How Full is Your Growth Cup?


How active are you when it comes to personal growth? A leader should have the regular habit of reading, listening to audio content, practicing, attending conferences, and being mentored. When you implement these methods your growth cup will be full. However, you can’t remain full if you intend to grow to your maximum potential. The Zen story “Empty Your Cup” is an illustration of why we cannot only be filling our growth cup. The story goes:

“A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied. “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

You can only do so much growing and learning before you have to empty your growth cup. I suggest the below two ways to empty your growth cup:

1. Share with others what you are learning

You empty your growth cup when you share with others what you are learning. This can include sharing with people who are online (like through a blog post), during a team meeting, with your spouse, with a person you are mentoring, or with those in your areas of influence. You will see only a minimum advantage by holding onto what you have learned for yourself. However, when you freely release your knowledge or what you have learned onto others you will better grasp onto what you have learned. The key principle is to grow and promptly empty your growth cup by sharing or teaching someone what you have just learned. It has been said that: “90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately.”  Always share what you are learning with those around you.

2. Take action on your growth by adapting it into your life

Growth that is not immediately adapted into your life or leadership will not stick for long. If you are engaging in personal growth on a regular (daily) basis you will not be able to retain or adapt everything you learn. This is why the amount of growth does not matter as much as the quality of growth. You should be specific about your personal growth plan, making certain that it’s something you should be learning about. An area a leader should always be growing in is within their strength zones, this will allow you to see a high learning return on those areas. Whether it’s in or outside a strengths zone, your goal should be to only adapt the principles and practices that would best help you.

Questions: Can you add to the ways a leader can empty their growth cup? How do you empty your growth cup?

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14 thoughts on “How Full is Your Growth Cup?

  1. One thing that helps me is to create space in order to process what I’ve learned. For me, this can include taking a walk or hike and thinking about/processing ideas. It’s just as important to take time to reflect on what we’ve learned rather than just trying to cram more knowledge into our minds. Good post, Dan.

    • Taking time to process what you have learned is so important. It allows us to see what we should adapt and what we should forget about. Thank you for adding to the topic.

  2. One of the reasons I enrolled in graduate school for an MA in Leadership was to discover just exactly what Leadership 201 was all about. What was the secret of “advanced” leadership. Eighteen months later and a hefty student loan I learned: Sharing with others what you have learned.

    Love the post, Dan!

  3. This is great stuff. I’ve been feeling recently that the two keys I want to focus on, learning and giving, are the two biggest influences on leadership. Learning, is like breathing in, giving is like breathing out, one without the other and we’ll aphyxiate. But the way this post breaks it down is just excellent.

  4. Hey Dan, love the story and your two suggestions here. One way to tie both of them together is like this – not only take action but take so much action that your life becomes inspiration for those around you. SHow others that the way you are living your life by itself is something for others to observe, watch, model and follow after. No better way to teach than to show others that you’re living what you’re teaching.

    • Sorry about the delayed reply:)

      Love your additional thoughts. As well as being an inspiration for others we can better influence them. Thank you for adding to the discussion.