Okay, maybe hate is a strong word here, but let me explain what I’m getting at. When it comes to potential, I’ve often marveled at its use. Many times (I’m not gonna say always) it is used in referring to someone’s past or future. Very rarely do you hear the word potential used in reference to someone’s present state. Perhaps, it has been said of someone that they’re living up to their potential, but most of the time, it seems to be referencing someone’s past, or their future.
This is why I hate the use of the word potential. It’s a mask. It’s an excuse. It’s justifying someone’s lack of skill or performance, delaying it until they can one day reach their (ever elusive I might add) potential. And for right now, they’re just not quite good enough, or they’ve not arrived just yet.
Additionally, we often times summarize someone’s career or life by stating that they had potential, or they never really lived up to their potential. This is why I hate potential. Why not live up to whatever was promised or predicted in your past? Because guess what? Eventually, you will reach a point in life where that window of opportunity will close, and your potential to do something, or accomplish something great, will expire. While playing a pickup game of basketball, I recently had a young man sheepishly approach me and ask me if I was dunking yet! It was his round about way of complementing me, but I jokingly replied that if had not happened by now, it was never going to happen. I’m pushing 40 here, and I’m not getting any taller, not really jumping any higher these days…regrettably. The potential I once had in the prime of my athletic prowess, has come and gone, never to be revisited again…regrettably. Did I mention I regret NOT living up to the potential I had in my late teens and early 20s?
I’m not sure what the answer might be for you. Perhaps you’re a musician. An artist. A writer. A business professional. Perhaps you want to be a world class athlete. Just remember, when it comes to potential, don’t confuse it with accomplishment. Both the future, and past tense of the word potential has a rather negative feel to it. Someone who isn’t yet, or never was. Don’t let that be you. Don’t let it be said of you that you never really achieved anything significant, because you were satisfied with potential. Oh, and by the way, I hate potential.