Becoming a High Performance Person: Train your potential muscle

I once read about a man, who for unknown reasons decided to climb down a multi-story building. During his descent, as he hung from a window ledge it got dark and he could no longer see where he was going. Unable to pull himself up, he clung by his finger tips with all his might waiting for morning to come so that he would be seen and rescued. To his astonishment, at day break, he discovered that his feet were only a few inches off the ground. This man’s story demonstrates that quite often, success is well within our reach and on closer examination the answers to our challenges and the keys to improving performance are embarrassingly close. The difference between what you have already achieved and what you are capable of achieving is what I call your potential gap. All of us fall drastically short of our full potential. High performers however, invest the time to train their potential muscle in order to improve performance and close that gap.

Find a mentor
The absolutely best way to look at ourselves is usually through the impartial eyes of someone else. That is why Olympic athletes rely so heavily on their coaches. We all need someone who we respect and trust to allow us to benefit from their experience and to provide us with invaluable nuggets of wisdom and knowledge. We also benefit from their priceless powers of observation. Any athlete can tell you of the immense benefits of being under the watchful eye of a coach. As you assess what needs to be done to improve your performance and close your potential gap, you should be willing to consider different opinions but at the same time be cognizant of the fact that family, friends, and other associates with their spotty agendas and varied loyalties are not always the best source for feed back.

Find yourself a mentor or two. Since mentors have an interest in seeing their charges develop and grow into the person they wish to become, they will not “spare the rod and spoil the child.” You maybe wondering; “Where am I going to find a mentor? I don’t know anyone who would fit the bill” Don’t despair. Your mentor doesn’t have to know you. I have mentors who have no idea I exist. He or she doesn’t even have to be alive. Libraries and bookstores are filled with scores of men and women who have blazed trails and significantly closed their potential gap. Their lives inform us and reaffirm that higher levels of performance and success is possible and within our reach. Through their writings they pass on priceless nuggets of wisdom and when
we invest the time to study their lives we become inspired to take on the challenges of our day and formulate and execute a plan that will allow us to grow into a high achieving person as well. Click here to see a list of some of my mentors and the books they have written. Click here to share yours.


How much different would your life be today if five or ten years ago you were able to apply the wisdom and knowledge you now have? What level of success would you have achieved if back then you had responded in a high performance manner to the challenges and obstacles you faced back then?

Click here to share an instance when you responded in a high performance way to a challenge you faced. How is your life different today as a result?

When you study the lives of successful men and women you get an insight into how they coped with their particular circumstances. You see the tools they used to close the potential gap and thus what you can do to reach similar levels of success as well. Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States clearly understand that studying the lives of high achievers was one way for him to become a high achiever as well. He stated:  “I studied the lives of great men and famous women; and I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work. As they say success leaves clues.

“Just do it”
I am sure you’ve heard that slogan on television commercials and probably have seen it swooshed across billboards around your city. It is simple yet powerful. A quiet encouragement and a clarion call. It is an admonishment as well a challenge.

Absolutely nothing will happen if all you did was study high performance people and learnt what they did to succeed. You have to start executing some of the strategies they used. Having all the knowledge in the world will do you no good until you start acting. Even if you begin in a limited way, it is paramount that you act and put what you learn into practice. As noted author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe so aptly said “Knowing is not enough; we must apply!”

Over the years, I have read, heard and come to believe that there are four different levels of competencies. They are as follows:-

Unconscious incompetence: This person is not aware that they have a deficiency in a particular skill area and is not aware of the relevance of the skill.

Conscious incompetence: This person is aware of the relevance of the skill and of their deficiency in this area.

Conscious competence: At this level the person cannot reliably perform the skill unless they are thinking about it – the skill is not yet ‘second nature’ or ‘automatic’

Unconscious competence: The person becomes so adept at the    skill, they can perform it without thinking. It has become “second nature”

Bridging the potential gap requires you to go through all four phases.

In the beginning learning and applying what you’ve learnt from your mentors comes as a result of conscious, deliberate, willful acts. Over time, as you learn more and take action to execute the plan, the nuggets of wisdom that you have picked up become adopted unconsciously and the principles become your own. When the thoughts and actions of high performance people become your own, once you’ve completed the circle by adopting and internalizing the principles that inform the way they think and act, like them you’ll find your muscles trained to bridge the potential gap.

Keep on pushing!


  • Devon Harris

    Devon Harris was a member of the Jamaican Bobsleigh team and competed in three Winter Olympics; he later joined the army and attended the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. Born on Christmas Day, 1964 and raised in a violent ghetto environment in Kingston, Jamaica, the greatest gift Devon Harris ever received was the belief that a positive attitude and a never say die philosophy would carry him farther than a sense of injustice and a heart filled with anger.A graduate of the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England, Devon received a Queen’s Commission in December 1985 and served in the officer corps of the Jamaica Defence Force until December 1992 when he retired as a Captain.At the heart of Devon’s message are the lessons he has learned of the power of persistence over all sorts of obstacles in order to live one's best life. His mission is to bring this message of how everyone can keep on pushing and working for their dreams every day of their professional as well as personal lives.Encouraged by his commanding officer, Devon tried out for and was selected to the first Jamaican bobsled team which competed in the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada. Their exploits inspired the Disney blockbuster movie Cool Runnings. Devon also competed in and was captain of the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France and the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.The Keep On Pushing Foundation which he founded in 2006 aims to support and enhance the education of kids in disadvantaged communities around the globe by providing practical solutions to the challenges that are preventing them from getting educated.Through the Keep on Pushing Foundation, Devon also works with Right to Play as an athlete ambassador, supporting Right to Play’s efforts in using sports and play in refugee camps around the world to enhance child development and build community capacity.As an ex-serviceman, Devon understands the commitment, sense of duty and sacrifices made by those who volunteer to serve. As a private citizen he is cognizant of the fact that the freedoms he enjoys are paid for by the courage and sacrifice of these men and women. As a result he has also devoted time to visit the troops serving in the Persian Gulf.He is the author of the motivational children’s book, Yes, I Can! and the semi-auto-biographical motivational book Keep On Pushing: Hot Lesson From Cool Runnings.

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