“I coulda been a contender!” – Marlon Brando from “On the Waterfront”
In the 1954 movie “On the waterfront,” actor Marlon Brando plays a young Dockworker named Terry Malloy, who has all the potential to be a champion boxer. Brando’s character is persuaded by an organized crime boss to throw a fight. Later, Brando’s character decides to testify about the murder of a longshoreman. In the light of all that transpires, his once-promising boxing career now comes to an end.
In hindsight, many people regret their decisions that limit or end potential careers in their fields. It’s sad to look back and lament never reaching your potential, sadder still are the those who live a lifetime never knowing what might have been.
What is Potential?
As an adjective, potential is defined as having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future, as a noun potential is the latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.
Potential can lie dormant locked away in unused or unrealized capabilities. Albert Schweitzer says, “The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.”
Statesman Dr. Myles Munroe talking about potential, says, “An artist can walk by the stone in your front yard and see a figure in it. He may stop by your house and beg you for a stone you have walked past many times without noticing. You may even have been planning to get rid of it because it’s a nuisance. But the artist walks into your yard and sees something beautiful in that stone beyond what you can imagine.”
One of the most powerful illustrations of potential is the seed. if I show you a seed and asked you to tell me what you see, you will most likely answer “a seed.” If you’re a person of vision understanding potential you might answer “a tree,” both responses are correct, one addresses the obvious of the here and now, the other addresses the reality of potential.
Dr. Munroe also said that the wealthiest place on earth is the cemetery, the untapped potential of unwritten books, songs, screenplays, businesses that were never started, designs, medical and technological breakthroughs the world may have been robbed of, and the great leaders that society has lost out on the ideas and innovations never acted upon.
Releasing the Potential Within Us and Others
Leo F. Buscaglia observes, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Think of the power inherent in the words and examples of parents, teachers, counselors, and coaches, and leaders who influence to unlock potential impacting future generations.
“Every beginner possesses a great potential to be an expert in his or her chosen field.” – Lailah Gifty Akita, in his best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen R. Covey writes, “Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential.”
Explore the Possibilities of Your Potential
The longer we wait to explore and develop potential, the fewer options become available to us and those we influence. Margaret Atwood aptly states, “Potential has a shelf life.” I have always believed that it’s wiser to be looking forward exploring the possibilities of our potential than it is to be looking back, lamenting what might have been.
Take Inventory of Your Gifts and Talents
Exploring untapped potential will almost certainly require embracing some uncomfortable situations; it’s all part of a learning curve. Do not dismiss the possibilities of a career change; I made that decision while in my fifties. I recommend you start by taking our leadership assessment (1)
Do Not Allow Others to Place a Lid on Your Potential
Don’t automatically accept the self-limiting assessments people may make about you. You really can do whatever you set your mind to when it’s in line with your natural gifts and talents. Plan to start learning who you are and develop your abilities. What has always come natural to you? Don’t overlook the possibility of a former hobby becoming a new career opportunity; many have successfully made that move.
“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.” - Ella Fitzgerald
(1) Take your leadership assessment here https://bit.ly/2Q2cUPz *** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***