Capableism: The Driving Force of Progress and Prosperity

“Every individual strives to become more capable. I believe this is essential to what it means to be human.”
—Dan Sullivan

Why do we seek progress? What drives us to learn, grow and prosper? We’d like to share some thoughts on what may be the ultimate driving force for progress and prosperity—over and above political or economic systems.

Dan Sullivan calls this force “Capablism,” which he defines as “a powerful instinctive drive in humanity to constantly increase human capability.” Capableism is the desire within us to learn, grow, and improve ourselves. It drives us to be better and do more as entrepreneurs, employees, students or stay-at-home parents seeking to develop our children’s capabilities as well as our own.

Sullivan argues that this is the larger and more important context under which capitalism exists as a sub-system. Capableism drives progress and causes us to expand as individuals, communities, countries, and as humans. And by combining our capabilities with those of others, it synergistically expands future possibilities for all of us.

When Peter Diamandis talks excitedly from the stage about the “4 billion new minds coming online” in the internet age, he is speaking of the power of Capableism. When we seek solutions to provide clean water, new energy sources, transformations in healthcare or solutions to transportation problems, that is Capableism at work. When we read books, listen to podcasts, and invest in ourselves, that is Cabableism.

What would Dan Sullivan know about Capitalism?

Co-founder of Strategic Coach, Dan has been called the “Top Entrepreneur Coach in the World.”  He has collaborated with the likes of Tony Robbins, Peter Diamandis, and marketing guru Joe Polish. Through their organization, Dan and his Babs Smith, his wife and business partner, have helped over 18,000 entrepreneurs change their businesses and their lives. They have offices in Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles and the UK. Rather than a workaholic lifestyle, Dan and Babs take 150 “free days” each year, modeling the balanced-yet-productive lifestyle they inspire in others.

Dan started discovering and developing his own capabilities at age 7 or 8, when he learned the power of asking good questions. His way with words gave him “entry into the adult world,” Sullivan told Forbes contributor Cheryl Conner. As a young man, his capability as a writer and thinker landed him a job at an ad agency. Later, Sullivan struck out on his own, working with entrepreneurs, but he lacked the know-how to run a successful business. Driven to learn and build his own capabilities, in time, Sullivan “cracked the code” on being a successful (and happy!) entrepreneur. As his capabilities grew, he started teaching and mentoring others to achieve the same success through Strategic Coach.

A prolific writer and thinker, Dan has authored over 30 publications and continues to publish a booklet each quarter. Some of his concepts are becoming part of the entrepreneurial lexicon: Unique Ability®, the Self-Managing Company, the 80% Approach, “10X”ing your business, and his Entrepreneurial Time System® that includes Focus, Free, and Buffer days. There is now a documentary film highlighting Dan’s journey, called Game Changer: The Dan Sullivan Story. And at age 73, one gets the feeling he is only “warming up.” And he is! Dan plans on living well past 100.

Sullivan wrote in a 2010 article for The CEO Advantage Journal:

What drives individuals to improve is not greater mastery of capital, but greater expansion of their unique capabilities. Human beings at their core are not capitalists, but Capableists.

  • Capitalism is an acquired knowledge and skill that we may or may not learn over the course of our lives, but each of us is born with a natural instinct for Capableism. This individual drive for greater capability in all areas of our lives governs all of our other motivations and characteristics.
  • Our greatest happiness as individuals is measured by the degree that we can continually become more capable.
  • Our greatest periods of unhappiness come from having the drive for increased capability frustrated or blocked, and from the resulting cessation of growth as a human being.
  • If capitalism, therefore, is going to be a positive and beneficial factor in human affairs, it must always be developed in the service of Capableism.

What does Capableism mean for you?

You’re not getting older… you’re getting better. It means that you can build on your capabilities and combine them for new possibilities, rather than anticipating a decline. As you grow your capabilities, you expand your future.

Capableism expands contribution. It is the mechanism by which we can contribute more today than we did yesterday. We are all driven to make a difference, and as we develop our own capabilities, our ability to give more—and receive more—expands.

Capableism is fueled by collaboration. We are greater together than we can be alone. We multiply our capabilities through collaboration, where 1 + 1 might equal 11.

Capableism means growth. It translates into business growth as well as personal growth. As we expand our own capabilities together, businesses and organizations go where they have never gone before.

Capableism brings meaning and joy. As we develop our own unique capabilities, we become more of who we are. We feel happier and more satisfied as we expand our own human potential. It enables us to “be” with others and help others expand their own capabilities.

7 Ways to Expand Your Own Capabilities

1.  Download the free resources on Capableism. Dan’s booklet on Capablism plus additional recordings and other resources on the topic are available here.

2. Discover your Unique Ability®. For a deeper dive, I recommend the book and workbook on Unique Ability®, based on a concept by Dan Sullivan.

3. Take the Kolbe “A” Index. This simple but profound quiz will help you understand yourself better and work with your natural conative tendencies—your instinctive, innate patterns; how you naturally get results.

4. For personal help in expanding your unique skills and talents and zeroing on your mission, we recommend Tammi Brannan and her Blueprint Process. Tammi has been helping others identify and expand their capabilities for decades.

5. Keep learning and growing. Trade in the evening news for books, podcasts, or classes that expand your knowledge and skills. Never stop developing and giving the world your capability! You are unique, needed, and valuable.

6. Keep Contributing. Sullivan and Smith share our philosophy that rather than “retiring” to an easy chair or golf course, we should keep contributing for as long as we can, reaping the rewards for doing what we love. Rather than looking forward to a cessation of work, we rejuvenate ourselves with sabbaticals and “free days.”

7. If you are an entrepreneur, explore what Strategic Coach can do for you and your business. Kim Butler (co-founder of the Prosperity Economics™ Movement) has been a proud participant for over two decades, and an Associate Coach for nearly as long. She gives a hearty recommendation to the organization as she has benefited greatly from working with Dan and Babs!

Finally, to expand your financial capability, reach out to the advisor who sent you here, or contact the Prosperity Economics™ Movement.


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