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Discovering The Potential You Never Knew You Had

Who knew that you would one day be able to unlock the mysteries of fighting fear, conquering challenges and realising your destiny.

Have you ever felt like pursuing a passion? Cultivating your creativity? Or figuring out what you want to accomplish in life — but never really gathered the confidence to do it?

As modern-day students, many of us feel pressured by the demands of this dynamic world and are dubious about venturing into the horizons of our imagination. We feel overburdened by domestic responsibilities, keeping up with academics and maybe even tackling a part-time job. University life can sometimes be rough, tough and feel way more than enough.

You could wish to start your own business, make a new friend on campus or even just cook up that ultimate hamburger you’ve had in mind for ages. But, behind the curtains, many of us lose our sense of identity in the process of pleasing others, conforming to social trends and following mainstream stereotypes. Thereby, conditioning ourselves to believe that we don’t have the skills, know-how or luck to be successful, make a meaningful impact or even develop a new hobby.

We sometimes feel inferior and even intimidated by those with wit, charm and talent, when they leave others in awe from their presence. Silently observing social interactions as well as learning institutional norms, we passively tend to develop perceptions that limit our creative and critical thinking. Consequently, succumbing to the fear of being judged by others for doing something different.

What if I fail? What if others look down on me? What if I humiliate myself? What if I’m not good enough?

It is true that globalisation and technology have advanced in rapid strides leading to increased competition on organisational and individual scales, but there is no need to fear. We have been blessed to live in a time when knowledge is available at our finger-tips. More opportunities are present than ever before and your chances of success have never been higher.

But your thoughts keep rumbling with anxiety and doubt.

I can never really be successful, I can never start up a proper conversation, I can never learn those skills…

Well, guess what?

You can.

You just haven’t figured out how yet.

Now you might be wondering about how absurd it is for you to become the first astronaut to fly to Mars, master a sport you’ve barely played before, or even finish that 5,000-word essay on-time. The list goes on…

But believe it or not, there are many individuals on this earth who have gone through trials, tribulations, setbacks and dead ends, and managed to do the unthinkable.

Here’s a brief on four people who stepped out of their comfort zone, nurtured their potential and ended up winning big time.

1. Jack Ma – Co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer of ‘Ali Baba Group’

Jack Ma in discussion at the World Economic Forum in 2018 held at Davos, Switzerland (Image Credits:

Born into a Chinese middle-class family in 1964 during the cultural revolution, Jack Ma started his life quite modestly. From the beginning of his teens, he sought English lessons from tourists in exchange for free tours. After flunking multiple times during primary school, middle school and university entrance examinations (including ten rejections from Harvard), he was refused more than 30 times when applying for various jobs.

Imagine what it would feel like to be denied a job from KFC?

Embarrassing? Shameful? Disgraceful?

From a batch of 24 candidates, Jack was the only one declined.

After exploring a career in teaching English, he started up a translation agency and soon began creating websites for Chinese organisations. He struck gold in 1995 when he was first exposed to the internet in the USA and thereafter, he headed an IT company. In 1999 he decided to venture out on his own once again with ‘’.

Fast forward 20 years later, Alibaba is one of the largest e-commerce sites in the world, having achieved the second-largest IPO (Initial Public Offering) in history by raising $25 billion and catering to approximately 100 million customers each day. Jack Ma is now the richest man in China — being worth almost $42 billion and stands humbly over his achievements while pursuing philanthropy through environmental and social causes.

2. J.K. Rowling – Renowned Author of the ‘Harry Potter’ Series

J.K. Rowling reading ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ during the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 5, 2010 (Image Credits: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ever been so fed-up with defeat and depression? That’s precisely how J.K. Rowling felt at 25-years-old when her life took a turn for the worse after her mother passed away from multiple sclerosis. Having conceived the idea for Harry Potter in the same year, she soon moved to Portugal, where she taught English and found relief in her marriage to a local TV Journalist in 1992. But alas, her marriage failed almost a year later and she ended up returning to the United Kingdom as a single mother.

Times became so desperate that she rented her apartment and began living on unemployment benefits. In her own words, she considered herself “by every usual standard, the biggest failure (she) knew.” Nevertheless, she decided she had nothing to lose, never gave up on her passion for writing and spent hours on end, creating her fantasy novel in cafés while looking after her daughter.

She was so poor that she couldn’t even afford photocopying her scripts and consequently typed each version manually to send to publishers. After all her hard work, her writing was rejected by 12 major publishers in 1995 who remarked that “it was too long” and that “children would not be interested.” She finally got her breakthrough when the ‘Bloomsbury’ Publishing Company agreed to publish her story after the CEO’s daughter fell in love with the plot.

