Written by: William D. Anton, Ph. D., Founder of CEO Effectiveness

There are many ways to gain inside advantage, and the best is to first gain inside advantage with yourself. That way you discover the master key that offers continuous advantages in any setting with any constituency throughout your life. Only then will the other type of inside advantage enhance your creative potential. Let me explain further.

Every person has undeveloped potential. For most people reading this post its somewhere around 99%! That means that you have a lot of untapped genius to discover and apply to your life.  But, you are unlikely to discover it if you look primarily outside yourself for some advantage(s) that promises an external “worm hole to expedite your success. It has to begin and end with you.

In his book entitled Yes You Can! serial entrepreneur Bill Townsend says it like this: “Money is simply the by-product of being successful. Success is what I accomplish in my career, my life, and with my family. It’s about learning new things. It’s about having an idea and doing something with it (p. 33).”

So, what keeps you from having the idea in the first place? It is simply your relationship with yourself. Real success in work and life comes from loving what you do. And, loving what you do comes from knowing what you love. And, knowing what you love comes from knowing who you truly are. That is where creative tension comes from and where passion is born. This is beautifully summarized by Peter Senge in the Fifth Discipline as follows: “Our non-systemic ways of thinking consistently lead us to focus on low-leverage changes. Because we don’t see the structures underlying our actions, we focus on symptoms where the stress is greatest (p.113).”

Many people think that simply because others corroborate their self-description that they know themselves as they truly are. Being able to describe what you are conscious of is an important first step on the path to self-knowledge but stops short of transformational learning.

Transformational learning requires much more than simply becoming self-aware. Self-awareness is descriptive but it is not in itself transformational. Transformational learning is qualitatively different. It leads to personal mastery and flow. It requires updating of our early beliefs and mental models and changing the self-limiting habits that sustain them. Transformational learning is life altering. Engaging in personal mastery at that level has the potential to change everything, and almost always for the better.

The alternative to personal mastery and growth is not stagnation but deterioration. We are dynamic systems and if we wish to create a meaningful and successful life we cannot stand still and wait for it to come from the outside. Of course, commitment to knowing our true selves requires great courage, humility, and compassion. This level of self-knowledge does not occur simply with the passage of time and is best accomplished with a trained and experienced coach.

As Peter Senge has observed, “few are trained to see detail and dynamic complexity at this level.” It is difficult to overstate the importance of psychological training, skill and experience in helping current and future leaders discover, embrace, and unleash the other 99% of their potential. The world is in great need of what you have to offer but you must first exhibit the courage to know yourself as you truly are before you can offer the world your genius with passionate intensity.