This book does not offer new research or concepts. Instead (I guess like most smarter thinking books) it takes studies and ideas that many of us in psychology think about in isolation and weaves them together to make a great case of how to uncover hidden potential. It highlights how you can get more from yourself and others and the systems that could be used to do this on a much wider scale.  

Hidden Potential is written in an incredibly easy to read and compelling way so everything feels simple and makes total sense. Grant says in the Epilogue that he was told to write as he lectures, using storytelling to bring psychological points and concepts clearly into visibility. There are not many ‘ah ha’ moments  but there are tonnes of ‘I must remember that’ ones. It makes you wish you’d had lecturers like him at uni who really knew how to bring a subject alive with stories – for stories are what we all love.

The key points I took from the book:

Potential. “Potential is not a matter of where you start but of how far you travel.” “People who make major strides are rarely freaks of nature – They’re usual freak of nurture.” What counts is not how hard you work but how much you grow. And growth begins…with a set of skills that we normally overlook.”

Discomfort. “The best way to accelerate growth is to embrace, seek, and amplify discomfort.” Once people saw discomfort as a mark of growth, they were motivated to stretch beyond their comfort zones.

Character. “Personality is your predisposition (basic instincts for how to think, feel, and act) and character is your capacity to prioritise your values over your instincts. Personality is not your destiny it is your tendency.

Perfectionism. Perfectionists get three things wrong  (1) they obsess about details that don’t matter, (2) they avoid unfamiliar situations and difficult tasks that might lead to failure and (3) they berate themselves for making mistakes which makes it harder to learn from them. “Beating yourself up doesn’t make you stronger it leaves you bruised.” “The downside of competing against others is that you can win without improving the only way to win is to grow.”

Motivation. “The strongest known force in daily motivation is a sense of progress you can’t always find motivation by staring harder at the thing that isn’t working sometimes you can build momentum by taking a detour to a new destination.

Leadership. “Weak leaders silence voice and shoot the messenger. Strong leaders welcome voice and thank the messenger. Great leaders build systems to amplify voice and elevate the messenger.” “Our job isn’t to apply the pressure that brings out their brilliance it is to make sure we don’t overlook those who have already faced that pressure and recognise their potential to shine.”

Overall. “Successis more than reaching our goals – it is living our values. There is no higher value than aspiring to be better yesterday than we are today. There is no greater accomplishment than unleashing our hidden potential.”


  • Learned industriousness – when you are praised for making an effort, the feeling of effort itself starts to feel like a reward.
  • Ask for advice instead of feedback. Feedback tends to focus on how well you did last time. Advice shifts attention to how you can do better next time.
  • Boreout – The emotional deadening you feel under stimulated.
  • Interleaving – People improve faster when they alternate between different skills.
  • Harmonious passion – Taking joy in a process rather than feeling pressure to achieve an outcome.
  • Tutor effect – The best way to learn something is to teach it.
  • Coaching effect – Coaching others elevates our confidence.
  • Bubble effect – We follow people who dominate the discussion rather than those who elevate it.
  • Procrastination is an emotion management problem. “When you procrastinate you’re not avoiding effort. You’re avoiding the unpleasant feelings that the activity stirs up.”