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BEYOND TALENTBecome Someone Who Gets Extraordinary Results
By John C. Maxwell
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 John C. Maxwell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBelief Lifts Your Talent
The first and greatest obstacle to success for most people is their belief in themselves. Once people figure out where their sweet spot is (the area where they are most gifted), what often hinders them isn't lack of talent. It's lack of trust in themselves, which is a self-imposed limitation. Lack of belief can act as a ceiling on talent. However, when people believe in themselves, they unleash power in themselves and resources around them that almost immediately take them to a higher level. Your potential is a picture of what you can become. Belief helps you see the picture and reach for it.
More Than Just Great Talent
It has become an American sports legend. People call it the guarantee. At the time, it seemed like little more than an outrageous statement— bravado from a high-profile athlete whose team was the underdog before the big game. It occurred on January 9, 1969, just three days before the third world championship game of football, the first that was called the Super Bowl. And it was just eight simple words uttered by the Jets' quarterback, Joe Namath: "The Jets will win Sunday. I guarantee it."
That boastful statement may not seem remarkable today. Ever since the career of Muhammad Ali, bold statements by athletes have been commonplace. But people didn't hear those kinds of boasts from anyone playing in the upstart American Football League (AFL). The eight-year-old AFL was considered to be inferior, and in the previous two world championship football games, the AFL teams had been trounced. Most experts believed it would be many years before an AFL team could compete at the level of any NFL team. The NFL's Colts were favored to win this third championship game by 18 or 19 points.
Namath's guarantee might have seemed outrageous, but it was more than a hollow boast. It wasn't out of character for him either. Despite the fact that Namath was often quick to take the blame in interviews when the Jets lost, he always displayed a powerful self-confidence. He believed in himself, his team, and their ability to win the game. That ability to believe in himself was something that could be traced all the way back to his childhood.
Joe Namath always possessed athletic talent. He came from a family of athletes. His first coaches were his family members. John, his father, spent a lot of time showing him how to throw, hit, and field a baseball and teaching him what to do in various game situations. His brothers contributed too. His brother Bobby started teaching him the position of quarterback when Joe was only six. And brother Frank drilled him and pounded him if he didn't perform well in their family practices.
Growing up, Joe was small and light for his age. Sometimes people underestimated him because of that. When he was in elementary school, a group of kids from an even tougher neighborhood than his own challenged his friend Linwood Alford to a game of two-on-two basketball. Linwood and Joe showed up to play, and Linwood recalled, "They were all laughing like: who's this little scrawny kid? How you gonna win with this guy?" Joe might have looked like an easy kid to beat, but he wasn't. "You knocked him down, he got right back up," observed Alford. "Joe wasn't no pretty boy." Joe and Linwood beat the other kids and quickly earned their respect.
Joe had a certain fearlessness. He and Linwood used to go to a train trestle near their home, and they would hang from the trestle as the locomotive and its cars thundered overhead. But at first, that fearlessness didn't translate onto the athletic field. The key to unleashing the belief that lifted his talent occurred when Joe Namath was eight years old. He came home with his first team uniform for the Elks' Little League baseball team. Namath's biography recounts the exchange that occurred between young Joe and his father, John:
"That's real nice, son. Fits you good." Joey was the smallest kid on that team. He was the youngest, too, probably by a year. "You know, Daddy, those other kids are so good," he said. "They're bigger than I am ... I don't have a chance." "Well, you take that uniform off right now," his father said. "Take it back to the manager and tell him that you can't make the team because the other boys are better than you are." Joey looked at his father with those sad, dreamy eyes. "Oh, no, Daddy. I can't do that." "If you can't make the team, what's the use of keeping the uniform?" "But, Daddy," he said, "they're so good." "You're good, too. You can field grounders. You can hit the ball. You know where to make the plays." John gave the boy a choice: return the uniform or practice with the team. If, after the practice, he didn't feel that he was better than every other kid, he should quit. Joey said he'd try. As it happened, he turned out to be the best player on that Elks team.
