Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things

Book review by Deane Barker

Here’s the thing – this is a “paint by numbers” self-help book. I’m trying not to be condescending about it, but this book absolutely fulfills the goal of being a seemingly groundbreaking look into behavioral psychology, but revealing nothing new.

It has all the hallmarks of the genre, especially the inspiring anecdotes, many of which are joined in medias res to be as interesting as impossible.

The book is purportedly about how the amazing (hidden?) ways people achieve their potential (“everything you know is wrong!”). But, in the end, I found nothing at all surprising.

A friend had recommended the book due to a passage about the importance of kindergarten teachers (my wife teaches kindergarten). I found that passage in the prologue. Everything went kind of downhill from there.

(Note: I transcribed this passage for my wife to reference.)

Some chapter titles:

  • The Imperfectionists: Finding the Sweet Spot between Flawed and Flawless
  • Getting Unstuck: The Roundabout Path to Forward Progress
  • Every Child Get Ahead: Designing Schools to Bring Out the Best in Students

I mean, consider that last chapter – that’s a big subject. Thousands of books have been written about this (see: I Got Schooled, for example). Is this chapter going to break any new ground?

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a competent book. It’s professional, and scattered with interesting stories (kind of Malcolm Gladwell-esque) and various studies from which the relevant data is extracted. If this was the only book you read on the subject, then, yeah, I suppose you might get a lot of it.

I feel like an elitist even writing this. But every chapter was just filled with palpable dread for me, for some reason. I just feel like I had read all this so many times before.

Book Info

Adam Grant
  • I have read this book. According to my records, I completed it on .
  • A hardcover copy of this book is currently in my home library.

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