by Sue Aquila
When I was younger I thought everyone had unlimited potential. The American way is that we are all capable of succeeding beyond our wildest dreams.
Flash forward 20 years later and I see potential differently. I have come to the point in my life where I am completely underwhelmed by potential. Today when someone describes potential it usually ends with a reference to a person's failure or their business failure. "But (insert name here) had so much potential."
Now most people will read the above paragraph and think, "Wow, she is a pessimist." Actually, I am a raging optimist who has come to believe that reaching our goals has nothing to do with our potential.
In business and athletics, I assess (potential) start ups, investments and competition by the following:
- Discipline is the deal killer. I don't believe I can reach my goals in business or triathlon without it. I do believe I have overachieved my inherent skills because of my discipline and my willingness to practice my discipline.
Discipline is a tough trait today in our society. Those of us with it are described at any one time as OCD or regimented or lacking spontaneity or as a radical (often we are described with all of those phrases and laced with some type of profanity for dramatic emphasis). Things do not usually end well for radicals in our society!
- Drive is the why. Why will I be competing in my third Ironman? Why am I expanding my business? If the why is authentic and paired with discipline, I suggest you get the hell out of that person's way. A person with both drive and discipline will always beat the person with potential.
- DNA: There are certain business models where I know I could make money. I also know that many types of businesses are not in my DNA. For instance, I won't be opening a bar anytime soon. I don't want to work at night and supply people with unlimited alcohol. Plus I abhor cheap wine.
I would love to be a professional cyclist. Yep, that's not in my DNA. My lack of watts per kilogram cannot be denied! I sometimes think about an ultra marathon or ultraman triathlon because endurance is in my DNA. However, my drive to complete an ultra event is much less than my drive to be with my family.
- Dollars: In business, we either need the sales or the venture capital to exist. Long-term existence never happens without sales despite the current social media trends. In triathlon, we need the dollars to compete. Our sport isn't cheap and for those of us lacking sponsorship (and many of you with sponsorship) we need someone to "show us the money!"
This season I have agreed to coach my first triathlete. The first thing that ran through my mind is that she has tremendous potential. Oops. I quickly rebooted. She has no potential. Does she have the discipline, drive, DNA and dollars to reach her goals? I don't know yet but I look forward to finding out.