You never know when you’ll meet your potential.
The first time I felt the itch of potential was born out of heartbreak. I had just moved home from across the country after an attempt at a marketing career that sputtered out faster than an engine with no gas.
I worked for a high-end marketing firm in Hollywood, California, and like most things in California, the expectations didn’t meet reality. I was so unhappy there that the next job I took was the opposite of all things glitz and glamor: installing driveways in the hot & humid Ohio sun.
I was in a rut, both professionally and personally, and felt like a palm tree in a hurricane: just blowing in the wind. I knew life certainly had more to offer than asphalt, but I was on my ass, feeling sorry for myself. Until one day, on a whim, I decided to do the only thing I had complete control over: writing.
So I started, and the words exploded like a fire hydrant releasing its valve. It was cathartic — after all, I had been suppressing something I enjoyed doing for years. And when I was done, much to my chagrin, people who didn’t know me liked my story. Over a hundred of them. It was the first time I realized, “Hey, maybe I have a future here.”
What potential actually means
So, what does potential actually mean? Potential is not some mythical force granted only to a select few. On the contrary, It’s a skill or talent that flows from you so naturally that it’s as effortless as breathing. It’s the thing you have a knack for. The thing where your day one is like someone’s day five.
The beauty is every person alive has potential in something, and it’s all a matter of discovering it.
For me, it was writing. I’d always been told I was a good writer, but I brushed it off, thinking, “Anyone can write, right? — What’s so special about doing good at English homework?” And it’s a shame because, for the longest time, I was completely blind to the opportunities it provided. I didn’t think this was a gift.
So how do you discover your potential and not be blinded to it like me? Well, you should know the things that come easy to you on some level. But to jog your memory — think sassy. Ask yourself: what do other people ask that makes you go, “Seriously, you needed someone to explain that?” That’s your potential, my friend. Because trust me, that annoyance means this comes easy for you. And what’s easy for you — is usually hard for most other people.
Begin your scavenger hunt
So now that your sassy self has an inkling of what your potential is, try to notice all the ways you can use your gift. In practicality, this means searching for all the uses for your potential, both personally and professionally, and believe me, there are more uses than you think.
Back to my early marketing career, in the ironies of ironies, I got reprimanded for having a conversational writing style as if being readable was a cardinal sin. But guess what? That style was worth gold in the world of copywriting, and within a month of dedicating myself to it, I had a full-time job at a Fortune 500 company.
The kicker is — it took me six years to connect the dots all because I never fully realized this even was an opportunity.
So take it from me. Do your homework — you may just save some serious time.
Get the gift from studying the greats
When we talk about potential, we often look up to those who are the masters of their craft because they show us the possibilities of what can happen if we fully lean in.
But it also shows us something more important: their path to success. For example, I love comedy writing and someone I look up to is David Sedaris. Researching him, I found out he got his start after he submitted a story to NPR. So, guess what I’m going to do — the same thing. Success leaves clues after all.
And that’s the beauty of today. We can easily find and reverse engineer success. So, whatever your potential is, look up the best in your field and read their story. Not only for inspiration but for a clear path forward.
Do the dirty four-letter word
Work? Yuck! But to reach your potential, it usually means you have to improve. After all, to achieve things you’ve never done, you usually need to do things you’ve never done. It’s as simple as that.
It’s no secret that the people who max out their potential are usually the most obsessed. And the thing about being obsessed is it means that you put your time in. And that’s what it boils down to, putting time in. Because if you work at something for a long time, it’s nearly impossible not to improve.
In fact, if you didn’t improve, that’s so rare that it would be a skill.
Let go to hold on
The irony of ironies in life is this: almost nothing ever turns out the way we think it will. The fantasies we have in our head almost never follow the script we gave them when it comes to life.
So in the pursuit of your potential, let go of your expectations. Life throws us curveballs, but that’s actually what makes it fun. Every movie is better when the main character has a little uncertainty, and your movie is no different.
Let go of expectations and enjoy your ride — it’ll likely turn out better than you think.
Till your soil
Your potential is a seed, and it only grows into a tree if you till your soil.
And much like a seed, it needs the right environment to sprout and grow. So on your journey to seeing what you’re made of, make sure you’re giving the right envrioment to blossom.
Some days will be easy, others will be hard, but as sure as the sun rises, with enough time and energy, your potential will have you living in the shade.
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