This post was originally on September 5th, 2019
“… It’s never too late for a person to recognize that they have potential in themselves.” – Dr. Ben Carson
Machines and Humans
We live in a world where automation is becoming more and more the language of the day. This has created a convergence between machines and humans. It has been favorable in some areas by making life easier. But in some other areas it has pushed people out of jobs as a single machine has been able to perform the work of multiple people. Oren Etzioni, CEO of The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence is quoted as saying, “Sooner or later, the U.S. will face mounting job losses due to advances in automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics”. We can call it a love-hate relationship. As A.I. surges (Elon Musk called its pace “close to exponential”), there is growing tension that machines will soon overtake humans in all areas of life. No matter the advances or the tension that comes with it, there are still gaps in this world that only humans can fill.
Specific to Humanity
The one thing that artificial intelligence or machines for that matter cannot replicate is human potential. Potential is connected to creativity, innovation, imagination, and the power to dream. There are three distinct factors that merge together to make potential specific only to humanity. And because everyone has potential, these factors are not learned, they are possessed by each person. Let’s look at each of them.
The Harvard Medical School says that the simplest way to do a health check is to measure your heart rate. More specifically, your resting heart rate (RHR). Similarly, I believe that your pulse, not performance, is the first predictor of potential. This bucks the trend that past performance predicts future performance. This may be true. But when potential is realized, applied potential becomes the predictor of future performance. We can choose to either repeat our past or maximize our potential to improve our future.
Just as Harvard recommends checking your heart rate each morning, I encourage you to wake up each morning and say, “I am alive, I have potential.” This daily reminder will push you into your purpose by means of fulfilling your potential. If you are breathing, you are yet to exhaust the entirety of your potential. As I have heard it said, “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.”
Leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell once drew a connecting line between potential and purpose by saying, “Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential and sowing seeds that benefit others.
Purpose is the second universal predictor of potential. It is the channel through which human potential comes to light. It is easier to measure our value or worth by our income but it diminishes that value. It puts a ceiling on what we are capable of doing. We allow someone else to define our worth. Through purpose, we find that we are worth more than a paycheck. This reflects an observation from President Barack Obama, “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your potential.” That something larger is purpose and it matters because others benefit from it.
It matters so much that even companies have noticed how being connected to a greater purpose, not just profit, increases their authenticity in the eyes of consumers. It has also been proven in the workplace that when the emphasis is placed on purpose, that is doing meaningful work, productivity and performance soars while turnover rates fall. Purpose is an instant value enhancer in today’s economy. And when purpose authenticates potential, passion becomes its fuel.
A Ferrari has tremendous potential. It boasts a 4.5-liter V8 engine, 562 horsepower, 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, and a top speed of 210 mph. Without fuel none of those specs matter. Likewise, God gave us all passion to fuel our potential, which makes it the third universal predictor of potential. Passion is expressed when you commit all of who you are into an endeavor that truly matters.
Our passion, as well as potential, is always present but can be buried under fear and self-doubt, which author Brian Tracy call “the greatest enemies of human potential.” I have also learned from personal experience that procrastination can smother our passion, keep our potential dormant, and stop us from fulfilling our purpose.
How do we overcome these enemies to our passion and ultimately potential? First, we must see passion as fuel, not a feeling. Feelings are too finicky to be classified as passion. They fizz out too quickly to provide the level of consistency needed to reach our full potential. Fear, self-doubt, and procrastination will eat feelings for breakfast! Second, we must see these enemies as obstacles to our life’s mission. We rise above them by knowing that we each have a unique purpose to accomplish no matter our past experience or present predicaments. And finally, we must establish daily habits that stir our passion and move us in the direction of reaching our potential. This way, our passion can develop past our obstacles. Passion is not only a predictor but a key ingredient to fulfilling your potential. If you develop your passion, your potential, like a Ferrari with fuel, will come alive.
Final thought: Your pulse, purpose, and passion blend beautifully to show that you have potential awaiting extraction. It sets us apart from any machine that possesses intelligence. Knowing that you have potential moves you out of dead-end thinking and into what Dr. Maxwell calls, possibility thinking. This mindset sees what is possible regardless of what is present. When humanity loses sight of its God-given potential, we lose civility. We trade in our potential to make the world better for vices like hatred and violence. We end up harming instead of helping one another. But just like A.I. is changing the world around us, I believe that with potential we have only scratched the surface of the positive impact we can make in our world. You are alive, you have potential!
Keep on keeping on!