Are You Performing at Your Highest Potential?

If you fail in your job or business, you may experience the apprehension of failing again in another profession. Apprehension prevents you from working at your highest potential. It also prevents you from experiencing whatever is happening in your life to its fullest.

In a 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, American businessman Steve Jobs shared three stories of his life that reverberated in the hearts of millions around the world. One story that resonated with me is particularly essential to understand if you are on a path to achieving what you truly desire.

Jobs began by saying, “It started before I was born.” Jobs’ biological mother, who he said was “a young, unwed college graduate,” had put him up for adoption. His biological mother refused to sign the adoption papers when she discovered that the mother who wanted to adopt Steve had never graduated from college and the father had never graduated from high school. But, with a promise that Steve would go to college, his biological mother relented a few months later, and Steve Jobs was adopted. “This was the start in my life,” Jobs added.

At 17, Jobs chose to go to a college, but he added, “I naively chose to go to a college that was as expensive as Stanford.” Six months later, he dropped out and attended only the classes he found interesting. He explained, “It wasn’t all romantic.” He didn’t have a dorm room, so he slept on the floor in friends’ rooms. He returned Coke bottles for five-cent deposits so he could buy food. Once a week, he walked seven miles to a temple to get one good meal.

Because he wasn’t taking regular classes, he took calligraphy classes. He learned about different fonts, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, and about what makes great typography great. Jobs stated, “None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life.” But 10 years later, when designing the first Macintosh computer, he said, “It all came back to me.”

He designed the first computer with beautiful typography. “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.” Jobs wound up this story by saying, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”

Obviously, Jobs’ journey is intriguing, but what’s even more intriguing is the notion he wants to instill within you: Dots representing present life events will only make sense when we look back at them. In other words, you must trust that whatever happens in the present will make sense at some point in the future.

Apprehension About the Future

But for many of us, we trust in the contrary. Many of us (including myself) are conditioned to look at our present-day life events and use those experiences to make sense of what will happen in our future. Consequently, we experience apprehension, a negative feeling, about our future.

If you fail in a relationship with someone you really love, you may experience the apprehension of not finding someone else to love. If you fail in your job or business, you may experience the apprehension of failing again in another profession. Apprehension prevents you from working at your highest potential. It also prevents you from experiencing whatever is happening in your life to its fullest.

Here are a few practical scenarios in which you can become cognizant of the experience of apprehension:

  • If you separate from someone you love, you haven’t succeeded in a finding a relationship, or if there is any aspect of your relationship with your partner, lover, spouse, family, children, relative, or friend that you see as a failure, and you have feelings of apprehension, know that it’s your condition to project the future from your experiences in the present.
  • In your professional life, if you’ve ever lost your job, haven’t been able to grow in your profession, or have been unable to succeed at your business that you’re passionate about, if you look at such failures as a representation of a future unsuccessful professional life, know that it’s your conditioning that causes you to experience apprehension. You’re conditioned not to trust that you will be able to connect the dots of all your present-moment failures in the future.

Being aware of your conditioning and transforming it with the belief that everything in this journey of life—all the people who come your way and the events that happen to you—will fit together like the missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle when you look back at them in the future. Such a transformation not only changes how you experience “failures” in any domain of your life, but will provide you the momentum to perform at your highest potential in whatever you desire to achieve in any domain of your life.

Kit Gupta is a writer and global speaker at IE Sigma, a nonprofit dedicated to work with individuals around the world to create pragmatic strategies for excellence in professional, personal, and social life. He works with his audiences from all walks of life to build success strategies, rather than building them in a silo for a lecture. For more information, visit

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