What I know about fulfilling potential: Bruce Deel

Guest editor Simon Sinek has nominated a series of people who he believes we can all learn from when it comes to fulfilling our potential in 2018. First up we hear from the inspirational Bruce Deel, a man responsible for turning around the lives of thousands of people.

Simon on Bruce

"I have really come to admire the intensity with which Bruce Deel trusts people. That's an odd combination of words, I know - intensity of trust. But that's the best way I can describe what Bruce does.

"He trusts in people others do not. Bruce sees potential in people others do not. It is because those people feel seen and heard and trusted, some for the first time in their lives, they find the power to work to their own potential."

Bruce Deel is the founder and CEO of City of Refuge, an organisation that has changed the fortunes of over 20,000 people during the past two decades. The organisation, which first opened its doors in Atlanta, Georgia before spreading to cities across the US, is a leader in social transformation. In simple terms, City of Refuge seeks to partner with individuals and families in crisis to clear a pathway out of poverty and into a thriving community.

During the last 20 years Bruce’s work has not only taught him a lot about how to get the best out of himself, but also how to provide others with a platform to fulfil their own potential. Here Bruce explains how the two are linked and what he believes we can all do to be our best person.

I believe we are all created with an innate desire to help others. Sometimes we get lost in our own agendas, our own life goals and dreams - which means we may miss opportunities to help others. But if we take the time to invest in the lives of other people then it will bring out the best in ourselves. Sometimes we search for the good in ourselves from a selfish perspective and it’s a futile exercise, but when we choose to help others find it in themselves then it releases the goodness that’s residing in us too.

Help others find their purpose and by doing so you will locate your own. I used to focus on making sure I was successful and taking care of my family, but once we started City of Refuge and spent most of our time helping people on the margins I began to feel better at the end of each day. It was hard work but investing time in other people’s lives became incredibly rewarding. There was one point where Rhonda [Bruce’s wife] and I looked at each other and just said “this is the way to live”.

I think am fulfilling my potential, but I’m still on a path. One of the potential things that’s inside of me, which I can see unfolding slowly, is the need to inspire others to do the kind of work that we are. Not because it’s the right thing to do but because it will unlock so much in their own lives, I think there’s the potential inside me to inspire others to look beyond their own world.

Too often we choose to segment life into business, family and recreation. In my view it’s all one and the same, those three areas should all meld together. If you approach it in that way then you’re not going to make the mistake of focusing on one more so than the others.


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Technology can help unlock potential, but folks who need it most don’t have the access. For those of us involved in the work we do, new technology is making it much easier to help people fulfil their potential. Increased awareness, the sharing of ideas and resources - all those things make a big difference to what we’re trying to achieve. However for folks in poverty they do not have the same access, so the changes in the world will have passed them by. This is one of the things we’re trying to catch people up on.

If I was to meet the younger version of myself, I would tell him to stop being so inward looking. You can’t find the answers there, you can learn so much about yourself and the world by talking more to those around you. They will identify qualities in you that you didn’t even know existed. It’s important to be outward looking, engaged in other people and not working with your head down focused only on the idea of success.


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