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 sources 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.
More Than Just Great Talent
It has become an American sports legend. People call it the guarantee. At the time, it seemed like little more than an outrageous statement€” bravado from a high-profile athlete whose team was the underdog before the big game. It occurred on January 9, 1969, just three days before the third world championship game of football, the first that was called the Super Bowl. And it was just eight simple words uttered by the Jets` quarterback, Joe Namath: €œThe Jets will win Sunday. I guarantee it.
That boastful statement may not seem remarkable today. Ever since the career of Muhammad Ali, bold statements by athletes have been commonplace. But people didn`t hear those kinds of boasts from anyone playing in the upstart American Football League (AFL). The eight-year-old AFL was considered to be inferior, and in the previous two world championship football games, the AFL teams had been trounced. Most experts believed it would be many years before an AFL team could compete at the level of any NFL team. The NFL`s Colts were favored to win this third championship game by 18 or 19 points.
Namath`s guarantee might have seemed outrageous, but it was more than a hollow boast. It wasn`t out of character for him either. Despite the fact that Namath was often quick to take the blame in interviews when the Jets lost, he always displayed a powerful self-confidence. He believed in himself, his team, and their ability to win the game. That ability to believe in himself was something that could be traced all the way back to his childhood.
Joe Namath always possessed athletic talent. He came from a family of athletes. His first coaches were his family members. John, his father, spent a lot of time showing him how to throw, hit, and field a baseball and teaching him what to do in various game situations. His brothers contributed too. His brother Bobby started teaching him the position of quarterback when Joe was only six. And brother Frank drilled him and mounded him if he didn`t perform well in their family practices.
Growing up, Joe was small and light for his age. Sometimes people underestimated him because of that. When he was in elementary school, a group of kids from an even tougher neighborhood than his own challenged his friend Linwood Alford to a game of two-on-two basketball. Linwood and Joe showed up to play, and Linwood recalled, €œThey were all laughing like: who`s this little scrawny kid? How you gonna win with this guy? Joe might have looked like an easy kid to beat, but he wasn`t. €œYou knocked him down, he got right back up, observed Alford. €œJoe wasn`t no pretty boy. Joe and Linwood beat the other kids and quickly earned their respect.
Joe had a certain fearlessness. He and Linwood used to go to a train trestle near their home, and they would hang from the trestle as the locomotive and its cars thundered overhead. But at first, that fearlessness didn`t translate onto the athletic field. The key to unleashing the belief that lifted his talent occurred when Joe Namath was eight years old. He came home with his first team uniform for the Elks` Little League baseball team. Namath`s biography recounts the exchange that occurred between young Joe and his father, John:
That`s real nice, son. Fits you good.
Joey was the smallest kid on that team. He was the youngest, too, probably by a year. €œYou know, Daddy, those other kids are so good, he said. €œThey`re bigger than I am €¦ I don`t have a chance.
€œWell, you take that uniform off right now, his father said. €œTake it back to the manager and tell him that you can`t make the team because the other boys are better than you are.
Joey looked at his father with those sad, dreamy eyes. €œOh, no, Daddy. I can`t do that.
€œIf you can`t make the team, what`s the use of keeping the uniform?
€œBut, Daddy, he said, €œthey`re so good.
€œYou`re good, too. You can field grounders. You can hit the ball. You know where to make the plays.
John gave the boy a choice: return the uniform or practice with the team. If, after the practice, he didn`t feel that he was better than every other kid, he should quit.
Joey said he`d try.
As it happened, he turned out to be the best player on that Elks team.
The belief that John Namath tried to instill in his son was not misplaced. The father used to sum up Joe`s Little League career by telling about a particular game that represented his son`s ability. John arrived late and asked about the score from someone who was at all of the games. There were no outs, the score was tied at 3, and all and the bases were loaded. €œBut don`t worry, the man said. €œThey just put the little Namath kid in to pitch. Joe got three quick outs, including striking out the opposing team`s best player, a boy who was two years older than Joe (and who later played football at Pitt). Then when Joe got up to bat, he hit the winning home run.
Business as Usual
That kind of confident performance became the norm for Namath. As a high school basketball player, he was fast, he could shoot, and unlike most of his opponents and teammates, he could dunk. As a football player, he led his Beaver Falls team to win the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League championship. Before one of the games when Joe had a sore ankle, the confident quarterback, who also punted for the team, assured his worried coach, €œDon`t worry, coach, we won`t have to punt.
Namath was heavily recruited out of high school, and some referred to him as the best quarterback in the country. He ended up at the University of Alabama, where he became a star and led the Crimson Tide to a national championship.
Entering the pros, Namath was again considered the best quarterback of his class. It`s said that the NFL`s New York Giants wanted him badly, but the AFL`s New York Jets got him. Namath signed a contract in 1965 whose terms dwarfed anything previously seen in professional football€”in any professional sport, for that matter.