The belief that John Namath tried to instill in his son was not misplaced. The father used to sum up Joe's Little League career by telling about a particular game that represented his son's ability. John arrived late and asked about the score from someone who was at all of the games. There were no outs, the score was tied at 3, and all and the bases were loaded. "But don't worry," the man said. "They just put the little Namath kid in to pitch." Joe got three quick outs, including striking out the opposing team's best player, a boy who was two years older than Joe (and who later played football at Pitt). Then when Joe got up to bat, he hit the winning home run.
Business as Usual
That kind of confident performance became the norm for Namath. As a high school basketball player, he was fast, he could shoot, and unlike most of his opponents and teammates, he could dunk. As a football player, he led his Beaver Falls team to win the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League championship. Before one of the games when Joe had a sore ankle, the confident quarterback, who also punted for the team, assured his worried coach, "Don't worry, coach, we won't have to punt."
Namath was heavily recruited out of high school, and some referred to him as the best quarterback in the country. He ended up at the University of Alabama, where he became a star and led the Crimson Tide to a national championship.
Entering the pros, Namath was again considered the best quarterback of his class. It's said that the NFL's New York Giants wanted him badly, but the AFL's New York Jets got him. Namath signed a contract in 1965 whose terms dwarfed anything previously seen in professional football—in any professional sport, for that matter.
For three years, Namath played his heart out, broke passing records, underwent knee surgeries, and led his team to losing seasons. But he never lost his belief in himself. He knew he could play and lead his team to victory. In the 1968 season, his fourth, he finally led his team to a winning season and a victory in the AFL championship. He didn't care that nobody gave the Jets a chance to win against the NFL team. He believed in himself and his ability to win. He also convinced his team. What most people didn't know was that Namath had watched hours of film on the Colts, as he did for every opponent. "The one-eyed monster—it never lies," Namath used to say, referring to the projector he kept in his apartment. He showed his teammates what he saw. They could win that game. And that's exactly what they did. The Jets beat the Colts 16 to 7. Most people consider it to be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.
What would have happened to Joe Namath if his father hadn't challenged him to believe in himself and his ability when he was only eight years old? Maybe he would have ended up like his brothers, talented athletes who dropped out of high school or college to work in the local mill or machine shop. Or maybe he would have ended up a pool hustler. It's hard to say. But one thing is certain: he wouldn't have ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. It takes more than talent to end up there; it also takes belief.
Beliefs Worth Buying Into
I don't know what your talent is, but I do know this: it will not be lifted to its highest level unless you also have belief. Talent alone is never enough. If you want to become your best, you need to believe your best. You need to ...
1. Believe in Your Potential
Your potential is a picture of what you can become. Inventor Thomas Edison remarked, "If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves."
Too often we see what is, not what could be. People looked at Joe Namath when he was young, and they saw a skinny, undersized kid. They looked at him when he was in high school, and they saw a kid who hung around with the wrong crowd and didn't do his homework. They looked at him when he was in the pros, and they saw a guy with bad knees. But he saw himself as a champion. If you could see yourself in terms of your true potential, you wouldn't recognize yourself.
When my daughter, Elizabeth, was in high school, she had a "glamour shot" taken of herself to give me as a gift. That was the rage at the time. A person would go into the photo studio and be made up to look like a movie star. When I first saw the picture, I thought, That's not the way she looks every day, but that's Elizabeth. That's truly her. Likewise, that's what it's like when you see and believe in your potential. If you were to see yourself as you could be, you would look better than you ever imagined. I just wish I could show you a picture of yourself with your potential intact.
Indian statesman Mohandas Gandhi said, "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." Closer to home, it would also suffice to solve most of our individual problems. We must first believe in our potential if we are to do what we're capable of.
Too many people fall far short of their real potential. John Powell, author of The Secret of Staying in Love, estimates that the average person reaches only 10 percent of his potential, sees only 10 percent of the beauty that is all around him, hears only 10 percent of its music and poetry, smells only 10 percent of its fragrance, and tastes only 10 percent of the deliciousness of being alive. Most neither see nor seize their potential.
Executive coach Joel Garfinkle recounts a story by writer Mark Twain in which a man died and met Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Immediately realizing that Saint Peter was a wise and knowledgeable individual, the man inquired, "Saint Peter, I have been interested in military history for many years. Tell me who was the greatest general of all time?"