Soon, one triumph led to another and J.K. Rowling was all over the entertainment scene with the Harry Potter series selling more than 500 million copies worldwide and being translated into almost 73 languages. Two of its movie adaptations are even among the top 50 highest-grossing films of all time! J.K. Rowling is now considered one of the most ‘influential women in Britain.’ Having won a plethora of awards, she continues to write novels and contribute to social causes through her charity, ‘Lumos’.

3. Nickolas (Nick) James Vujicic – Respected Motivational Speaker and Evangelist

Nick Vujicic delivering a public lecture at Zhengzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center on December 9, 2012, in Zhengzhou, China. (Image Credits: VCG/Getty Images)

Serbian by origin, Nick Vujicic was born in Australia with Tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare condition characterized by the absence of arms and legs. After undergoing an operation in his childhood to separate his toes, he resorted to them as fingers and utilised an electric wheelchair for mobility.

In school, he was sometimes considered as ‘half-human,’ mocked, bullied and excluded from social activity. His extreme desire to be accepted and grow ‘normal’ limbs led him to face depression and attempt suicide at only 10 years old. However, he was blessed with supportive parents who viewed him as a “gift, just differently packaged” and encouraged him to attend ordinary schooling and live positively.

His turning point came at the age of 17 when his mother showed him a newspaper article of a severely disabled man who was living his life to the full despite his handicapped state. The janitor at his school even pointed out Nick’s communication ability, and soon he engaged in public speaking and motivational speeches with the aim of sharing his story and inspiring others. By 2007, he had already started up an international non-profit organisation called ‘Life Without Limbs’, as well as a motivational speaking organisation known as ‘Attitude is Altitude’.

Nevertheless, his journey was not ‘all smiles’. Having been rejected to deliver speeches countless times because of his looks and lack of influence, he persisted through his tribulations and has become one of the most in-demand motivational speakers in the world today.

Despite facing a business crisis and multiple death threats from his evangelistic preaching, Nick is now happily married with four beautiful children and has travelled to over 60 countries with the goal of uplifting spirits and helping people realise their purpose in life.

A man with no limbs and seemingly no hope turned out to be a best-selling motivational author, star in a movie and a music video. Having learned to even swim, skydive and surf, he continues to spread the joy of knowing one’s own value to millions across the globe.

4. Oprah Gail Winfrey – Distinguished Media Mogul and TV Presenter

Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage during the 45th NAACP Image Awards presented by TV One at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 22, 2014, in Pasadena, California. (Image Credits: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)

Oprah was born into poverty in 1954 in Mississippi, USA, and faced a multitude of struggles while growing up as an African-American. Her mother worked as a housemaid and her father was a miner away from home, leaving her to be raised by her strict Grandmother.

Financial difficulty and racism were so prevalent that she often wore dresses made from potato sacks and had friends who were servants of her classmates. After facing severe physical and sexual abuse from relatives as well as giving birth to a premature child who died shortly after, she left to live with her father in Tennessee at the age of 14.

Her father’s discipline and love of learning instilled in her the values of appreciating her worth and dreaming big, thereby motivating her to make education a priority and excel in her academics as well as extracurricular undertakings. She was voted the head of her school council and also triumphed in an oratory competition, which granted her a full scholarship to University where she pursued Communication Studies.

Later on, after winning a beauty pageant at only 17 years of age, she managed to secure a job at a local radio station and soon began hosting WJZ-TV’s talk show, ‘People are Talking.’

Having spent 6 years on the show, she shifted to anchoring WLS-TV’s ‘AM Chicago’, boosting its ratings and renaming it ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ a few years later. Her unique presenting personality skyrocketed her fame and she ended up hosting the show for 25 seasons, interviewing a plethora of celebrities and reaching almost 50 million people in America.

Having overcome abuse, racism as well as age and gender stereotypes, today she is an author, actress, philanthropist, owns her own cable channel- ‘OWN’ – (Oprah Winfrey Network). She also holds a presidential medal of freedom and is worth approximately $2.7 billion, making her one of the most powerful women of the 20th Century.

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Glancing back at their success, these four extraordinary people actually began quite ordinary or even underprivileged lives. Surely, they couldn’t have foreseen their eventual fortune! Nevertheless, they chose to think differently, act with authority over their future and tirelessly conquer their dream. And regardless of your struggle, that’s exactly what’s possible if you put your heart, mind and soul to it.

It’s actually quite simple!

Here are three tips that you can follow to boost your bravery, transform your thinking, and unlock the masterpiece in you! Please be advised that by no means is this a comprehensive list that guarantees 100% success. However, it sure does ease the pressure and strengthen your intellect to obliterate those challenging obstacles in life!

  • Shift your Perspective

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“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

– Wayne Dyer

A powerful quote by Wayne Dyer, a famous motivational speaker, that intrigues the intellect and poses the questions: Can we control our reality? And therefore, can we control our success?

Well, for the most part, you can.

