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posted Sep 3, 2011, 4:37 PM by Eric Banks
When a man has put a limit on what he will do, he has put a limit on what he can do.

-Charles M. Schwab


I don’t know what’s been going on since the start of 2010, but every day when going to and from work, nearly without fail, I’ve been stuck behind an annoyingly slow driver, or two.  And for me to say that, understand, is fairly significant because I know many consider me to be a slow driver ‘cause I generally stay close to the limit, only going a few miles per hour over.  Now, by slow drivers, I don’t mean those who are obviously going slow due to vehicle issues, weather conditions, or even fear of traffic, etc.  No, the slow drivers who annoy me the most, the ones who really push my buttons, are those who consistently drive 3 or 5 miles per hour under the speed limit.  Forty mph in a 45 mph zone; 60 mph in a 65 mph zone.  Yeah, that really torques me off. 


Why does that, of all things, bother me so, you may ask?  Well, it’s all about potential, or unused potential as the case may be.  It makes me think back to when I was in junior high and high school, or when I worked in a middle school back in the late ‘90’s, and friends or students who didn’t make such good grades would say to me, “Well, I could get straight ‘A’s, IF I applied myself…”  What the flip?  “IF” you applied yourself?  If??  So in other words, you are, in essence, admitting that you are too lazy, or too afraid, to even try to do better?  That really burns my biscuits. 


Few things irritate me more than people who have been blessed with gifts and talents and who could excel in whatever they choose to do, but instead choose to live below their potential.  It’s a waste, pure and simple.  I have much greater respect for those who give their best, who give their all, despite the odds and even in the face of a lack of gifts and resources, than I do for those who slack just because they can.


But, we all, myself included, do this to some degree; we all squander potential in some way.  Anybody use their computer or cell phone to the utmost limit of its potential and capabilities?   I’ll admit, I’ve got programs and gadgets on my computer that I’ve hardly used or even opened, if ever.  And don’t even ask about my cell phone…let’s just say I used a vintage 1998 model for about 10 years…


Potential is a funny thing; it’s not something that we can see or touch, and the actual definition as it applies to a person is somewhat nebulous, but we all know what is meant when we hear “that guy isn’t living up to his potential” or “that girl has potential,”.   But, just having potential is pretty meaningless, so what does it really mean?  Well, let’s get abstract for a moment and imagine this thing called “potential” is something that is nothing until it is applied to something else.  Read the last part of that sentence again.  One more time.  Another way to say it would be: potential is useless unless it is poured into something. 


A more concrete illustration can be made by considering the wind.  Picture this: you’re in a small boat in the middle of a clear, peaceful, deep blue sea, and you’re just chillin’, fishin’, enjoying the fresh salty air, warm sunshine and colorful sea creatures cavorting under your boat.  After a few hours, you’re ready to get back to land, but you’re way too tired to row all the way back to shore.  A steady wind has been blowin’ all day and you’ve found it to be pretty useless and maybe a little annoying…until the moment you hoist your sail and catch that wind, using it to propel you to your desired destination.  The wind, by itself, is useless, but when you harness it, it can propel boats, lift kites, and energize generators; your potential, by itself, is useless, but when you harness it, pour it into your gifts, talents and passions, it can propel your life, lift spirits, energize dreams. 


If potential is the wind, what is your sail, your means of harnessing that wind, your gifts and passions, your way of using your personal potential?   And do you know that when you use your potential, you can spark and encourage others to use theirs as well?


Everyone is born with potential, and we’re given the choice of using it or not using it.  It’s that simple.  Use it, or don’t, but understand that while it’s so easy to take your foot off the gas and coast when using your potential takes time, energy and effort, and it’s so easy to settle for being adequate instead of excellent, in the end, it’s always worth the exertion.  Always.  And in the very end, what you have done with your potential, your gifts and your talents, will be one of the most important factors of your legacy.


I still haven’t figured out what’s up with the growth of the Five-Miles per Hour-Under club, but one thing is for sure, while they annoy me, I can tolerate them a lot more than the Fifteen-Miles per Hour-Over, or the Let’s-Weave-In-and-Out-of-Traffic club.  No, it has nothing to do with “overused” potential, I just think they’re dumb.  Yeah, those dudes really melt my ice cream.