My first job after I graduated high school was working in the snack bar at Forrest General Hospital. My responsibilities primarily consisted of pouring fountain drinks and selling candy. For eight hours each day I stood in a hot little room, barely larger than a closest, and fetched candy, cigarettes (back when they still sold cigarettes in hospitals), and fountain drinks for hospital employees. I hated just about every minute of it.
The thing that I find most amazing about that time of my life is that I managed to work that job for almost five years.
I remember during that period of my life, my friends or family would occasionally tell me that I had a lot of potential. I was always very flattered when I heard this and took this as a huge compliment. I understood it to mean that they saw great intelligence, talent, and latent ability in me! They felt I was going places and one day I would be a big deal.
But, as I’ve thought about this statement over the years, I have come to believe that it is anything but a compliment. It was no doubt intended as one, but the implication of the statement is that the person to whom it is being directed is not presently living up to his potential. It might be possible for him to one day do so, but he is just not presently.
To comment that an idea or project has potential is quite different. An idea isn’t a person. It has no inherent responsibility to bloom, grow, or expand. When an idea doesn’t come to fruition, it might be a loss, it might be a setback, but in most cases it isn’t a tragedy.
For a person to never strive to reach his potential, for him to remain at the same state of inactivity or dormancy throughout his entire life–in my opinion, that is the very definition of a tragedy. Something sacred has been lost. A life has been wasted. I can’t imagine anything sadder than getting to the end of one’s life and to have not done anything with it.
And you can’t identify the mediocre by a job title or dress code. There are those who work in what some consider menial jobs, such as my job at the snack bar, who are in motion. They are growing and reaching for their potential, striving to better themselves and their circumstances. There are others who work in nice offices, who stagnate day after day, perfectly happy with status quo, drawing a paycheck in return for the absolute minimum effort and output. Which person would you say epitomizes mediocrity?
So, how do you go about fulfilling your potential? Where do you begin on the journey toward purpose and meaning?
I believe the only way to accomplish this is to harness, develop, and apply your Seven Powers of Success.
Excerpted from The Seven Powers of Success; Unlock Your Strengths, Unleash Your Dreams. www.charlesmarshall.net © 2013 Charles Marshall