Take the Lid Off and Release Your Potential
When comedian Steve Harvey was in sixth grade, his teacher asked the class to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. Harvey wanted to be on TV and wrote this on the paper. The teacher scolded him for writing down something impossible and told him to go home and write down something more realistic. His father helped him come up with a more “believable” profession — policeman — but told “little Stevie” to keep the paper and look at it daily and believe that he would someday be on TV.
Today, the versatile Harvey — comedian, talk show host, game show host — is on TV seven days a week. In his book, Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success, Harvey credits his father for “popping the lid” on his expectations — a reference to a metaphor concerning fleas in a jar. Fleas, Harvey writes, can jump to 200 times their size. Put them in a jar with a lid on it, and they are soon jumping only as high as they can without hitting the lid. Too many people, Harvey continues, are prevented from jumping to their full potential by a metaphorical lid — a lid that is often put on by naysaying people around them. “You have to take the lid off, no matter who put it on or how long it has been there.”
Everyone Has a Gift
Harvey’s own story is one of perseverance in the face of incredible hardship and setbacks. Having left his factory jobs to pursue his dream of becoming a comedian, Harvey would eventually find himself divorced and homeless, living out of his car. Today multimillionaire Harvey travels on his own private plane. At the core of his success, he writes, is his belief in his gift: to make people laugh. It is the one thing that is at the core of everything he does, and it is from this gift that everything else has come.
Everyone has a gift, which he defines as “the single thing that you do at your absolute best with the least amount of effort.” A gift is beyond a job or a skill. It is something that is always present in every context. The gift might be playing sports or performing on stage, but it could also be solving problems, listening to others, working with children or even creating flower arrangements. “Your gift is something that is connected to you whether you are working or vacationing, whether you are with the family or even all alone,” he writes. “Your gift cannot be taken because of downsizing or given to you because someone creates a job description. Your gift exists because you do.”
Find the Vehicle
Once the gift is identified, the next step is to attach it to a “vehicle.” For Harvey, success is achieved by attaching the gift to a series of “vehicles,” each vehicle taking you on another step in the journey. Harvey compares the journey to a long bus trip during which you will have to transfer multiple times from one bus to another. Harvey decided to become a comedian in his late twenties after winning an amateur-night contest. That contest was his first vehicle. He transferred to the professional ranks with a $25 paying gig. A later transfer took him from $350 per week to $750 per week. Yet a later transfer took him to earning $60,000 per week in large venues.
The challenge, however, is not to skip ahead. Start where you are now, he writes, then look for the transfer. Floral arrangement, for example, might not seem to be a gift that can lead to entertainment-level riches. Yet there is one person (whom Harvey knows) who flies around the world designing floral arrangements for all the Four Seasons hotels as well as major programs such as the Grammys and The Queen Latifah Show. This gentleman began with creating the floral arrangements for a small hotel that did not appreciate his talent.
As one might expect from a Christian who refuses to talk to atheists, Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success is packed with references to God. An example of his Christian approach is when he writes, “Look here’s the real light: If you are still waking up every day, it’s because God has a greater plan for you, and it’s not yet completed. Every day is an opportunity to see your light as a gift.”
It is “the Creator,” he writes, who gave you your gift. But whether or not you believe that your success is God’s plan, the focus, perseverance and, above all, belief in oneself at the heart of Harvey’s message will inspire those who, as he writes at the beginning of the book, are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”