Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being - book cover
Business Culture
  • Publisher : Currency
  • Published : 30 Jan 2018
  • Pages : 240
  • ISBN-10 : 1524761532
  • ISBN-13 : 9781524761530
  • Language : English

Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being

Bestselling author Shawn Achor shows how to unlock hidden sources of potential in ourselves and others.

In a world that thrives on competition and individual achievement, we are measuring and pursuing potential all wrong. By pursuing success in isolation - pushing others away as we push ourselves too hard - we are not just limiting our potential, we are becoming more stressed and disconnected than ever.

In his highly anticipated follow-up to The Happiness Advantage, Achor reveals a better approach. Drawing on his work in 50 countries, he shows that success and happiness are not competitive sports. Rather, they depend almost entirely on how well we connect with, relate to, and learn from each other.

Just as happiness is contagious, every dimension of human potential - performance, intelligence, creativity, leadership ability and health - is influenced by those around us. So when we help others become better, we reach new levels of potential, as well. Rather than fighting over scraps of the pie, we can expand the pie instead.

Small Potential is the limited success we can attain alone. BIG Potential is what we can achieve together. Here, Achor offers five strategies - the SEEDS of Big Potential--for lifting the ceiling on what we can achieve while returning happiness and meaning to our lives.

The dramatic shifts in how we approach work today demand an equally dramatic shift in our approach to success. Big Potential offers a new path to thriving in the modern world.

Readers Top Reviews

Read this book. Read it again. Pass it on. What we thought we knew about succeeding needs updating. This is information we all need to hear and take to heart and act upon. If you're an educator, manager, or work with others in any way, there is great potential for you, and the people with you, to benefit from "Big Potential." Highly, highly recommend.
The Salary CoachRoma
This book is about improving your potential through harnessing the power of people around you. The book is relatively short and structured into a logical chapter structure but I found the book quite wishy washy with very few actionable ideas to use in my life. Overall quite boring and uninspiring. The author could have condensed the content into a magazine article and I’m still not sure I would have found it that engaging. Here’s what I took away from the book: • The more you help others succeed, the more you will succeed yourself • Success is less to do about how talented you are and more about how you fit into the team • Surround yourself with positive influences, both people and the content you consume • It doesn’t matter what job you have. You can be a leader • Providing praise is a great motivator • Be very careful to guard against negative influences. Ration technology and negative people
Melissa Smith, The P
To build up a team is to build up a person, your business or company and in doing so you can all achieve more. It's common to hear there is no "I" in team but you should also know why and the limitations of only reaching your potential. Big Potential lists them all out for you. Pursuing our goals and dreams is great. Achieving them alone is nearly impossible and doesn't result in Big Potential, only small potential. After reading Big Potential I'm more determined than ever to build up a great team where we can all magnify one another to reach our Big Potential.
Cary JS Lopez
This book is a wonderful combination of research, personal anecdotes, and...well, positivity. It's refreshing to focus on the potential we all have, and how helping one another shine makes our entire constellation brighter. Don't let the fact that Shawn is a positivity scholar deter you from the tangible, tactical things in this book - I know it's easy to dismiss the recent positivity scholarship as being too "polly-anna-ish" for the real world. Shawn does a great job citing examples of how these approaches can be used in companies both big and small, and showing how a small shift in mindset has changed their culture and bottom-line for the better. Whether you sit in a position of influence or not, this book highlights ways we can all influence the trajectory of our organizations.
Eric Karpinski
Shawn Achor has done it again! As he did in The Happiness Advantage, in Big Potential, Shawn shines light on a commonly held myth that limits us: that our individual skills, attributes and knowledge are at the center of our success. This is what Shawn calls our small potential. Then he shows us a better way - by fully engaging others in our work and in our lives, we can tap into the Big Potential that comes from approaching all challenges as a team. And as he does in all his books, Shawn masterfully weaves top research, meaningful personal stories and powerful real-world examples into an engaging read. Big Potential offers powerful learnings that will change the way you think and provide you practical tools to make positive change at work and in life. From the time we take our first steps, through all our schooling and most of our work, we are shown that our individual skills, attributes and knowledge are at the center of our success. The story we tell is that the more we are seen to stand out and excel on our own, the more successful and productive we will be. But the research tells a very different story. It turns out success is not just about how creative, smart or driven we are but much more about how well we are able to connect, contribute to -- and benefit from -- the ecosystem of the people around us. Shawn shows that almost every attribute of our potential - from intelligence to creativity to leadership to engagement is interconnected with other people. "We need to stop trying to be faster alone and start working to be stronger together." I've spent the last decade coaching individuals and organizations on how to apply positive psychology research into actionable steps. Here are the two most powerful and actionable concepts (in my opinion) from Big Potential. 1) Change the way we praise. o Be generous and consistent with praise. It is a renewable and self-expanding resource. Use it constantly and consistently. Authentic praise, even about the smallest, most rudimentary strengths and actions helps everyone find more things that are going right and creates a virtuous cycle of positive emotions, motivation and engagement. o Stop comparison praise: for example, forced ranking or telling people they are doing a better job than their coworker, colleague or team member. Comparison saps motivation and sets up artificial expectations of perfection. Use praise and recognition to raise all boats rather than push one down to bring another up. Convert comparison praise into direct positive reinforcement of actions and/or noting progress. o Pursue the collective win. Praise the whole team, not just the superstar. No one shines alone. For every top performer there are less visible people who provided the resources, knowledge, skills and energy to make that success happen. Acknowledge, celebrate and rewar...