For three years, Namath played his heart out, broke passing records, underwent knee surgeries, and led his team to losing seasons. But he never lost his belief in himself. He knew he could play and lead his team to victory. In the 1968 season, his fourth, he finally led his team to a winning season and a victory in the AFL championship. He didn`t care that nobody gave the Jets a chance to win against the NFL team. He believed in himself and his ability to win. He also convinced his team. What most people didn`t know was that Namath had watched hours of film on the Colts, as he did for every opponent. €œThe one-eyed monster€”it never lies, Namath used to say, referring to the projector he kept in his apartment. He showed his teammates what he saw. They could win that game. And that`s exactly what they did. The Jets beat the Colts 16 to 7. Most people consider it to be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.
What would have happened to Joe Namath if his father hadn`t challenged him to believe in himself and his ability when he was only eight years old? Maybe he would have ended up like his brothers, talented athletes who dropped out of high school or college to work in the local mill or machine shop. Or maybe he would have ended up a pool hustler. It`s hard to say. But one thing is certain: he wouldn`t have ended up in the Pro Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. It takes more than talent to end up there; it also takes belief.
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, €œIf we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves.
Too often we see what is, not what could be. People looked at Joe Namath when he was young, and they saw a skinny, undersized kid. They looked at him when he was in high school, and they saw a kid who hung around with the wrong crowd and didn`t do his homework. They looked at him when he was in the pros, and they saw a guy with bad knees. But he saw himself as a champion. 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 €œglamour shot taken of herself to give me 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. I just wish I could show you a picture of yourself with your potential intact.
Indian statesman Mohandas Gandhi said, €œThe 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. Too many people fall far short of their real potential. John Powell, author of The Secret of Staying in Love, estimates that the average person caches only 10 percent of his potential, sees only 10 percent of the beauty that is all around him, hears only 10 percent of its music and poetry, smells only 10 percent of its fragrance, and tastes only 10 percent of the deliciousness of being alive. Most neither see nor seize their potential.
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, €œSaint 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, €œOh, that`s a simple question. It`s that man right over there.
€œYou must be mistaken, responded the man, now very perplexed. €œI knew that man on earth and he was just a common laborer.
€œThat`s right, my friend, assured Saint Peter. €œHe would have been the greatest general of all time, if he had been a general.
Cartoonist Charles Schulz offered this comparison: €œLife 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, €œWhen a man has put a limit on what he will do, he has put a limit on what he can do.
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, stop watches, 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, €œI 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.
In 2001, 1 was invited to Mobile, Alabama, to speak to six hundred NFL coaches and scouts at the caches and scouts at the Senior Bowl. That`s the game played by two teams of college seniors who have been invited to participate because they are believed to have NFL potential. In the morning I taught from The 17 Indisputable 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, €œYou 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 previous time in your life. It`s about what lies within you and whether you can bring it out.
There`s a story about a farm boy from Colorado who loved to hike and rock climb. One day while climbing in the mountains, he found an eagle`s nest with an egg in it. He took the egg from the nest, and when he got home, he put it under a hen along with her other eggs.
Since he hatched among chicks, the eagle thought he was a chicken. He learned chicken behavior from his €œmother and scratched in the chicken yard along with his €œsiblings. He didn`t know any better. And when he sometimes felt strange stirrings within him, he didn`t know what to do with them, so he ignored them or suppressed them. After all, if he was a chicken, he should behave like a chicken.
Then one day an eagle flew over the farm, and the chicken-yard eagle looked up and saw him. In that moment, he realized he wanted to be like that eagle. He wanted to fly high. He wanted to go to the mountain peaks he saw in the distance. He spread his wings, which were much larger and stronger than those of his siblings. Suddenly he understood that he was like that eagle. Though he had never flown before, he possessed the instinct and the capabilities. He spread his wings once more, and he flew, unsteadily at first, but then with greater power and control. As he soared and climbed, he knew that he had finally discovered his true self.
Phillips Brooks, writer of the song €œO Little Town of Bethlehem, remarked, €œWhen you discover you`ve been leading only half a life, the other half is going to haunt you until you develop it. Not only is that true, but I`d also say this: Not reaching your potential is a real tragedy. 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 €œthere 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 research 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. 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, €œSuccessful people believe in themselves, especially when others do not. That`s no more evident than in sports. Coaches have told me that self-confidence within players is especially important in tight ball games. During crunch time, some players want the ball. Others want to hide. The ones who want the ball are the self-confident ones, like Namath, who held the ball down to the last second during a high school basketball game in which his team was one point behind. While his team`s leading scorer kept shouting, €œGive me the ball! Namath was as cool as ever and sank the winning shot as the buzzer sounded.
People with confidence live by a credo that is said to hang in the office of golfer Arnold Palmer. It reads,
If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don`t.
If you`d like to win, but think you can`t
It`s almost certain you won`t€¦
Life`s battles don`t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late, the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
Only with belief in yourself will you be able to reach your potential.
3. Believe in Your Mission
What else is necessary to lift a person`s 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, €œThe 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, €œThe 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 naysayer. 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, €œDon`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 yourself doing what you once considered impossible.
