3 Steps to Serving to Your Maximum Potential
When Elon Musk was still in college, he decided that there were three industries that are of extreme importance in the survival of mankind: transportation, space and energy. If you know who Elon Musk is, you know that he is the CEO of Tesla Motors (an all-electric car company), CEO of Space X (a private space exploration company) and the Chairman of Solar City (a solar-energy company). He sunk all of his energy, resources and time into the three industries he knew would revolutionize the future and he now runs a billion-dollar company in each.
While even starting one billion-dollar company is difficult enough, the practice of narrowing your focus is something we can apply in our lives to help us prioritize.
1. Which 1-3 areas consume your attention and spark your passion?
There are countless things that might catch your attention and even a dozen or more that you find really intriguing. But we want to drill deeper than that to determine the one to three areas that you are MOST engaged with. The reason we want to do this is that we’re each unique and made up of individual experiences, upbringings, backgrounds, educations and beliefs. Because of that, we’ll be best used in areas where our focus is heightened due to a personal interest or love. When we’re fully consumed by something, we’re a powerful force for change. Finding those areas, then, is incredibly important. For me it was education, adoption and creativity.
2. Say 'no' to anything that doesn’t fall into one of those areas of focus.
As enticing as somethings may be, if it isn’t falling into one of your areas of focus, it’s something that won’t fulfill you, won’t utilize your skill sets to their fullest potential and won’t leave time for the things that do. Learn to say “no” so that you can leave room for opportunity to unfold in your areas of focus. Now, just because you’re saying “no” to something now doesn’t mean that you can’t say “yes” later. Our areas of focus can change as our lives change. But in order to fully give back to the world, say “no” to the distractions of the present.
3. Create opportunity in those areas.
If you feel excited and ready to make a difference in those areas, you need to prioritize involvement in those fields. You’ve left time open by saying “no” to things that don’t fit, but just leaving time open doesn’t mean the world is going to fill that time for you. You have to seek out or create opportunity in your focus areas. This may mean starting a local chapter of an organization, contributing to an industry journal, volunteering or starting a business. I recently joined a Board for an elementary school, began working as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in the Foster system and started a podcast. Each activity challenging me in each of my areas of focus.
There are always exceptions to the rules...
Even when opportunities don’t necessarily fall into the right boxes, if they’re still big enough, they’re okay to pursue. The ripples of big opportunities can lead to other opportunities more suited to your areas of focus. For example, let’s say you’re passionated about cooking and want to be a chef. If the opportunity comes up to be on an advisory committee for a local philanthropic organization, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with food, it might get you in the same room as people who do have local connections in that field. I can’t make that call for you — weigh your options and if you deem the time investment to have potential pay off through networking, experience, enjoyment or otherwise, give it a go!
The primary takeaway is that you should be consciously pursuing progress in areas that leverage your unique skills and passions so that you can serve others to your maximum potential.