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Big Potential

Kirjoittanut: Anniina Rantalainen - tiimistä Hurma.

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Shawn Achor
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 4 minuuttia.

Big Potential is a book written by the author Shawn Achor. It shows a completely new way of thinking about success and thriving in the modern, ever-changing world. It tells how one can find sources of potential in theirself and others. The book fights the normal ways of thinking about competition and individual achievements.


In the book Big Potential: How Tramsforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness and Well-Being, the writer Shawn Achor questions a flaw in our society. He thinks that the burden we are given when we are born to maximize our potential really doesn’t serve the society. According to Achor, competitiveness creates a zero-sum game in which you can only achieve your big potential if you are always better than your rivals. This causes consequences that are nothing but negative.


Achor thinks that the thought of the different way of thinking about potential begins with the idea of a Virtuous Cycle. In the book Achor writes about an upward spiral of potential, which means that with every success one gathers more resources. That leads people to reach their big potential and bigger successes.


About a fifth of the book is about the Small Potential, which Achor says to be an individual performance and how it’s mistakenly highly valued in our society. The writer quotes various researches and shows that the focus on individuals kills the true performance. According to him the results stay at the low level when the exaggerated focus is on the individuals.


In the book the author creates a distinction between small potential, “the limited success you can achieve alone,” and big potential, “the success you can achieve only in a cycle with others.” He states that it is absurd, that people spend the first twenty-something years of their lives hearing praise and criticism on their individual performances, when in reality, almost everyone’s whole working career is spent and judged in teams and groups. The author writes, that ”a virtuous circle is an upward spiral of potential whereby with each success, you garner more resources, which, in turn, allow you to achieve greater and greater success.”


After writing about the Small Potential, Achor moves on to the big one. Achor says, that ”in work, life, sports, or anywhere else, the way to win is to create a system in which members can assist each other, carry each other on their shoulders, and make each other better.” For individuals and organizations that want to achieve the power of big potential, the author offers a path of five stages, which he also calls the Seeds of Big Potential. The stages are shown as chapters, and each chapter contains a few to a several strategies on how one can implement the Big Potential in their everyday life.

  1. Surround yourself with positive influencers.

The author encourages to avoid the negative pressure of toxic co-workers who may resent one’s success, and to embrace the positive pressure of creative and motivated peers who support one’s rise to greater success


  1. Expand your power by helping others lead from every seat.

According to Achor, positive change is not dependent on one being in a leadership role. Helping others to achieve their big potential, even if it means forgoing power and influence that would benefit one in the short term, will expand their power in the long-term.


  1. Enhance your resources by becoming a Prism of Praise.

Rather than recognizing the highest performer, one should praise the support system that has made that high performance possible. It is important to make sure that the journey to the outcome receives as much praise as the destination.


  1. Defend the system against negative attacks.

According to Achor, one should always recognize, that spreading the negative messaging from the customers, the media and peers within the organization is useless. Instead, one should create a system against those negative attacks, so that their team can continue their work and progress. Of course, failures may always need some recognition within the ones responsible for them. The key is, however, to keep the messaging positive, because that is critical to success.



  1. Sustain the gains by fueling the Virtuous Cycle.

The author points that the more energy leaders channel in a positive direction, the more power they have to pull others along with them. Leaders always carry the responsibility of setting direction for the whole team, and it is important to do it in a positive mindset. It is also important to – as already stated – praise everyone’s success rather than to just recognize individual high leveled performances.


In Big Potential Shawn Achor combines neuroscience, psychology and network analysis with logical arguments to create an understandable whole. Together these factors shape a field of positive systems research. The main message of the book is that being super competitive may have served people through the individual achievements during the school and college years, but that success in people’s professional career will always depend on their will to connect with and support others. When one helps others become better, one is able to reach totally new levels of potential as well.


Shawn Achor’s book is a great eye-opener for a starting entrepreneur. It really shows, that the key to success is not to compete with and always try to outdo others, but to cooperate and learn for each other. It is so important to praise the great performances we achieve as teams, not as individuals.