WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: Hidden Potential by Adam Grant

This book describes a fairly simple premise – that we often miss people’s hidden potential. It also provides some ideas for how to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential. Grant explains that high achievers often vary dramatically in their initial aptitude, so early success is not necessarily an indicator of later achievements. Grant argues that what’s needed is the right opportunity and motivation to learn. He suggests that character is more important than skills. Character traits such as proactivity, determination and discipline, courage to seek out the right kinds of discomfort (e.g. being brave enough to use your knowledge as you acquire it), capacity to absorb the right information, and the will to accept the right imperfections.

The book follows the journeys of a broad range of individuals who succeeded despite some early challenges. You will meet a team of underdogs at a junior high school chess championships; polyglots who have the ability to learn multiple languages quickly; rags to riches CEOs, sports stars with underwhelming starts; a mountain climber with a hole in her heart; a group of Black men who were the first to undertake naval officer training in the USA; self-taught architects with unconventional styles that can survive earthquakes; a choreographer who chose to learn from her harshest critics; a profoundly deaf percussionist; and an astronaut who was accepted to go to space after 15 years of applying.

This book is a wealth of information and ideas for how to get the best out of others (and yourself) and how to identify and support those with hidden potential. Grant discusses the importance of coaching to support people to identify and meet their goals. He explains why certain kinds of scaffolding are helpful. He explains some of the problems with admissions, hiring and education systems. One fun fact I learned in the book was the benefits of the computer game Tetris as an emotional regulation tool! The book concludes with forty practical takeaways for unlocking hidden potential and achieving greater things. This book is essential reading anyone who wants to reach their potential or support others to do so!

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