If you are a Hidden High Potential (HHP) and you never hear anything else from me, memorize this statement:
What is safe for other people is dangerous for you; what is guaranteed to fail for most people is what’s most likely to succeed for you.
Or, as Pippin in the Two Towers movie put it:
The closer we are to danger, the farther we are from harm.
Why this is true has to do with what makes you a high potential in the first place.
High Potentials are on steep growth curves. Their minds don’t stay in one place for very long because soon they have grown out of them. Jobs become the mental equivalent of a teenage boy’s pants: it seems that no sooner have you tried them on than your legs start showing.
If you stay in a job that is too small, sooner or later you will be asked to leave. If you are a HHP on a steeper curve, then you will also sooner or later not be able to do the work. You just lose the ability to think that way. There are exceptions to this, people who have been “turkey farmed” to the office at the end of a dead-end hallway of storage closets in an effort to get them to leave on their own. Or put into the basement.
That you cannot do work that is too small may seem counter-intuitive but it’s true. Your mind won’t do it. All people who work in jobs too small have the tendency to try and make the work bigger than it really is. (It also works in reverse when you are over-employed at a job too big: you will try and shrink it down to what you can do.) We all try to reconceptualize our work in a way that fits our capability. This and several other aspects mean that trying to stay in a “secure job” is useless, since you will sooner or later grow yourself out of being able to do that work.
Hidden High Potentials must always be stretching for new challenges. This can be in your personal life, such as taking on leadership of your local community, or in work. For extreme high potentials, this can even take the form of leaving their cushy lawyering job to create a NGO to run a school in Thailand. (Hello, Joel!) For most people, this would be suicide. Joel’s problem will be to ask for large enough sums of money. And if you have read the newsletter recently, you’ve heard the story of another attorney who needed to turn down the “safe” job with a large company to pursue the
There are lots of things that you can do but playing it safe according to other people’s rules is probably not going to work for you. You can’t sit on your hands. You have to lead, in whatever way that means for you personally.