Come closer, let me tell you a story. It’s about me and my potential. And how that potential lay dormant for twenty years.
What is potential worth, do you think?
It’s worth nothing if you don’t do anything with it.
See, the problem is that potential does not directly translate to ability or power or talent or wealth or any of those things. I was a quick learner when I was a kid, much like my son is now. That is what prompted me to start writing this essay, it’s what is making me go back and think about my potential, and how I squandered it.
I had the world at my feet. I could read before I started school. Count to a hundred. Do all manner of things that were considered advanced for my age. Throughout school I was known as “The Person That Could Draw”, even though I rarely actually drew anything.
I enjoyed being top of the class. I rarely hit any kind of problem when it came to learning.
Ten years old and I wanted to be an astronaut.
And I was on track for that!
But then I started to hit complexity. When I couldn’t immediately get my head around what I was being taught, I turned off. I simply couldn’t even try to understand it. I was so used to everything coming naturally to me that I didn’t know how to consciously learn things.
The negative self-talk didn’t help. When I couldn’t grasp a subject I would tell myself I was stupid, that I would never understand it.
This carried on for many, many years. I’m only just understanding it and getting to the root of it now to be quite honest. As I got older, the existential panic of wasting my potential got greater and greater, but I could never pinpoint what it was, exactly.
As I mentioned earlier about being known as “The Person That Could Draw”, I think I must have drawn something good once, early on, and the reputation stuck. My artwork was not terrible. I just felt that my artwork would never live up to people’s expectations.
I would take entry-level jobs that required no real skill so that I had no responsibilities. Fear of success is crippling. I would frequently try to escape from the reality of the situation rather than face up to it. It was easier to disappear into a videogame.
I had delusions of grandeur. I thought I was better than everyone else, even when they had “better” jobs and higher status. This overblown sense of entitlement got me in trouble more than once. It cost me a couple of jobs.
I could point you to numerous examples on this very website quite easily. Like this time I was writing out loud and my indecision shone through. Just scroll through the depression tag and the examples leap off the screen.
I’m not trying to justify it because I simply can’t. I was struggling and too proud and stubborn to ask for help.
But this isn’t about my story.
I’m not fishing for sympathy. I’m on my way to sorting myself out. I’ve realised I suffered from “Gifted Child Syndrome”. It took me a long time to discover that is a recognised “thing”, and now I’m putting in the work to reverse those toxic beliefs.
This is about you, and your potential. My story is just to illustrate that you need to work to make that potential into something tangible.
Your potential is an aura that extends way beyond the edge of your current state. You need to push past the edge, push past feeling comfortable, to make your skills and abilities big enough to embody that aura.
Your main aim on this planet should be to be the very best version of yourself. Your potential is that best version of yourself. It’s attainable. It really is.
Now that I know what to aim for, now that I know my purpose on this planet is to become the best version of myself rather than stay comfortable – it has annihilated all signs of depression. Yes, it is hard. And yes, it can be difficult. And scary. But looking up one day and realising that you have squandered that potential? Wasted all that time?
That is much worse.
Much, much worse. It was the worst feeling I have ever felt. And ultimately it was self-inflicted. I had developed self-sabotaging beliefs in my youth, and was too stubborn and afraid to acknowledge them so I could work through them.
Now, you may think that because I was advanced for my age and had all that untapped potential, I have some kind of advantage now that I am aligned with my purpose.
That because of my innate, fast-developing abilities, I have something extra now I’m working towards my dreams?
Simply not true.
I believe that everyone has massive potential. I believe that everyone can be the best version of themselves. Realising that you have that potential is the first hurdle. Admitting to yourself that you are not pushing yourself, that you could do more, that you could be more, is a decision you have to consciously make in order to start the journey.
Stay in your comfort zone, settle down, and remain unhappy with the way your life is going. Or decide on a destination, plot a course, and set sail. It’s up to you ultimately. But allow my story spur you into action.
I suggest you be bold and book a place on that course you keep looking at. Send off a CV to a few companies you’d like to work for. Take up a martial art or go to the gym. Move forward with that business idea in your spare time. Earn an incredibly useful passive income.
If you are unsure about your true vocation in life, you can take an online survey such as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator or the Big Five Project personality test – this can really help identify new career paths that suit your temperament. Self-awareness is a superpower.
Know this: Once you start pushing outwards and rack up some small victories, they spiral out of control and cascade into larger and larger waves of excitement.
I’ll write more on how to soon, but for now, close your eyes and take a deep breath in.
And say to yourself “I’ve got this”.
Realising your potential is possible.