How to Invest in Yourself to Achieve Your Greatest Potential – Part 3: Ignore the Naysayers and Keep Going

Whilst working towards our goals and dreams, sometimes progress can be hard to come by and sometimes those around us can hinder us. I believe very strongly that it is imperative both to keep going, and to ignore any naysayers in your path. I believe this is one of the most important factors in realising your dreams and achieving your ultimate potential. In this article I’ll tell you why.

Having difficulty – should you give up?

Imagine that you had been writing stories since you were six years old and that at the age of 25, you had an idea for a series of books. You spent the next seven years, which happened to be among the very hardest years of your life, writing the first book in the series, and subsequently sent it to 12 publishers. And not one of them wanted to publish your story. One of them suggested that you should take a training course to learn how to write a story. Another said that you should not give up your job to become a writer. Well that is exactly what happened to JK Rowling when she wrote the first Harry Potter book. Of course they were wrong, and JK Rowling published the first Harry Potter book, along with many more to follow, and became a billionaire through creating and sharing a story that entertained and inspired countless people all over the world. Interestingly, JK Rowling said in one of those books, “It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Similarly, there was once a young man who struggled with science at university, although very passionate about the subject, and once contemplated dropping out to become an insurance salesman. For years, he struggled to obtain employment as a scientist and wrote scientific papers which were ignored by the scientific community until much later. That man’s name was Albert Einstein, whose name is today, and has been for some time, synonymous with the word genius, and who contributed many unique contributions and breakthroughs to science and to our understanding of the world. People don’t always know greatness when they see it, and often, great achievement follows great struggle at the lower (or all) levels.

So, if you are working towards achieving a dream and are not seeing the results that you would like, or are receiving negative comments from others, I would strongly encourage you to think of examples such as the two above. As Tony Robbins says, “Your past does not equal your future”, and I would add, that very often, those who achieve the most profound results in any endeavour, are people to whom success did not come easily.


Is your dream impossible?

I recently read a book that made a big impression, called ‘The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations out of Poverty’. One of the ideas in the book is that when we look at revolutionary ideas and inventions, often since they have already happened, they can seem almost like they were just waiting to happen or be invented before they happened. However, that’s really not the case. The book discusses lots of really profound examples.

It discusses how before the mass integration of cars into American society (and more broadly), car ownership was something only for the very rich. Only a tiny percentage of roads were suitable for driving on and there was nowhere to fill up your car with fuel on the roads. Henry Ford changed that, but not before being extensively laughed at for his idea. People thought that he was off his head, that cars would never replace horses as the main means of travel for most people. However, Henry Ford overcame many obstacles, such as largely inventing mass production and building roads and petrol/gas stations. What seemed laughably impossible to almost everyone before it happened became reality and now that it has already happened, it of course seems as if it was just waiting for someone to do it.

More recently, the book tells the story of Mo Ibrahim, who in the 1990’s thought of setting up a mobile phone company in Africa. He had a lot of experience in the telecommunications industry. However, this experience was gained in the first world and when he shared his idea, he was literally laughed at by experts in this very field. People thought that it could not be done; there was no infrastructure and too many obstacles. However, he believed that he could create something of value for everyday people in Africa, and created a business plan that included creating infrastructure and overcoming all of the obstacles, and involved navigating war zones and setting up electricity and mobile phone towers. His venture employed lots of people whilst making millions providing an affordable and valuable product to many more. Now, there are many mobile phone networks in Africa and perhaps in hindsight it looks as if it was just waiting for someone to do it.

One of my favourite quotes from the book – “Most of the things worth doing in the world were declared impossible before they were done” – Louis D. Brandeis


Ignore your monkeys

There was once an experiment done in a group of monkeys, which I think was cruel, though has something to offer this subject. A group of monkeys were in a room, which had a banana at the top of the ceiling. The first monkey climbed up towards the banana, and before it got to it, it was hit by a splash of cold water and it climbed back down. One by one, the monkeys tried to reach the banana, and one by one they were hit by cold water and climbed back down in defeat. Eventually they all stopped trying to reach it.

One monkey was then replaced with another and the new monkey started towards the banana. The others stopped it from trying to reach the banana, remembering what happened to them. Over time, each monkey was systematically replaced by another and all learned not to try to reach the banana. Eventually, none of the monkeys in the room had tried to reach the banana or been hit by the cold water. Yet whenever a new monkey was introduced to the room, the others would grab it and stop it from trying to reach the banana, and none of them knew why.

In order to achieve your ultimate potential, I believe it’s important to ignore your monkeys, whilst overcoming your splashes of cold water. In doing so, you’re also demonstrating that it is, in fact, possible to reach one’s banana, whilst making the world a better place in the process.