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“We are all born naked into this world, but each of us is fully clothed in potential.” – Emmit Smith
Rubber bands and Potential
Since its invention in 1845 by Stephen Perry the rubber band has been a simple yet extremely useful tool. From face value, they appear loose and nonfunctional. But that thought ends the moment the rubber band is used to either hold books together, keep apples from turning brown once cut, tie hair to keep it neat, unscrew stripped screws, and even loosen containers lids that are stuck. We could say that their potential comes to life through usage. The surprising list of rubber band use can be found at https://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/uses-for-rubber-bands/. What was most surprising to you in that list?
Just like a rubber band, potential is written in the genetic code of humanity. I define it as a pre-ordained capacity. Potential is what is possible out of what is present. All of us enter this world with pre-loaded potential to accomplish our purpose on earth. We are purpose-driven because we are potential laden. And I believe that potential is God-given.
This might surprise some of us because like the rubber band, it looks like there is nothing of worth inside of us or some people we meet because of color, past experiences, culture, or upbringing but potential tells a different story. I am convinced that through potential God communicates to us that He made us with destiny in mind. This means that the conditions surrounding our birth are not as important as the content God has placed within us. Potential pre-dates birth. This is one of the reasons why I am pro-life. Everyone has value because everyone has potential.
Realizing our potential is key to finding meaning and fulfillment in life. Zig Ziglar said, “When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that’s when passion is born.” By discovering and maximizing our potential we can live a high-quality life. This is what makes it so potent.
Today and through September, I will center my posts around the core ingredients for discovering and maximizing that potential.
This road map will serve as a guide:
- The Potency of Potential (Current post)
- Predictors of Potential (Arriving 9/5)
- Extractors of Potential (Arriving 9/12)
- Potential in Action (Arriving 9/19)
- Seeing the Future through Potential (Arriving 9/26)
To begin, let’s look at the transcending and ascending nature of potential that makes it one of the most potent and attractive qualities that we all possess. Let’s dig deeper.
1. Potential transcends
I am amazed by how we characterize people, especially here in the United States where I live. We tend to see people through the lens of color – white, black, brown, yellow, and more recently blue (police). This classification seems to put us at odds with each other as we focus more on the negatives of our exterior differences. But one thing that transcends color, culture, race, or even religious background is potential. While potential is God-given, prejudice is man-made. This past weekend I saw the proof that prejudice is man-made. I watched as our daughter played with other children without the filter of their color or cultural background. I wondered, “What if we as adults didn’t stereotype people by their color and looked deeper to see their potential and value instead?” We would have a different world.
Potential is our common ground. It erases the lines of separation created by race. We see each other beyond the barrier of skin color. Tennis great Arthur Ashe pointed out, “My potential is more than can be expressed within the bounds of my race or ethnic identity”. When potential becomes the lens through which we view people, I believe walls of discrimination can be lowered, and bridges of collaboration built. It is this transcending aspect of potential that makes it as valuable, versatile, and useful as a rubber band. It also reveals that potential is an ascent in the journey of discovering all we were created to be.
2. Potential ascends
Something interesting happened when I entered my 30s. I stopped hearing a phrase that I often heard in my 20s.”You have so much potential.” I wondered, “Did I leave or lose my potential in my 20s? The answer is neither. I am simply in a different phase of what I call, “my potential staircase.”
As I approach my 40’s, I associate potential with a stairway. At this stage of my life, I am in the extraction phase of my potential and realizing how limitless it is. This extraction will be a lifelong process. The only person who can limit it is me. The rungs on the staircase of my potential represent the steps I am taking and the pace I am maintaining to discover the potential within me. The height I have currently reached on the ladder reflects the consistency, faith, and courage I have applied to grow into my potential. I have practiced what Vaclav Havel said, “It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” The good news is you can start the climb wherever you are today. Age, stage, or state does not determine the wealth of your potential.
I was recently challenged by the story of former NFL player and author Tim Green. He recently admitted that he has ALS, which is a debilitating muscle degenerative disease that has no cure. But that has not stopped Green. He is still writing. In fact, he is halfway done writing his most recent book! His body might be going down but his potential is still ascending. The worst thing that can happen to any human being is to never realize how much potential they had in the first place.
Former Hewlett Packard CEO and 2016 U.S. Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina made this unforgettable statement, “Human potential is the only limitless resource we have in this world” The only limiting factor to realizing our full potential is the person we see in the mirror every day.
Final thought: Potential can be viewed as what’s possible but yet to be proven. This makes it both scary and potent. As fall approaches and school begins, I think that one of the places where we find the most concentration of potential is in our schools and homes. I believe that one of the highest callings of teachers and parents is to create an environment where the potency of potential is discovered. Because, as Albert Schweitzer once pointed out, “The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.”
Keep on Keeping on!