Find Your Hidden Potential

Typically these posts discuss technology trends through the lens of a company’s press release about some “hot, new, breakthrough” product. Most of the time these discuss upgrades and incremental improvements. That’s all good, just unfortunately falls short of the usual marketing hype.

Sometimes I come across something important for our (yours, mine, and someone you know) personal development. Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things by Adam Grant is a must-read book. Weaving research, analysis, and stories, Grant takes us through a number of steps and processes to help us find our hidden potential. The value extends beyond ourselves to those we parent, mentor, coach, or teach. Helping others develop is a joy beyond description.

He discusses at one point the value of teaching character traits exceeds the subject matter. I appreciate the validation. I spoke for 30 years about how when training young people to become soccer referees that I was teaching beyond just the Laws of the Game. I taught those 12-15-year-olds how to show up on time, be properly equipped, make decisions, stand up for yourself in the face of the inevitable complainers. I see many on Facebook or LinkedIn who are successful engineers, teachers, coaches, and more in their own right. I hope I helped them in my own low-key way.

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist at Wharton, where he has been the top-rated professor for seven straight years. 

To quote from the description on Bookshop.org:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again illuminates how we can elevate ourselves and others to unexpected heights.

We live in a world that’s obsessed with talent. We celebrate gifted students in school, natural athletes in sports, and child prodigies in music. But admiring people who start out with innate advantages leads us to overlook the distance we ourselves can travel. We underestimate the range of skills that we can learn and how good we can become. We can all improve at improving. And when opportunity doesn’t knock, there are ways to build a door.

Hidden Potential offers a new framework for raising aspirations and exceeding expectations. Adam Grant weaves together groundbreaking evidence, surprising insights, and vivid storytelling that takes us from the classroom to the boardroom, the playground to the Olympics, and underground to outer space. He shows that progress depends less on how hard you work than how well you learn. Growth is not about the genius you possess–it’s about the character you develop. Grant explores how to build the character skills and motivational structures to realize our own potential, and how to design systems that create opportunities for those who have been underrated and overlooked.

Many writers have chronicled the habits of superstars who accomplish great things. This book reveals how anyone can rise to achieve greater things. The true measure of your potential is not the height of the peak you’ve reached, but how far you’ve climbed to get there.

Supercommunicators

I remember, barely, being a freshman engineering student. My mindset reflected many (most? all?) of my colleagues—“I don’t need no stinkin’ English and speech classes!” Math and science. What else is there?

Then I got a job.

Turns out that communication skills are essential for career success. Want to be an effective engineer? The ability to listen, talk, and write will serve you better than how quickly you can solve differential equations. Eventually I landed a position as a senior editor of an engineering magazine. It is really hard to find an engineer who can write, they told me.

Charles Duhigg has released a new book. His last book, The Power of Habit, was a killer book. It came out about the same time as James Clear’s Atomic Habits. The two books taught us how to form habits to improve our daily lives and professional effectiveness.

His new book, Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection, promised to do the same thing for effective conversations.

Not so much. It’s a disappointing book. Perhaps because it is really hard to teach people how to have deep conversations where you both connect.

He has outlined his three main points and tips for each point. But they lack the potency of how to develop good habits. 

There were too many “Duh!” statements.

On the other hand, the book is packed with good stories. Duhigg is, after all, a journalist trained to write good stories.

Slow Productivity

Are you the type of person who is known for getting things done? Is yours the first name that comes to mind when someone in the organization needs a report written or a light bulb replaced? Is “no” a seldom used part of your vocabulary?

In other words, do you always feel busy yet not accomplishing the work that would most boost your career or inner peace?

When you feel the need to focus on the things that really matter needing a way to say “no” more—or better stop being the name everyone thinks of first—then you need to dive into Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout by Cal Newport (author of Deep Work, A World Without Email, Digital Minimalism, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and more).

We know what productivity is relating to our production and manufacturing plants. But knowledge-worker productivity cannot be readily defined. 

Influenced through reading about the Slow Food movement in Italy, Newport thought about how our decades long obsession with productivity has led to what he calls pseudo-productivity—busy-ness just for the sake of appearing to be, well, busy.

He will show you a few calendar tricks to help you say “no” or at least something like “I’d be glad to help if you see where on my calendar I could get to it.” 

How do I get to Slow Productivity?

  • Do Fewer Things. 
  • Work at a Natural Pace. 
  • Obsess over Quality.

If you do what you’re supposed to do and do it well, how can anyone complain?

