviewed with regards to personal development includes Grit by Angela Duckworth and Steve Harvey’s Act Like Success, Think Like Success.

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Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

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