According to Oprah Winfrey: “You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.” We possess the potential to be anyone we envisage ourselves to be. However, our choices to distract ourselves through entertainment, popular opinions and excessive ‘realistic thinking’ can often hinder our explorative progress. This doesn’t mean to say that spending time with friends, disregarding hard-facts and assessing risks are useless. But, ample consideration must be devoted to shaping the way you approach situations and developing varied perceptions that can facilitate courageous decisions.

For example, you could change your attitude towards failure. Failure can be viewed with dismay or seen as a learning process. Jack Ma and J.K. Rowling could have admitted defeat after being denied by KFC and multiple publishers, respectively. However, they chose to transform that failure into feedback and utilise it as a stepping stone towards their success. Remember, life is sometimes like shooting an arrow. It pulls you back to propel you into the future and hit that bullseye.

As Tyrese Gibson, the Fast and Furious actor, once said: “You will always grow through what you go through.” After all, what meaning would there be in success if you didn’t have to work hard for it?

  • Be Pro-active instead of Re-active

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A majority of people don’t realise the importance of taking the initiative and evaluating the outcome of their spurious actions toward challenges. Many chose to react adversely and let their circumstances and conditions control them. They tend to neglect the fact that they make the final decision whether to accept the negative emotions, anger and anxiety. For example, Nick Vujicic had been in this state for most of his childhood. Nevertheless, he discerned that there was more to life than what met his eye and was able to reshape his seemingly handicapped state into an influential force of hope as seen through his famous quote: “If you can’t get a miracle, become one.”

‘Play the ball before it plays you’.

Most people tend to waste time worrying about the external aspects of life that they can’t change. A great way to counteract this is to appreciate what you have and what you’ve already accomplished, whatever little it may be. This will enable you to focus your energy on the elements of life that you can change.

You’ll end up transforming so much that eventually, you might even be able to impact the external influences you previously thought were impossible. Oprah Winfrey once said: “Be thankful for what you have. You’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.” Give it a try. A while from now, you’ll probably end up laughing at all the times you chose to think otherwise.

  • Face the Fear with Perseverance and Positivity

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“You get the in life what you have the courage to ask for.”

Effort and resilience go hand in hand, and unless you take that initial step, nothing will happen. Most of the time, we let fear obstruct our courage to venture into unfamiliar situations that we so desperately want to get used to.

According to Nick Vujicic: “Fear is the biggest disability of all. And will paralyze you more than being in a wheelchair.”

Sometimes, despite starting strong, we are let down by hardship, struggles and unforeseen adversity along our journey. Therefore, losing heart and surrendering to our fear might seem like easy options when we are drowned with affliction. But remember, Steve Harvey, the popular American comedian, once mentioned that: “The guarantee of quitting, is that (your ambition) will never happen.” So don’t worry if you find yourself frustrated and hopeless while planning an event, preparing a presentation or even attending an interview.

According to Oprah: “The key to realising a dream is to focus not on success but the significance and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.”

Having been exposed to severe abuse at such a young age, Oprah’s tussle with her haunting past provided a platform for her “to turn her wounds into wisdom.” She once revealed that “the big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” This is especially true when reflecting upon the lives of our four personalities described earlier. They could have given into their adversities. However, they made a conscious decision to tackle their suffering with perseverance, positivity and faith.

Nick Vujicic once described the purpose of life’s challenges as a reinforcement of personal convictions and therefore satisfied the exasperating question of recurring defeat. Furthermore, Jack Ma even found a stimulus in his repeated failure which supercharged his motto of never giving up.

“Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.”

– Jack Ma

So don’t be afraid to support that social cause, volunteer in communities or even rekindle relations with an old friend. The possibilities are endless and you’ve got what it takes to achieve them.

For those who are sceptical about what they want to pursue in life –  keep exploring new opportunities and don’t feel discouraged about making mistakes, breaking free from your comfort zone as well as exploring the unknown. Your experiences along the way will help streamline your choices and sooner or later- you’ll have found your passion in no time. 

In the words of Gary Vaynerchuck, a famous American entrepreneur: “It’s safe to be cynical, but it takes courage to be optimistic.”

J.K. Rowling took it a step further and explained the importance of persisting through trials by declaring that: “It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

And if all else fails to motivate, remember that you were already a winner before you even knew it. The chances of you being born were 1 in 400 trillion! And the fact that you’re reading this isn’t a coincidence. Don’t limit yourself with stereotypes and gloomy contemplation. You’d be surprised about how much you can accomplish.

You are special in your own way and you might have hidden talents that need some prompting. Equipped with the tips mentioned above and courage to break the chains of fear, you’ve got an adventure of a lifetime ahead of you. Always remember, there will only be ‘one’ you and the world can’t wait to see you unleash your full potential.


  • Sahil .
    June 10, 2020

    Lovely read Edward Priyan. It was inspiring and a good reflective piece. Keep them coming 🙂

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