Everyone has superpowers when they are a child. We tend to lose them as we grow up, but they’re always there, right below the surface, ready for us to reactivate them and fully manifest our human potential. It’s a well of untapped potential inside of us, just waiting to be unleashed.
John Reid—along with Andrew Reid, Corena Chase, and Lynae Steinhagen—wrote The Five Lost Superpowers to help us reclaim our own superhero birthright.
As we grew up, we were taught to dampen the natural strength of our Curiosity, Resilience, Authenticity, Compassion, and Playfulness. With this book, readers will come to understand why they came to believe that powers don’t fit in a “grown-up” world, and discover how to reignite them to unlock their best selves. I recently caught up with John to learn what inspired him to write the book, his favorite idea he shares with readers, and how he’s applied that idea.
What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?
While writing my last book, Moving from Models to Mindsets (which focuses on salespeople), I spent time on genuine curiosity. For a long time what I believed, and experienced in sales and sales management, was that most salespeople were quasi-curious – meaning that their questions revealed that they were only interested in information that could best be described as transactional or qualification-driven.
While writing the first book I thought that curiosity was a lost superpower – since it is so obviously (and fortunately) objectively a skill that children possess. We added this idea and content into our programs – that curiosity was a lost superpower – and participants responded well since the story we told about curiosity was something everyone could relate to.
One thing that I find unfortunate about the training and development industry is how there is this constant search for the one answer. First its grit, then empathy, then vulnerability. I didn’t want to go the “here is the answer route” since there is almost always more to any issue you are facing.
That created a snowball effect in my mind—since you start to think, “What are the other superpowers that children display—that adults have somehow lost?”
So, I said to myself, “There are five lost superpowers.” It sounded great, and I was fairly confident we could find the other four if we looked for them—after all, they were lost.
Resilience was next on the list, given the amount of research into resilience and its importance in helping people succeed through times of constant change. Authenticity was obvious, as well.
There was much debate about the last two superpowers. They had to stand alone and be validated in research. We ultimately landed on compassion and, finally, playfulness.
What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?
There are good actionable items throughout each of the chapters. My favorite comes from Curiosity and the idea of a Curiosity C.A.P.E. (Cast a Wide Net, Ask Better Questions, Perspective Seek, Explore then Exploit). If I could wave a wand over every reader, it would be this idea of perspective seek—due to the value it would unleash.
The actual quote from the book captures the challenge:
“First, you acquire a perspective of your own. Congratulations. Look at you with your flashy and interesting perspective. Calm down. What should excite and intrigue you is how others see things differently than you. Get interested. Keep reminding yourself that you are just one person living in a world filled with various points of view.”
It is so liberating to not have to be “right” about everything, and instead, realize you just have a point of view. Now, for many people, this does not appear liberating—and there are numerous psychological needs being met when we think we are right. However, I believe when you step back this need to be “right” is a prison of our own making.
What’s a story of how you’ve applied this idea in your own life? What’s it done for you?
This lesson dates well before the book was even an idea. I graduated from the University of Maryland with a business degree. My first job was in sales with Dow Chemical. Most of my peers in the sales organization were chemical or chemical engineer majors. I had never taken a chemistry course in my life. Dow had, at the time, a force ranking system in which there was a limited number of 1s, which was the highest rating. I achieved this rating fairly quickly.
The biggest reason was my curiosity. I would simply ask questions others would not:
- “What does that tank do?”
- “Why is reaction time important?”
Things like that. My peers would not ask because they either knew the answer or felt they should know the answer. So, there I was being authentic and curious and winning. I have found this to be the winning combination my entire career. These two are winning for two reasons:
- First, when you are authentic you give the other person the gift of being allowed to be authentic. These masks we carry get heavy.
- Second, people like to talk about what they do, why they do it, what they love about it. This approach builds trust, deepens relationships, and, ultimately, is core to my success.