Life has no limitations except the ones you make. – Les Brown
The story is told of master magician and locksmith Harry Houdini on one of his European tours and how he found himself locked in by his own thinking. After he had been searched and manacled in a Scottish town jail, the old turnkey shut him in a cell and walked away. Houdini quickly freed himself from his shackles and then tackled the cell lock. But despite all his efforts, the lock wouldn’t open.
Finally, ever more desperate but completely exhausted, he leaned against the door–and it swung open so unexpectedly that he nearly fell headlong into the corridor. The turnkey had not locked it.
One difficult lesson for leaders to learn is that it’s not always the big stumbling blocks along the way that will do you in. In fact, just the opposite can be true if you are not careful. From the story we learn that what Houdini thought was locking him in the cell was the very thing that would set him free. Here’s the lesson: at times what you think is the problem is not the problem and the small things you overlook are the ones that give you the most grief.
So what are some of the locks in leadership that will hold you back and keep you from reaching your potential? There are many, but I will highlight three. If you will pay attention to these little things now it can save you a lot of heartache later.
The lock of low expectations
You will only rise to the level of success that you envision and strive for. Your expectations are the measuring rod of your dreams. If you are locked in by low expectations then high expectations will never occur.
But who or what is the source of your low expectations? You must identify and get to the root of your low expectations if you want to turn things around. Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence in your abilities. It may have been a bad break that you haven’t recovered from. Maybe you bought-in to someone else’s low expectation they placed on you.
Regardless of the source, you must disqualify it of its place in your vocabulary, your mindset, and your vision going forward. You can unlock your potential to growth and success when you remove low expectations from your playbook.
The lock of improper comparisons
One potentially demoralizing habit a leader can do is to get caught up in is the comparison game. You know the drill, “He has more clients”, “She has more contacts”, “He gets all the breaks”, “Her family name got her where she is,” and on it goes.
It’s all too easy to make improper comparisons and allow that to be a source of discouragement and a setback. You are not called to run anyone else’s race but your own. Improper comparisons are a lock that will always hold back so long as you are consumed by the other person and your perceptions of what is not fair.
As a leader you will ultimately have to look inward and upward if you want to be at peace. So long as you allow someone else to be your measure of success then you will always doubt and second guess yourself. Find peace at the end of the day in knowing that you did your best. Unlock the potential of everything that is great about you – not others.
The lock of a bad attitude
Ultimately, your attitude is your deal-breaker. With a good attitude you can unlock all the potential that is uniquely yours to achieve. A bad attitude will keep you locked up in a cell of your own making that will always hold you back.
Do other people sometimes get the better breaks? Do bad things happen to good and honest people? Of course it does. Life is not always fair. But life is made better or made worse by the way you respond and the attitude that you choose.
As a leader it’s time to pick some locks and set yourself free. It’s time to raise expectations equal to your talent – not equal to your fears. It’s time to quit comparing yourself to others and change your attitude.
It’s time to unlock your potential!
© 2014 Doug Dickerson