It’s never too early and never too late to own your potential
[W]hile diligence and
working hard are almost
universally admired, we will be judged by
the results of our work and not the work itself.
By Dr. William T. Hold, CIC, CPCU, CLU
“Own your potential.” Three words that can be life changing, three words that we hear and use almost every day that can scream out in a positive way to individuals—individuals who want to manage and shape their own futures, individuals who want a future not dictated by their past but by future possibilities that can become a series of realities.
I introduced in an earlier “Hold On…” column this notion of owning your potential. The topic continues to resonate within our society and among industry professionals. So, let’s take a deeper look.
The word “own” is a powerful three-letter word because it declares and acknowledges that some idea or object belongs to the individual. It says, “This is mine and I hold it close to me.”
“Own” also implies action because when you own it, you control it. Last, “own” suggests an independence of action, a reliance on one’s own resources, as in “you are on your own.”
The word “potential” declares an existing possibility, something we can develop or make real, something we can actually own. While potential can be good or bad, we almost always think of “potential” in a positive fashion.
The sciences deal with “potential” in a somewhat different fashion. Potential energy, for instance, is a form of stored energy, and kinetic energy is when something is in motion. A parked car would represent potential energy, while a car in motion would be kinetic energy.
In similar fashion, a person just sitting on their butt would be “potential energy,” while a person taking actions to own their potential would be “kinetic energy.”
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to wave to actually “own your potential.” A great deal depends on one’s ability to focus on the issues and factors in their life that they can control and not be distracted by those they cannot influence or change.
As a reminder, here are some important factors and issues we can, to some extent, control:
Our attitude. Maintaining a positive attitude is important. Believing in yourself, letting go of the worry and keeping the positive aspects of your life in the front of your mind.
Working with strength and purpose. Do not work to avoid failure, endure the day, or simply survive. Try to work to make a positive difference with the goal of making a “one percent improvement” each day.
It is important to remember that, while diligence and working hard are almost universally admired, we will be judged by the results of our work and not the work itself. Keep in mind that today’s success is not the end result; rather, it is the necessary next step for tomorrow’s success.
Our character. Integrity, honesty, and ethical behavior are all important elements of our character, and they are within our control.
Our knowledge. One of the great truisms of all time is that “ignorance will make cowards and servants of us all.” We are at our absolute best when we know what we are doing, when we understand the problem and the available solution(s).
Knowledge builds confidence while ignorance breeds fear and uncertainty. It is almost impossible to “own your potential” when you have no idea of what it can be. If or when this happens, your potential becomes something akin to a “lost ball in tall weeds.”
Perhaps the most important idea in the notion of owning your potential is that it is “your potential.” It has boundaries created through a complex set of relationships of God-given talents and those developed through individuals such as parents, teachers, and others you have dealt with. In addition, there are important factors, including self-discipline, opportunities both realized and lost, determination, education, and elements of good fortune. The impact and influence of all the above reside in all of us at some point in time.
It is important to understand that these boundaries are not static and can change over time. Consequently, your potential is in some way or fashion constantly changing in response to the various circumstances of your current life. The result is that your potential is almost always achievable because, in some fashion, it moves in tandem with your life.
This follows from the fact that life’s journey is essentially a continuing series of beginnings and endings. This is in stark contrast to a static potential, which would be achievable only once in a lifetime.
As with many endeavors or journeys, the most difficult part is almost always getting started. In light of the above discussion about “your potential,” logic would indicate that all the common reasons for not beginning to “own your potential” are not valid. Taking a positive view, the following would have validity.
In terms of owning your potential, you are never too old and never too young. You always have time. You are never too late to make a change and never too early to be what you can and want to be. You are never too late to be what you could be, to begin to choose what you can be, and to be what you might have been.
The adventure and the excitement of owning your potential is that it is always there waiting for you to begin the journey and reap the rewards. The crucial question is will you be the person with just the “potential energy” or the person who unleashes “kinetic energy”?
William T. “Doc” Hold, Ph.D., CIC, CPCU, CLU, is executive chairman of The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, which he co-founded in 1969 as The Society of CIC. Under his leadership, The National Alliance has grown to become one of the most prestigious insurance education organizations in the world. In this column Doc shares his personal insights and opinions, which are not necessarily those of The National Alliance or its board members.