In every great time there is some one idea at work which is more powerful than any other, and which shapes the events of the time and determines their ultimate issues.

~Francis Bacon

Benjamin Mays, a social activist, said, “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” I could not agree more that as leaders, we sometimes do too little or “…live below our capacities,” as Dr. Mays put it.

An entrepreneur who started his business and ran it successfully for over 20 years decided to check out and just let the business run itself. It no longer challenged him, and he was just tired of it.

Another entrepreneur did a great job in terms of managing his company, but it was not reaching its full potential because the owner just did not want to expand into different states.

We all choose how much effort we put into a project or job, and I know of few business owners and managers who commit 100% effort to their businesses. That is not to say they are not successful, only that their capacity is much greater than what they choose to accomplish.

Related Article: Did You Lower the Bar for Your Business?

When people look at me or my resume, they frequently remark that I have done so much. This is true. I have done many different things. However, when I look at my accomplishments, I am embarrassed to admit I probably have only used 60 to 70% of my capacity. I have chosen not to push my limit, which is terrible, and I do feel bad about this.

Why I chose not to give 100% effort is not a simple answer. Honestly, I think I just never had a burning desire to give 100%. I wanted to be successful, but I thought it was enough to do just what was necessary to make that happen and never considered that I was short changing myself.

Bottom line is that every manager and entrepreneur must be willing to give their full capacity. That said, how do you know right now if you are living up to your capacity? There is no magic bullet here, but the following questions might help you figure this out:

  1. If I gave just a little bit more effort could I accomplish more?
  2. Are their barriers in my life that are holding me back from accomplishing more?
  3. What would it take for me to use more of my capacity in my company or organization?

If answering these questions honestly, most people will determine they do have additional capacity they are not using. Understanding this is normally all it takes for them to start using more of their capacity.

Now go out and see if you are giving your maximum capacity to your job or your business. If not, make a commitment to do so.

You can do this!

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Jerry Osteryoung
Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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