Actor Christopher Reeve had that perspective, and it carried him far. He once told an audience,
America has a tradition many nations probably envy: we frequently achieve the impossible. That`s part of our national character. That`s what got us from one coast to another. That`s what got us the largest economy in the world. That`s what got us to the moon. On the wall of my room when I was in rehab was a picture of the space shuttle blasting off, autographed by every astronaut now at NASA. On top of he picture says, €œWe found nothing is impossible. That should be our motto €¦ It`s something that we as a nation must do together. So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable. If we can conquer outer space, we should be able to conquer inner space, too. The frontier of the brain, the central nervous system, and all the afflictions of the body that destroy so many lives, and rob €¦ so much potential.
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 fruition.
I need to say one more thing about mission. It needs to include people. Only a life lived for others is worthwhile. As you fulfill your mission, will others around you say…
€œMy life is better as a result, or
€œMy life is worse as a result?
If you think it won`t be the former, then the mission may not be worth doing.
One of my prized possessions is a simple crystal paperweight. It doesn`t have an especially artistic design. It`s not especially valuable monetarily. But it means a lot to me because of what is engraved in it and who gave it to me. It says,
Pastor, Mentor, Friend
€œThank you for believing in me.
It was a gift from Dan Reiland, who worked with me for twenty years as a staff member, as my second in command, and then as a senior vice president at one of my companies. Dan is someone I would go to battle with. He`s like a kid brother to me. The mission we pursued together made both of us better. That`s the kind of person you want working with you€”and the kind of result.
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 talent. You begin by harnessing the power of your mind. Your beliefs control everything you do. Accomplishment is note than a matter of working harder or smarter. It`s also a matter of believing positively. Someone called it the €œsure 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 believe 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 person. Benjamin Franklin said, €œBlessed 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 like Joe Namath, you will eventually succeed.
Attorney Kerry Randall said, €œContrary to popular opinion, life does not get 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 potential, yourself, your mission, and your fellow human beings at the top of your list. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asserted, €œThe only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Don`t let your doubts cause your expector to expire.
Harvey McKay tells the story of a professor who stood before a class of thirty senior molecular biology students. Before he passed out the final exam, he stated, €œI have been privileged to be your instructor this semester, and I know how hard you have worked to prepare for this test. Also know most of you are off to medical school or grad school next fall. I am well aware of how much pressure you are under to keep your GPAs up, and because I am confident that you know this material, I am prepared to offer an automatic B to anyone who opts to skip taking the final exam.
The relief was audible. A number of students jumped up from their desks, thanking their professor for the lifeline he had thrown them.
€œAny other takers? he asked. €œThis is your last opportunity.
One more student decided to go.
The instructor then handed out the final exam, which consisted of two sentences. €œCongratulations, it read, €œyou have just received an A in this class. Keep believing in yourself. It was a just reward for the students who had worked hard and believed in themselves.
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 €œsophisticated 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.
We cannot live in a way that is inconsistent with our expectations for ourselves. It just doesn`t happen. I once heard a story that I have not been able to confirm about an aviation pioneer who built a plane the year before the Wright brothers made their historic flight in Kitty Hawk. The plane sat in this inventor`s barn because he was afraid to fly it. Maybe it was because it had never been done before. Maybe it was because he expected it to fail€”I don`t know. It`s said that after the news reached him about Orville and Wilbur Wright, the man flew his plane. Before then, he didn`t believe in himself enough to take the risk.
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. The Wright brothers were of the first type. The would-be aviation pioneer was of the second. 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 Edmund 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, €œMount Everest, you have defeated us. But I will return. And I will defeat you. Because you cannot get any bigger, and I can.
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 calm. 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 must have positive expectations. To have positive expectations, you have to first believe. It all goes back to that. Radio personality Paul Harvey observed, €œIf you don`t live it, you don`t believe it. It all starts with belief.
A popular activity for tourists in Switzerland is mountain climbing€”not the type of climbing that the world-class mountaineers do to scale the world`s highest peaks. Maybe it would be more accurate to call it high-altitude hiking. Groups depart from a €œbase camp early in the morning with the intention of making it to the top of the mountain by mid-afternoon.
I talked to a guide about his experiences with these groups, and he described an interesting phenomenon. He said that for most of these expeditions, the group stops at a halfway house where the climbers have lunch, catch their breath, and prepare themselves for the last leg of the rigorous climb. Invariably some members of the group opt warmth and comfort of the halfway house and decide not to climb to the top. As the rest of the group leaves, the ones who stay are happy and talkative. It`s a party. But when the shadows begin to lengthen, many make their way over to the window that looks up the mountain. And the room gets quiet as they wait for the climbers to return. Why is that? They realize they`ve missed a special opportunity. Most of them will never be in that part of the world again. They won`t ever have a chance to climb that mountain again. They missed it.
That`s what it`s like when people don`t make the most of their talent, when they don`t believe in themselves and their potential, when they don`t act on their belief and try to make the most of every opportunity.
Don`t allow that to happen to you! 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.