A great book on performance and potential is Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis. It breaks down the mindset you need to be a top-performer. 

Essentially there are two “selves” in each of us. 

Self 1 is judgmental and controlling. It is fearful and wants to protect us from negative experiences. Ironically, this causes more pain and suffering in our life as well as poorer performance.

Self 2 is flexible, calm, open-minded, and child-like. If you’ve ever been in a “flow” state you have been deeply connected to the Self 2 part of your identity.

I came across Gallwey’s work when a presenter cited his performance equation.

P = p – i

In this equation, Gallwey states that your (P) performance is equal to your (p) potential minus (i) interference. 

Meaning, that if you can eradicate the interference, then your performance is equal to your potential.

That should be an exciting idea and we know this concept is true. I’m sure you have heard some of these sayings:

The sky is the limit.

Believe it and you can achieve it.

Walt Disney said: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Earl Nightingale back in 1957 released the first recorded motivational talk in the world. 

His record was called The Strangest Secret

What was the secret?

[bctt tweet=”You become what you think about.”]

Exploring your potential rests on two major components. Controlling the script inside your head (mindset) and nullifying interference.


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The Resistance

We all suffer from what Steven Pressfield calls “The Resistance,” which is also known as “The Imposter Syndrome.”  This is the unhelpful voice that exists in everyone’s head. 

It says terrible things about us like:

  • You are stupid.
  • Nobody cares about what you think
  • You are ugly
  • Etc.

The Resistance is one kind of interference and according to Pressfield, the best way to move past it is by being a professional

That means you continue to show up and do the work even when you don’t feel like it. Type away. Give your speech. Have the hard conversation. 

The Resistance never truly goes away, but it does become less effective if you continue to show up and do the work.

What are other forms of interference that happen in your life? 

Anything that happens and takes you off your game or sends you into a tailspin of unproductivity and negative energy is interference. 

Interference can come in the form of a person, a place, or a task.

I can’t answer what that is for you, but here are a few things that cause interference in my life and if gone unchecked occupy needed headspace.

  • A future keynote that I was asked to do with less than two-weeks preparation.
  • Creating a schedule that is too busy and lacks margin.
  • The constant worry of being an entrepreneur (there is no guaranteed check every two weeks).
  • Anytime I have a breakout with acne, I go into a deep depression and want to stay in bed all day. 
  • Paying attention to social media or the news. Negativity corrupts the mind. The left and the right are problematic and intolerant. Neither side listens, but just talks.
  • Individuals too selfish (or too stupid) to wear a mask during a pandemic. Are you f—ing kidding me? Why is wearing a mask a political statement? 
  • Continued voter suppression and gerrymandering. Voting should be the easiest thing to do in a democratic society. WTF?
  • See how I used the idea of “should” above. My worldview isn’t the only correct worldview, it is just my worldview. Anytime you think something “should” happen you are bound to suffer.
  • Making an international move during a pandemic. We have to rent a home without actually being able to see it.
  • Renting a car for an upcoming vacation to the highlands of Scotland I have been putting off. 
  • Creating a book that clearly communicates how we have improved professional development for school leaders around the world. I want this book to be a great success.
  • Procrastination in general.
  • Staying up too late, waking up too late.


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How do you deal with interference and maximize your performance?

Do the work. As I mentioned earlier in this post, continue to show up and do the work. Consistency will pay off and while every day might not be a productive or spectacular day, over time you will have more positive days versus negative ones.

Be mindful. I started meditating seriously in 2016 after studying the habits of successful people. It can be a spiritual activity, but doesn’t have to be. Science shows the benefits of meditation and personal experience has shown me it helps with emotional regulation, focus, listening, and deep thinking. 

Meditation helps you learn how to reset after becoming distracted. The more you can bring your mind back to what’s most important after a distraction, the more you can focus and create value for yourself and others. 

Meditation has also helped me note without judgment. When I’m at my best, I can identify negative energy and thoughts as they begin and decide how I want to act in the moment. Before meditation, I was driven by my emotions. At my best, I am in the driver’s seat.

One great book on this topic: Search Inside Yourself.

Take care of yourself. What routines and rituals are a form of self-care and will recharge you? Our minds and bodies are like our phones. They can’t be on all day without dying. They need to be plugged in and turned off regularly. So what activities or people fill you up? 

One way to maximize your performance is to get on the calendar all the activities that will be just for you. Do this first. Too often we put these activities on the calendar last, which is why they don’t make the calendar! Work will crowd out the time for all the activities that will take care of you.

3×3 strategy. Dan Sullivan teaches a concept that I want to pass onto you. 

The 3×3 strategy is not only easy to do, but incredibly impactful. Every three months eliminate three activities that drain your energy and add (or maintain) three activities that give you energy. You can either eliminate the task altogether or delegate (with effective training and feedback loops). Do this each quarter and Dan believes this is the secret to 10x performance.


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Last thoughts on potential

I think we intuitively know our potential. Even in a racist society, I believe you can create your own destiny. It doesn’t mean it will be easy. Too many people give up because of obstacles and too many people merely dream or talk a big game.

What separates those that reach their potential from others is they know what they want to achieve and they execute on that idea.

Before you go … This podcast episode focused specifically on how one leader helps students explore their potential. You can apply some of her strategies to your personal life or to your organization. Better yet, work with Jennifer to serve your students at a higher level.

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