The cover of Potential: Leveraging Your Past for the Professional and Personal Success You Deserve
Book Of The Week

Book of the Week – Potential: Leveraging Your Past for the Professional and Personal Success You Deserve

This book blends memoir and self-help through Barbara Polk's unflinching look at her history.

If you think back on your life, you can probably recall plenty of successes, along with challenges and failures. We naturally go through ups and downs. In “Potential: Leveraging Your Past for the Professional and Personal Success You Deserve,” Barbara Polk, consultant, author and Chief Administrative Officer at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, shares what she’s learned through those experiences.

What is your book about?

For many people, a dysfunctional childhood, race, gender and socio-economic status can determine their trajectory in life. For Barbara Polk, all those realities influenced an unlikely journey to the C-suite. She believes it is important to share that journey – the successes, failures, challenges and the joy – so that it can inform and motivate others. Polk believes those experiences are actually the drivers of her personal and professional success. Her purpose? To leverage the wealth of personal and professional experiences to make a difference in the lives of others. Polk’s book, “Potential: Leveraging Your Past for the Professional and Personal Success You Deserve” is a business memoir full of humor and insightful guidance to help everyone be the best version of themselves.

Topics include:

As a coach, Polk understands the importance of support. She includes personal insights and suggestions to address common work and family issues, such as:

  • Marriage and divorce
  • Single motherhood
  • Facing your fears
  • How to negotiate and know your worth
  • How to dust yourself off and keep moving
  • When your body lets you down
  • Being gentle with yourself

Work and life are balancing acts that can feel overwhelming at times. This book offers encouragement, personal anecdotes, refreshing vulnerability and the opportunity to take a closer look at ourselves while learning from someone else’s mistakes.

Why should people read “Potential: Leveraging Your Past for the Professional and Personal Success You Deserve”? Who is the book for?

Most of us ask very personal, private questions at some time in our lives. It can be early on, in middle age, or – for many of us – not until we’re on our deathbed. I chose to ask these questions now. And I chose to answer them in a public book based on a giant leap of faith that you’ll find wisdom or, at the very least, entertainment in my mistakes, successes and lessons learned. It’s my hope that through this book I can reinforce for you that life will always be a journey we were meant to take.

Whether your childhood was a struggle or adulthood has held its challenges, you can actually become resilient by healing from trauma and learning from mistakes. Struggles can fuel a desire to strive for different outcomes or teach you what not to do. It’s rare that self-awareness just happens. It takes reflection – and perhaps a degree of maturity and a desire to evolve. Regardless of what age you are, there is life lived behind you. Whether you’re twenty-something or sixty-something, patterns and behaviors are difficult to decode.

Single most important takeaway:

Everything that happens to you is a gift, a resource you can use in the future. Some of those gifts may come wrapped in poverty, shame or unrealized potential, while others may come in glittering, dazzling packages that promise much but deliver little. You never know at the time the role any experience – good or bad – will have in your life. That’s why it’s important to pay attention and find the lessons, insights and gifts as soon as you can. It’s easier when you frame a negative event as quickly as possible as a lesson rather than as trauma or a mistake. Reflecting and understanding what lessons I can derive from the past has taken me years to master, but that’s fine. I’ve learned it’s an ongoing process, a work in progress – as it is for us all.

Skip to Page – How to Negotiate: Knowing Your Worth (Pages 86-89)

Money is something I’m very comfortable discussing – perhaps because I spent a great deal of my life seeking financial stability. However, many people, especially women, aren’t comfortable with money or talking about it. They struggle to state very clearly what their financial value is to their organization. I think this comes from societal norms placed upon women to be modest and nonconfrontational, or from just wanting to be liked.

Barbara Polk, author of Potential: Leveraging Your Past for the Professional and Personal Success You Deserve

Meet the author

Barbara Polk is a senior executive with more than twenty-five years of operations and human resources leadership, DEI and board governance experience. She is the Chief Administrative Officer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She previously held leadership positions at the National Restaurant Association, American Red Cross, Ellucian and XO Communications. She has a BA in political science from Rutgers University and completed graduate coursework at Harvard Business School, American University, and the University of Maryland. Polk is also the founder of Amplify People Advisors, LLC and is an ICF-certified executive coach. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, a privately held entertainment and hospitality company.