How big is your potential, and how do you measure it? Let’s say you’re trying to figure out how many pizza pies you need to buy to feed a hungry crowd of teenagers. The best thing you can measure to calculate how many pies you need to potentially feed the crowd to their satisfaction is the size of the crowd. It’s simple. Divide the number of pies times the slices per pie by the number of teenagers, and it gives you the slices available to each. The more pies, the higher the potential becomes to feed the crowd to their satisfaction. What if you buy 10 pies, and only 3 kids show up? The potential suddenly becomes huge. It works both ways. The denominator in the fraction matters.

Take a resource – your energy, your determination, the water is a jug, a loaf of bread. The more you divide it and give it away in parts, the smaller the parts will become. You can do this infinitesimally. The crumbs in the hardened leftover piece of the loaf of bread will feed the pigeons in the park. At night the ants will come out and carry the tiniest pieces back into the colony. The microorganisms in the dirt will get nourished as well. I’m telling you, it’s infinitesimal. And it works the other way too. Imagine having nobody to divide things with.

When the denominator of a fraction (the number in the bottom, what you are dividing by) is zero, the value of the fraction is “undefined”. That’s what they teach you in school. It sounds like a negative thing, like an incomprehensible thing, doesn’t it? Then you learn about functions, where you measure something that is dependent on something else. An example would be measuring the height of a sunflower plant every day, after it germinates, and writing down how many inches high it was every day that went by. If you bought 10 pizza pies, and had to measure the amount of pizza available per kid if no kids showed up, it would be infinite – undefined. Each of the zero kids that showed up would get an infinite amount of pizza. Weird, isn’t it?

By this same reasoning, if you had a product or service that nobody wanted, there would be an infinite amount available for the zero people that would want it – an oxymoron if there ever was one. If we could come up with a function that measured your potential – as an entrepreneur, as a human being – and it were to be described as a quotient, a fraction, what would it be? How do we start to wrap our heads around it? Maybe, on the top, it’s the amount of resources that are available to you, that you can assemble together, plus the number of things that you know, plus the number of things that you can learn, in some form of relationship. Maybe the number of people you know, or the number of people you can get to know or interact with are in the top somehow as well. On the bottom, I’ve been thinking hard, and decided that maybe it’s the things that limit you. Maybe these include some measure of fear, propensity to procrastinate, behavioral or physical traits inherent to you, lack of required skills or determination. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that if you took them and minimized them, your potential would shoot up. Most probably you can’t make them disappear, at the bottom, but you can make the things on the top of the fraction as large as possible.

It’s a balancing act, and perhaps the best thing is that broken down like this, mathematically, measurably, you can most probably control it to some extent. And if people ask you about your potential, instead of telling them that it is unlimited – which may sound pretentious – just tell them you are working hard to make it undefined. That will keep them thinking for a while.

Our View from the Top – May 28, 2019