Saint Peter quickly responded, "Oh, that's a simple question. It's that man right over there."
"You must be mistaken," responded the man, now very perplexed. "I knew that man on earth and he was just a common laborer."
"That's right, my friend," assured Saint Peter. "He would have been the greatest general of all time, if he had been a general."
Cartoonist Charles Schulz offered this comparison: "Life is a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use." What are we saving those gears for? It's not good to travel through life without breaking a sweat. So what's the problem? Most of the time it's self-imposed limitations. They limit us as much as real ones. Life is difficult enough as it is. We make it more difficult when we impose additional limitations on ourselves. Industrialist Charles Schwab observed, "When a man has put a limit on what he will do, he has put a limit on what he can do."
In If It Ain't Broke ... Break It! Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler write,
We don't have a clue as to what people's limits are. All the tests, stopwatches, and finish lines in the world can't measure human potential. When someone is pursuing their dream, they'll go far beyond what seems to be their limitations. The potential that exists within us is limitless and largely untapped ... When you think of limits, you create them.
We often put too much emphasis on mere physical challenges and obstacles, and give too little credence to psychological and emotional ones. Sharon Wood, the first North American woman to climb Mount Everest, learned some things about that after making her successful climb. She said, "I discovered it wasn't a matter of physical strength, but a matter of psychological strength. The conquest lay within my own mind to penetrate those barriers of self-imposed limitations and get through to that good stuff—the stuff called potential, 90 percent of which we rarely use."
In 2001, I was invited to Mobile, Alabama, to speak to six hundred NFL coaches and scouts at the Senior Bowl. That's the game played by two teams of college seniors who have been invited to participate because they are believed to have NFL potential. In the morning I taught from The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, which had just been published. And in the afternoon, I attended a workout session in which the players were tested for running speed, reaction time, jumping ability, and so forth.
One of the coaches in attendance, Dick Vermeil, chatted with me as I watched. At some point he said, "You know, we can measure many of their skills, but it's impossible to measure the heart. Only the player can determine that."
Your potential is really up to you. It doesn't matter what others might think. It doesn't matter where you came from. It doesn't even matter what you might have believed about yourself at a previous time in your life. It's about what lies within you and whether you can bring it out.
There's a story about a farm boy from Colorado who loved to hike and rock climb. One day while climbing in the mountains, he found an eagle's nest with an egg in it. He took the egg from the nest, and when he got home, he put it under a hen along with her other eggs.
Since he hatched among chicks, the eagle thought he was a chicken. He learned chicken behavior from his "mother" and scratched in the chicken yard along with his "siblings." He didn't know any better. And when he sometimes felt strange stirrings within him, he didn't know what to do with them, so he ignored them or suppressed them. After all, if he was a chicken, he should behave like a chicken.
Then one day an eagle flew over the farm, and the chicken-yard eagle looked up and saw him. In that moment, he realized he wanted to be like that eagle. He wanted to fly high. He wanted to go to the mountain peaks he saw in the distance. He spread his wings, which were much larger and stronger than those of his siblings. Suddenly he understood that he was like that eagle. Though he had never flown before, he possessed the instinct and the capabilities. He spread his wings once more, and he flew, unsteadily at first, but then with greater power and control. As he soared and climbed, he knew that he had finally discovered his true self.
Phillips Brooks, writer of the song "O Little Town of Bethlehem," remarked, "When you discover you've been leading only half a life, the other half is going to haunt you until you develop it." Not only is that true, but I'd also say this: Not reaching your potential is a real tragedy. To reach your potential, you must first believe in your potential, and determine to live way beyond average.
2. Believe in Yourself
It's one thing to believe that you possess remarkable potential. It's another thing to have enough faith in yourself that you think you can fulfill it. When it comes to believing in themselves, some people are agnostic! That's not only a shame; it also keeps them from becoming what they could be. Psychologist and philosopher William James emphasized that "there is but one cause of human failure. And that is man's lack of faith in his true self."
Excerpted from BEYOND TALENT by John C. Maxwell Copyright © 2011 by John C. Maxwell. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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