The Most Dangerous Word Is Just – How To Know Your Real Career Potential

We have probably all said it when describing ourselves to others. “I’m just an X.”

But, I was taught this lesson a long time ago when I said: “oh, I’m just a trainer.” Right there, I degraded a career seen as a skilled worker’s job.

The most common commodity in this country is unrealized potential.”

Calvin Coolidge

I’ve been fortunate to work in the training world for over six years. In that time, I had a chance to work with people down on their luck, fighting to get back on their feet and find work. Much of the work I had to do was to get them to take pride in their achievements and the skills they had gained.

The feeling of falling behind is common among high achievers. The bar is set high. Drive leads us to look at others who are further ahead, and to feel that we are not enough.

But, like a child learning to work, who falls after only a few steps, it’s important to look back at how far we have come, no matter how many times we have – or we feel – we have tripped.

Realising Your Value

So, how do we realise what our worth is, how much progress we have made?

We need to see the forest for the trees.

Write down on a sheet of paper, or several, all the individual skills you have. Whether it’s tying knots, cooking, quieting a crying baby, teaching a nervous technophobe to check their emails, motivating someone, CPR, writing clearly and concisely, or putting together furniture. You are the sum of this jigsaw of skills.

It is these abilities that are the envy, and the desirable abilities, others want or need.

It’s important to take pride in each of these abilities, to use them to get ahead of your peers, to help others, and to teach them to others.

Every step on the career ladder is about reaching for the next thing you cannot do yet, and relying on the multitude of things you are already capable of.

Grasp these skills, master them, utilise them, and cherish them, with unapologetic pride.

Looking Back

Do not look back on your journey with negativity, believing it is not enough. You cannot change the past, you can only move forward.

Accept the lessons you have learned, and move forward with purpose and conviction.

You are not just anything. You are the envy of others, but only if you realise your potential. For then you will have the kind of sense of purpose and positivity that others will lack.

Become an inspiration to them. Do great things, using your real potential. Do not be held back by your negative perception of what you can do and what you have done.

We can all be great, if we believe it.

Do you? Let me know in the comments.


Chain Reaction – Building Momentum, Opportunity, and Growth


Image by Greg Rakozy.

I was driving to a meeting, with some time to spare, and stopped at a Starbucks. It was quiet, with one of the baristas sat at a table talking to a manager. Unknown to me, I was about to set off a chain of events.

I ordered a filter coffee — mostly because I’m not a fan of the bitterness of Starbucks’ coffee, but it’s also a hell of a lot cheaper — and the barista happily took my order.

“I’ll just have to brew some, so it’ll be about five minutes,” she said.

“No problem,” I said, and put my card into the reader and sorted payment.

Absent-mindedly, I watched as she loaded up the coffee machine and set it to brew. The barista came back, tapped away at the till and asked if I would like a receipt.

I then noticed the coffee machine had started to brew coffee, but that there was no container beneath the spout. “Do you not have a jug under there?” I asked.

The barista looked around calmly and then said: “Oh no!” She scrambled to get the container under the spout and grabbed wipes to mop up the side. Me and the two baristas laughed at what had happened. The coffee had covered some of the counter and started to fall onto the floor.

I moved to the bar and waited for my drink to be made, while the first barista mopped the floor. I had the first cup out of the machine, and just as I was about to walk away from the bar, a younger barista carrying bottles of milk slipped on the wet floor, landing on her knees.

She wasn’t badly hurt, but her pride obviously had been as she gave that embarrassed / surprised cry you do when you have had a shock fall that hasn’t all that badly injured you.

As there wasn’t need for too much assistance, and they had all started laughing at it all — the barista who fell was the daughter of one of the other baristas — I made my escape.

I got in my car and began to continue my journey, sipping on that filter coffee. And then it dawned on me, her fall had all been instigated by me walking into that Starbucks and ordering that drink.

I had started the chain reaction that led up to her falling, hurting her knees, leaving her knees — probably — with some scrapes, and her knees aching for the rest of the week. Without trying, I had an impact on how a week, or so, of her life would be experienced.

The Paths We Choose

We walk through life making decisions, almost without knowing it. Some decisions we are conscious of, others we do automatically, habitually.

Opportunities to grow yourself, your career, or your relationships, do not happen — in the most part — by chance. You need to see development in these areas as a set of chain reactions.

Making a conscious decision to step up in what ever area of your life you want to improve will have a dramatic impact on what opportunities come your way.

The simplest example I can give is the Job Hunt. Taking the time to hone your CV / Resume, applying accurately and skilfully for work, and keeping your options open within your career, will vastly increase the number of recruiters doing the searching for you, the employers you network with, the lessons you learn from interviews that could have gone better, and, eventually, the job offers you will get at the same time.

Something For Nothing

Taking a step onto the stairs of life, and continuing to advance with dedication, will make the world work for you.

To get things coming to you for zero, or little effort, you must first have skin in the game. Sweat, invest, make mistakes, fail, help others along the way, make small advances, and start getting noticed — and the world will start doing you a favour, or two, because you began to try.

I recently listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast with Casey Neistat, a very famous vlogger, and this led to me spending far too much time watching his daily vlogs (he carries a camera around all day with him and records and analyses his life).

He has well known mail unboxing sessions where he opens all of the fan and promotional mail from companies hoping to have their gift opened and seen by Casey’s audience. He tears these parcels apart, throws things he isn’t overly impressed with — sometimes the ones he likes too — using a lethal looking flick knife as a letter opener.

He gets a ton of freebies, even though it is clear he could afford to buy most of these gifts. They might be cameras, drones, gadgets, expensive electronics. Lucky Casey, huh? So why did Casey start getting handouts from the world?

Because he stepped up and does something you aren’t doing. He creates content that makes people happy, he’s worked hard to grow an audience that other companies want to leverage, he provides value that makes people want to send something he might like.

He worked for it, and now people (the world) want to do him a favour.

Thermo-nuclear Chain Reactions

When an atom bomb goes off, electrons from one atom smash into two more, which smash into four more, which smash into eight more, which smash into sixteen more…

Chain reactions in life aren’t just about doing good. They can also wreak havoc in your life and in other people’s.

Maybe you remortgaged your home, and it seemed like a good idea at the time, but that chain reaction of events could lead to you not being able to afford the repayments on your home, and could leave you on the streets.

An innocent night out on the town could lead to you getting too drunk, getting into a fight, hitting someone just a little too hard, causing them to haemorrhage and die (I attended the funeral of someone this happened to), and you find yourself in jail for manslaughter.

Be cautious of the events you might start, because you can either set yourself on a course for good, or a ride that could hinder, or end your life.


We are concentrating on the chain reactions that you can start for yourself. You have the power to get the world to work for you, by building the momentum for change and growth, to open yourself to the opportunities that are out there, or that you can create.

And soon, the world will begin to do some favours for you.

How? When you approach that moment where you know you should do something (applying for that job, going for a run) and you feel lazy, scared, nervous – jump in, or as Dan Peña would say:

“Just fucking do it.”

Have fun out there everyone. Let me know what chain reactions you have started in the comments below. Don’t forget to register for your free copy of the Becoming the Positive Pragmatist book.