Everybody alive has amazing potential. You might be sitting next to the next great achiever and not even know it. But there is a big problem. There are two pernicious ills in education and society in general. These ills prevent most people from achieving self actualisation, the highest human need, according to Maslow.
The first is the tendency to put everybody down and convince them that they have no potential. That’s just industrial age hogwash, designed to keep you in your place, be that in your designated social class, your place in the factory assembly line or in your office cubicle doing what you’re told to do, so that another may reap the rewards. I find it a delight that I constantly meet the most unlikely people with the most amazing talents. Often, these talents are hobbies that far exceed the achievements and skill levels in their day jobs, but their talents go unrecognised and unrewarded.
The second malady, which is almost as debilitating and which seems to affect generation Y more so than other generations, is the idea that everybody has so much potential, it’s inevitable that their potential will be actualised, without any effort whatsoever.
In fact, the potential can be so great and their glittering options so numerous, that taking even the first step toward realising any of it is rendered utterly impossible, for fear of not measuring up to that grand idea of future greatness, even as a work in progress. This is a recipe for major mid-life disaster.
My wake up call was the period of time in my life when the entire world viewed my economic value at precisely zero. I couldn’t get a job. For all my potential, the economy was asserting, in strong and unavoidable ways, that I was completely and totally worthless. I almost believed the economy, until I slowly came to see that this assertion couldn’t be true. Something else must be wrong.
Here are some things that it takes to actualise your potential:
- Money (or more correctly, the means of sustenance for yourself, your family and your art – money just happens to be the faulty means by which we achieve those things right now)
- Belief in the project and in yourself
- A vision
- Freedom from time-wasting distractions
- Freedom from early criticism
- An ability to disregard later criticism, unless it truly is constructive
- A certain manual dexterity or muscle memory (in most things, anyway)
- Incremental successes
- Generosity (toward others and from others)
- Wisdom, often passed down from elders and mentors
There are probably more pre-conditions to actualising potential and it may be that thinking of them as pre-conditions is mistaken, because many of these things (if not all) need to be sustained over a long period of time. My point is that actualising potential is hard. It’s easy to get blown off course.
Notice how the concept of collaboration, not competition, is central to this.
For those of you trying to become a more complete creative being, run down this check list and see if you can identify what might be holding you back. That becomes your target. You need to correct the deficiency.
If you have them all, then you are truly fortunate. Most people will lack something from this list. Think of how many of these things are denied people in the third world, for example, and then appreciate what a tremendous and wanton waste of human potential we have collectively condoned. The cost of economic enslavement, from birth, is actually unconscionable.
My own approach is to try to find the missing pieces and complete the list somehow, while attempting to carry on creating, despite the things I do not have. It can be a relentless slog to continue creating in spite of missing the necessary conditions and that takes a certain bloody-mindedness, I know, but the alternative is surrender.
The alternative is consigning your potential to a premature death. Do you really want to do that?