We hear this word batted about all the time—or at least I do. Maybe it’s because my life in just about all aspects revolves around the arts. We say a writer has potential. A book has potential. A puppy has potential as a show prospect J This of course translates to all vocations and avocations (I just write about what I know).
We all have potential in some area or another. No one came here without gifts. But why do some folks realize their potential, and others never do? And how can we best maximize that realization?
The puppy example is probably the easiest (and least controversial for our purposes!) to see. We have a beautiful 8-week-old puppy, with the type and structure and personality to be a super star. Ah, we can just see it now, taking the Potomac (the Labrador Super Bowl). All the stars are in alignment.
And then, they’re not. Said pup can fall apart in about a thousand ways, and often they do. They don’t call show breeding the heartbreak hobby for nothing. Sometimes you just gotta wash ‘em out and start over. And with that not only go all those hopes and dreams, but all the time, effort, and dollars you spent to even get him to this point.
But said pup can then go a different direction, and still reach his full potential—as a hunt-test or hunting retriever, as an obedience dog, or just as a marvelous family companion.
And the thing is, pup doesn’t care. As long as he’s loved and gets to chase a bumper here and there (birds of course icing on his cake), he’s a happy Labrador camper. Doesn’t take a lot to please them. They’re jolly sorts. And they don’t beat themselves up when they “fail.”
It took me a really long time, but these days, I see my life that way. Okay, so x didn’t work out for me. What’s different from being a dog, however, is that I can still choose to pursue x, albeit if I have a brain, in a different way. We all know the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over, hoping for different results. So, I change up the mix a bit. The thing pursued may still be the same, but I attack it from a new road.
Because, that potential is still there, no? It’s my attitude toward it that decides whether I continue, focusing on success, or quit it and fail.
And is failing really failure? We all know that quote attributed to Thomas Edison: “I have not failed once. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.” And don’t you feel that way sometimes?
One of the things I know for true though, is the only real failure is quitting. Whether you’re running a marathon or writing a book. Yep, the obstacles can sure get you down. But the funny thing is, the more you practice the thing you love, that thing in which you’ve always known your potential lies, the better you get at it. And the better you become, the nearer to your goal.
I can state for a fact that if you want to write a book, and you sit your butt at the computer each day, even if only one pristine paragraph comes about, you’re closer to the prize. And if you keep on and on and on, one day, maybe a year from now, maybe ten, you’ll have a book.
And I try to be like my dog—not blaming when I fall but licking my wounds and focusing again on the prize. I.e., taking value judgments out of it and just doing my part of the sorting through and work. Pretty soon, the heartbreak is in the past, and rolling on the waves I am again.
I’m not Catholic, but love this quote from Pope John XXIII:
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
May just put that on my tombstone.
How do you maximize your potential?