I love talent.
I love to see it in people who know that they have it and genuinely enjoy sharing it, and I love to see it in people who are just discovering that they have it and are figuring out how to harness it and to make it pay off. As a manager I believe that one of the most daunting challenges of having talented people on your team is helping them to identify and ultimately raise their “ceiling”.
A “ceiling” occurs when a person internally, and sometimes subconsciously, decides that what they are currently achieving is “enough”.
One of my favorite quotes is attributed to John D. Rockefeller who, when asked “How much is enough?” Replied, “Just a little bit more.” When people stop trying for the “…little bit more” is a good indication that they have hit their ceiling.
Off the top of my head there are 3 things that can create a ceiling.
1. A Lack of Gratitude
Grateful people look at life differently. It’s so cliche, but grateful people are “Why not?” people versus the ungrateful people who tend to just ask “Why?“. Ungrateful people tend to be proud, believing that all they achieved is due wholly to their ability, and conversely all that they have not achieved is the result of someone else’s failure, or just bad luck. It has been said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. A lack of gratitude in a talented person can often equate to a false sense of self-worth, and being bereft of a healthy sense of humility.
Grateful people tend to be “givers”. They understand that it is all luck, and that the good things in this life and the bad things in this life 99.9% can of the time be traced back to a relationship. Abraham Lincoln was quoted saying, “For a man to be truly happy, a man must learn to be truly grateful”. He said this in the midst of the worst national crisis the United States had endured to that time, the Civil War, and while grieving the loss of his son.
When people start looking around for someone to blame for their circumstances they have hit their ceiling.
2. A Lack of Focus
I was listening to a commencement speech given by the comedian Tim Minchin in which he gave the room full of graduates 9 tips for having success in this life. My favorite tip that he gave was to be “micro-ambitious”.
Paraphrased; don’t spend your life chasing dreams so big that you miss the beautiful, shiny things that the good Lord often puts in your periphery just to see if you will notice.
My daughter is a student at university, and while she is working everyday for an academic accomplishment that is 4-5 years away (if her mother and I are lucky), when she and I talk each day I challenge her to teach me what she has learned. She enjoys learning; acquiring knowledge, however it could be easy for her to [just] do what it takes to pass each class because that is what is required to achieve her degree. If that was the case then our daily talks would reference the distant future; and no one has a guarantee that they will have a “distant future”. I want my children, and my employees, to look at what they have the opportunity to accomplish today, and when “today” is over, I pray that they will have a story to tell me about what they were able to achieve today, whether it matches their “big dream” or not.
I am convinced that having one big dream that takes a lifetime to achieve is not healthy. You spend the majority of your life working to realize that one dream, and then you die. What about the little dreams along that way that got ignored because you were focused on the horizon? There is nothing wrong with looking to the horizon, but the horizon can be an imperfect point of reference for our daily lives.
3. A Lack of Scholarly Pursuit
When was the last time you turned off the television and read a book? What is wrong with learning a new language or skill? The one thing that I find that I enjoy most in the people that I am fortunate enough to interact with everyday is discovering what they are trying to learn at the time.
“What are you reading?” is a question that can tell you a lot about the person you are asking. With all the accesses to all the different ways that information is conveyed today, I know that when I see someone carrying a book it’s pretty significant because reading is deliberate. When I am watching television, I am often also playing on my phone or tablet. This is not possible when I am reading a book.
Even at my advanced age (49 years old, as a matter of fact) and with 25 years working in my field, I try to be diligent about constantly expanding my mind and base of knowledge. My friend and I were together consulting and training in a big organization, and in this dynamic people are often quick to give us their qualifications. One manager within this company was talking to us during a break and in the course of our conversation he stated, “I have 20 years experience…”. When he walked away and my buddy and I were by ourselves, my friend said to no one in particular, “Some people have 20 years experience, and some people have 1 years experience 20 times.”
We all have friends that are very successful and accomplished. By understanding their appetite for knowledge and continued personal growth it is easy to tell the difference between the ones that have “arrived” and the ones that are still on their journey.
- David Simpson
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