In the mid 1960’s, George Leonard conducted research for Look magazine on the subject of human potential. He interviewed countless psychiatrists, brain researchers, and philosophers across America and found that “not one of them said we were using more than 10% of our capacity.” Most of us are maximizing only 10% of our potential, leaving a full 90% unused and undeveloped. Leonard subsequently devoted his life to promoting the idea that humans can experience an exceptional quality of life filled with happiness, creativity, and fulfillment when they simply strive to reach their potential.

I often think about Leonard’s research when we approach Elul, the season of improving ourselves. We tend to get stuck in a fixed mindset that says, “I am who I am, I’ve always been this way, and I am trying my hardest.” Our list of things to improve upon seems eerily familiar one year to the next and so we simply assume that, for the most part, who I am now is all that I can become.

But what if Leonard is correct? What if each one of us has inestimable unused potential that, if tapped properly, can truly take us to newer and greater heights and allow us to become the best versions of ourselves? How do we break free and uncover that dormant and undeveloped potential?

I recently read an article about an executive named Kat Cole, who provided a suggestion that has completely changed my way of thinking. Cole’s resume is impressive; she's the COO and president of Focus Brands, which owns Cinnabon, Carvel, Auntie Anne's, and other popular franchises. She is also a startup investor who advises companies about how to properly build best business practices and maximize their potential.

But as impressive as her resume is, Cole thrives on self-reflection and constant improvement. She laments that so often we become blinded by our own habits and rituals that we don’t take a step back and reflect enough on what is working and what we could be doing better. Cole employs a method of personal accountability, with a strong belief that it's never too late to act and that there’s always room to improve.

She calls it the "Hot Shot Rule.”

Here’s how it works. Once in a while, go somewhere quiet and ask yourself, “If a hotshot came in and took over my job, someone who is amazingly talented and impressive, what would he or she immediately be doing differently? What would they see and change right away?” The action plan is pretty straightforward: answer those questions, and then do those things!

After reflecting, make sure to ask yourself the most important question of all: “Why can’t the hotshot be me!”

Her method works because through the “hotshot’s” perspective, it becomes much easier to recognize and appreciate perspective, flaws, and areas for improvement. “They realize somebody who is awesome would find this or that is unacceptable,” Cole says. “And they take action on it. Think of the opportunities to grow that you could miss, but that are well within your capability to harness."

I've personally used the Hot Shot Rule several times to inspire myself to change and improvement. Every time I found myself stuck in a certain pattern of thinking, behaviors or habits, whether in my professional or personal life, I employed Cole’s tactic and it changed my perspective and way of thinking. I found myself constantly asking question like, “How would a hotshot father react in this situation?” “What would a hotshot health and wellbeing guru do now?” Or, “What does a hotshot servant of Hashem look like and why can’t that be me?”

Each one of us has so much potential for greatness. Don’t let it remain untapped and undeveloped. Push yourself to move beyond 90/10 and realize how much more we can each accomplish. Because as we enter Elul and dream of the people we want to become, by the time Rosh Hashanah comes around, ask yourself, “Why can’t the hotshot be me?”