Big Potential

Book Big Potential

How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being





  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • Inspiring


For most of your life, you probably learned to compete and to focus on your personal accomplishments. Happiness expert Shawn Achor argues you can achieve more when you work with others. Going it alone leads to isolation, unhappiness and realizing only your “Small Potential.” When you lift others up and work as a team, you can achieve your major goals, or “Big Potential.” Using an easy if slightly hokey mnemonic – “SEEDS” – for the steps he says you should take, Achor provides a blueprint for making minor changes that can have a big impact on your life and help you become a significant leader regardless of your position in your organization. Achor says to build your career by establishing a system of positive influencers around you. Learn to give praise and recognition. Create a defense system against negativity. And, sustain this foundation so you can realize your greatest potential.

Do More Together

Achor delightfully points out that people, like lightning bugs, are stronger in a group. He tells of a night in a mangrove forest in Southeast Asia in 1935 when biologist and professor Hugh Smith recorded how the trees glowed as if struck by lightning. Except Smith wasn’t seeing lightning. Achor reports that Smith saw a mass of bioluminescent lightning bugs all glowing at the same moment. 

Smith published his results, but other scientists didn’t believe him. Why would male fireflies – who compete for females – light up in unison? Achor describes the way researchers Andrew Moiseff and Jonathan Copeland later discovered that a lone male firefly has a 3% chance of attracting a mate in a mangrove forest, but when males light up as a group, female response increases to 82%. When fireflies timed their coordinated pulses to the millisecond, Achor writes, they weren’t competing anymore; they were perfectly spaced out and positioned for attracting females. Achor argues that instead of embracing a “survival of the fittest” view, a better model for success is “survival of the best fit” – working together.

About the Author

Shawn Achor is a researcher and expert on happiness, potential and success. His TED Talk has garnered more than 15 million views.

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