How to Invest in Yourself to Achieve Your Greatest Potential – Part 4: Stand on Others’ Shoulders

My last article discussed the importance of ignoring any naysayers that you may encounter in your path to achieving your greatest potential. Having discussed that, I feel that the next logical subject is the infinite positive and beneficial effects that others can have on us in terms of helping us achieve our potential, and how we can approach this area. In this article I will therefore discuss this subject with some examples and ideas that I think might be useful to you.


There is no such thing as a self-made person

I think a key thing to note is that no one really achieves anything at all completely by themself. Whether through interacting with others who inspire us, encourage us, and/or teach us etc personally, being inspired by hearing someone else’s story, or utilising existing resources and knowledge, we all benefit very much from the help that others can give us in our journeys. We stand on each other’s shoulders. If that was not true, we would all be literally inventing fire and the wheel for ourselves and would not have progressed very far in any way.

One person who has inspired me very much is Arnold Schwarzenegger, ever since I read his autobiographical book, ‘The Education of a Bodybuilder’. I was getting really into lifting weights when I read this book, although I had no personal interest in competitive bodybuilding, nor professional acting or politics. What really inspired me about his story was how self-directed he was, and how he essentially achieved so much, chiefly through the power of his own mind, his clarity of purpose and his determination. He seems to me to be an ideal example of a ‘self-made man’.

However, years later, I opened the book, ‘Tools of Titans’ by Tim Ferris, and read the foreword, written by Arnold Schwarzenegger, which begins, “I am not a self-made man”. He proceeds, “… I got a lot of help. It is true that I grew up in Austria without plumbing. It is true that I moved to America alone with just a gym bag… But it is not true that I am self-made. Like everyone, to get to where I am, I stood on the shoulders of giants. My life was built on a foundation of parents, coaches, and teachers; of mentors who shared wisdom and advice; of idols who motivated me from the pages of magazines…”


"No one mind is complete by itself"

The same idea can be found in the writings of Napoleon Hill, who talks about the importance of including others in our journeys, stating in the second chapter of his book, ‘Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success’, “No one has ever attained outstanding success in anything without applying the mastermind principle. No one mind is complete by itself.” The first chapter in this book is called “Develop Definitiveness of Purpose”, and I think it is telling that this first chapter deals with one’s purpose (see my first article in this series) and the next, with the subject of how others can help us achieve that purpose. You cannot hit a target you are not aiming for and only after this will you be in a position to benefit from someone else’s help, or from existing knowledge, tools or resources.

Once you have clarity of purpose, I think it’s a great idea to seek out as much relevant knowledge as possible. Through my interest in lifting weights, I discovered powerlifting, and soon mastery of this discipline became a major passion of mine. I knew that I was not far into my development in this area and that basically anything I did would lead to improvement, but I also knew that this is a process that would take a long time and I was keenly interested in researching how I might plan my long-term development to ensure that what I was doing was the optimum way for me to develop, not just in the short term but also in a way that was conducive to achieving my full potential.

I started reading textbooks on athletic development and strength training. (I bought and read so many that they are actually currently housed in two carrier bags that I am hanging off either side of a bar to train at home whilst unable to access a gym). All of this reading in my chosen discipline contributed massively to my understanding of its theory and practice, and helped me plan my efforts in developing to much higher levels and avoiding common pitfalls, and years later still informs my plans for my development and my efforts.

So when embarking on a new goal that will require learning, I would strongly recommend simply seeking out and studying existing materials related to the subject. Over time, your understanding will grow and grow, you will notice patterns and relationships between different theories and approaches and you will also gain a greater and greater understanding of who and what the most valuable sources of information are and the process will only build on itself. In time you yourself may become an expert.


Immerse yourself in relevant environments and seek out the experts

In addition to already existing knowledge such as books, articles and videos, I would highly recommend any interaction you can have with those currently more knowledgeable and/or skilled than yourself. This could be face to face, at a place or event relevant to your goal. For example, when I first started towards a career in personal training and development, I had no idea where to start, so I looked up different professional networking and learning events and went to several of them over a year. These events were always very interesting, enjoyable and positive experiences and I learned a lot from each one.

At my first event, just going there, and experiencing the welcoming atmosphere and having interesting conversations with others, was very beneficial. At another event, I mostly walked around all day, introducing myself to various vendors and others and asking them about themselves and their business. This led to many interesting conversations and grew my network a great deal. One of the people I met later mentored me in my career and another conversation led to a fantastic opportunity, a voluntary project for a charity called Learn Appeal, which was a worthwhile project that really grew my career-specific skills. So given my own experiences, I would highly recommend going to any places or events that are relevant to your purpose, getting involved and seeing what happens.

 Of course, for different reasons, sometimes this is not possible. Interacting with others through technology is also incredibly useful and offers some advantages over face to face interaction. Social media such as LinkedIn can be used to build and communicate with a professional network, and there are many different groups and chats that can all be incredibly beneficial for your learning and for helping you achieve your goals. Other advantages include being able to interact with people all over the world instantly. You can also seek out individuals to ask for advice on any question that you may have about your goal. This has led me to receiving some great advice.


In summary, it is my understanding that no one really achieves anything completely by themself. Others can have an incredibly beneficial impact on us and our development. In order to approach this proactively, I believe it is best to start with your purpose or goal. Once there, I think it’s a great idea to consume as much existing knowledge as possible relevant to your goal, to go to relevant places/events and get involved and talk to people there, hungry to learn and with an open mind, interact with others who are more knowledgeable or experienced than you through technology also, and even reach out to people with questions you may have. These are the main ideas that I have for approaching how you can stand on others’ shoulders in order to reach new heights in your development, and towards achieving your greatest potential. I hope this is useful to you.