Mental Health App with Cybersecurity Implications

Did you know that your new Apple watch can measure stress levels and offer ways to manage them? This was the pitch from the PR agency to get me to talk with MetaBrain Labs. Many PR agencies send press releases capitalizing on whatever the latest media frenzy watches. Many are too over the top for my focus. Mental health is a media frenzy–it is also a very real problem. People suffering from depression, anxiety, grief, and more often are told the closes appointment with a therapist is six months away. An app sounds good, I’m sure.

With 35.5% of people already leveraging apps and other forms of technology to address emotional or mental struggles, according to a survey conducted by MetaBrain Labs that spanned across the US, Canada and Europe, this technology is a great way for people to jump into the developing sector of mental health technology.

However, being able to measure stress is only part of addressing the problem of stress management.

“While the new Apple Watch measures stress levels and offers ways to manage them, it doesn’t address the underlying causes of stress. The MetaBrain chatbot and wearable, on the other hand, guides a conversation with your unconscious mind, akin to the way a coach would, through a series of strategic questions. This process employs deception detection via the chatbot wearable to workaround cognitive resistance, to pinpoint the specific mindsets responsible for generating stress, facilitating their transformation into positive ones,” explains Alexandrea Day, Founder & CEO of MetaBrain Labs.

I had an opportunity to interview Day. I brought along an assistant, my daughter who is a licensed therapist. Too often these psychological devices and “fixes” lay in the realm of quacks and get-rich-quick schemes. Following much probing about the background of the app and device and potential uses, my daughter said that Day’s work coordinates well with Cognitive Behavior Therapy and other approved therapies. I felt better about writing about this.

Apple’s stress identification technology or other forms and apps that allow users to practice mindfulness can help people find temporary relief, but MetaBrain is working to get to the root of stress to help guide people and reverse self-defeating behaviors and mindsets that are holding them back and causing stress in their lives.

Day continues, “Merely identifying stress through devices like the Apple Watch doesn’t put an end to it. Mindfulness may provide temporary relief, but it often resurfaces with new triggers. The MetaBrain chatbot and wearable aim to break this cycle by guiding users through a structured session to identify and reverse self-defeating mindsets. This process is swift, and consistent reinforcement over two weeks ensures lasting change.”

MetaBrain Labs, led by the pioneering Neurotech Innovator and CEO, Alexandrea Day harnesses the power of their patent-pending Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology to explore and retrain the unconscious mind. This helps individuals unlock and shift hidden mindsets, facilitating rapid behavioral change for a profoundly better life in as little as two weeks. The process, rooted in Adaptive theory and used by Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) spans its use across all human endeavors from improving a golf score to becoming a mindful parent or a better public speaker.

This device will be useful as an aid with a professional therapist to boost mental health of their clients. It can also be used for cybersecurity vulnerability prevention.

Blessing for Work

I was greatly blessed at work. For most of the positions I held, I was the first person to hold the position. I had the opportunity to forge new paths and ways of doing things. Yes, I had several terrible bosses that cost my health for a bit. But many more were the bosses who taught and provided opportunities for growth. Most of the time I did not feel like a functionary simply filling in my time—like the protagonist in Franz Kafka’s eerie story of the man who turned into a cockroach over night.

Given an Irish and Welsh ancestry and vast eclectic reading habits, I don’t know how I missed John O’Donohue. Jerry Colonna introduced us in his book Reunion: Leadership and the Longing to Belong.

O’Donohue seems (although I haven’t found the document to study) to be the closest to my interpretation to the German philosopher GWFHegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit. That enough was enough of an enticement. But it his capture of the Celtic spirit that captivated me.

In the fourth chapter of Anam Cara (soul friend), he discusses work. And how modern work can be soulless robbing us of imagination and creativity. (He also references an early essay of Karl Marx about the alienation of the worker in modern industrial work. One of my favorites.)

With that long introduction, I will leave you with O’Donohue’s blessing for work.

May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.

John O’Donohue

Can You Cost Your Company Billions?

No one can figure out Elon Musk. Erratically brilliant, I’ve heard. How can he cost himself and his investors billions? Spouting off support for a white nationalist post on his social media platform X.

2,000 years ago this wisdom was published, “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire.” James the Apostle

I have heard many times, “I’m an American. I have a right to my opinion.”

My readings in literature and history teach that having an opinion is the human condition. Opinions are easy. Thought is hard. Informed opinions thoughtfully expressed are rare as a gem in the desert.

You can say whatever pops into your mind. On social media it is easy to just pop off something. And then you live with that forest fire that James warns us.

You can say what you  want, but there are consequences. Not everyone must agree. Many will vehemently disagree. There is no rule that you will not suffer consequences from saying stupid or inflammatory things.

It’s not the ability to say whatever you want; it’s doing the responsible act.

Your tongue, or your social media post or email, can create a whirlwind of emotions. Taking a breath before hitting the enter key asking if this is the responsible thing to do works wonders.

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