As an adult educator, I watch people growing in their skills and abilities, and I wonder what separates one person’s ability to master a skill from another’s ability. Part of it has to do with the potential that each person has to master a skill, but that leads me to wonder, what untapped potential does each of us have? I’ve read that most of us lead a life well beneath our limits, so there is often so much more we are capable of.
But, of potential, there are two different types – being gifted with a natural skill that only needs some refining, and being gifted with a natural skill that requires diligent practice and effort, but, once you have developed the skill, you can outshine the average person’s ability with that skill.
I remember that when my cousin was learning to drive, my aunt called up my parents, overjoyed to report that my cousin was a “natural.” I wondered if I, too, would be a “natural” and have my parents similarly excited about my hidden gift. When the time came to learn how to drive, I almost hit a parked car. That day, I heard a tone in my instructor’s voice that could only come from a mixture of terror and exasperation. I was not a “natural.”
How many people dream of being a “natural,” and, when they find out, like I did, that they are not so gifted, they give up? Sometimes, a skill is latent, or is not possible for someone to come by without practice. But, is a skill like this any less important? I would say it is more important, because the more important tasks tend to be ones that take the most effort to learn, one for which there can be no “naturals.”
What can be more mournful that a life where, upon death, you have left so much untried – things that you desire are there for the taking, yet left untouched? Imagine if, upon death, each of us were given an inventory of our potential. This world would then know sorrow unlike anytime before.
I can’t help but wonder why people don’t try for their potential. Is it because of a fear of failing, a pride that they must be a natural or not try at all, a pride that they are always right?
Having to be right all the time stops our ability to reach our potential. Seeking out that mythical upper limit of our capabilities is wrought with failure, loss, and pain. The irony is that people who think that they have to always be right – people who are afraid of failure, of being wrong – are often trying very hard to be the best that they can, yet they are the very people who will never be the best.
And each year that passes takes away twelve months of opportunity to try to access your untapped potential, to find your way through the charnel ground of failure to reach who you truly are.