Short Excerpt Teaser

Chapter 1

The Power of Hidden Connections

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Miracle of the Mangroves

When dusk slowly crept upon a mangrove forest lining a river deep in a jungle in Southeast Asia, a biologist far from his home in Washington State looked out over the lush, alien landscape lining the snake-­infested waters. While drifting slowly in his boat, Professor Hugh Smith surely heard the calls of the nocturnal creatures uncoiling from their dens or taking flight from their nests and beginning their nightly hunts. I can envision how the water must have shimmered under the light from the stars, unspoiled by the light pollution that existed in the remote cities. What happened next on that humid day in 1935 is part of recorded academic history. Smith looked up at one of the mangrove trees, and suddenly the entire canopy glowed as if a lightning bolt had shot out from the tree instead of striking it. Then all went dark, leaving a burned image on his vision.

Then lightning, as it sometimes does, struck twice.

The entire tree glowed again, then went entirely dark again twice in three seconds.1 Then, in a reality-­bending moment, all of the trees along the riverbank suddenly glowed in unison. Every tree on one side of the river for a thousand feet was flashing and going dark at exactly the same time.

Something deep inside me warms at the thought that such a patient, careful, and scientific observer, whose curiosity about the world led him so far away from his normal life in the Pacific Northwest, could be rewarded that night by such a magical moment of nature.

Once his capacity for mental reasoning returned, he realized that the trees were not, in fact, glowing; rather, they were covered with a critical number of bioluminescent lightning bugs, all illuminating at the exact same time. Upon returning home, Dr. Smith wrote up a journal article on his discovery of the synchronous lightning bugs. It seemed too good to be true, like something out of a storybook. I'm sadly unsurprised by the next part of the story. He was not believed. Biologists ridiculed his account, even calling it fabricated. Why would male fireflies glow in unison, which would only decrease their chances of distinguishing themselves to potential mates? Mathematicians were equally skeptical. How could order come from chaos in nature without a leader to direct it? And entomologists asked how millions of fireflies could see enough other fireflies to create the exact same pattern, given the limited visibility in the mangrove forest. It seemed physically, mathematically, and biologically impossible.

Yet, it wasn't. And now, thanks to modern science, we know how and why. Turns out that this puzzling behavior actually serves an evolutionary purpose for the fireflies. As published in the prestigious journal Science, researchers Moiseff and Copeland found that when lightning bugs light up at random times, the likelihood of a female responding to a male in the deep, dark recesses of a mangrove forest is 3 percent. But when the lightning bugs light up together, the likelihood of females responding is 82 percent.2 That's not a typo. The success rate increased by 79 percentage points when flashing as an interconnected community rather than as individuals.

Society teaches that it's better to be the only bright light than be in a forest of bright lights. After all, isn't that the way we think about success in our schools and companies? We want to graduate at the top of our class, get the job at the best company, and be chosen to work on the most coveted project. We want our child to be the smartest kid at school, the most popular kid on the block, the fastest kid on the team. When any resource-­be it acceptance to the most prestigious university, an interview with a top-­ranking company, or a spot on the best athletic team-­is limited, we are taught that we have to compete in order to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack.

And yet, my research shows that this isn't actually the case. The lightning bug researchers discovered that when the fireflies were able to time their pulses with one another with astonishing accuracy (to the millisecond!), it allowed them to space themselves apart perfectly, thus eliminating the need to compete. In the same way, when we help others become better, we can actually increase the available opportunities, instead of vying for them. Like the lightning bugs, once we learn to coordinate and collaborate with those around us, we all begin to shine brighter, both individually and as an ecosystem.

But pause to think for a moment. How did lightning bugs even do it? How did they all coordinate their flashing lights so perfectly, espec...