Human Comparison

People will compare you with others.  However, when it comes to performance, the only comparison that matters to you is “you versus your potential.”  When you do so, you are assessing how committed you are to your God-given purpose and how grateful you are for your God-given talents.  Regardless of who is involved, a “you versus someone else” comparison is irrelevant, unproductive and potentially harmful.

“The greatest barrier to someone achieving their potential
is their denial of it.”
— Simon Travaglia

“There is so much potential out there in young people
and they aren’t getting the right information
or being encouraged in the right ways.
This is our duty as a society.”
— Benjamin Carson

Potential Perspectives

Having closed out 2012 with two sessions of our program Your Potential Matters!, I’m inspired to share some thoughts about potential.  Pastor Claude Robold, Senior Pastor at New Covenant Church in Middletown, Ohio jokingly defines potential as “what you have NOT yet accomplished.”  From this perspective, if someone says that you have lots of potential, how is that a compliment?  Interesting thought!

Perspectives on Potential

Potential can be considered from two perspectives: talent and development.  Talent is a gift.  As such, we have no right to take credit for any potential that is embedded within our DNA.  Gifts come with the responsibility to not be wasted.  What we do to develop and apply our talents is a personal decision and a daily responsibility.

Let’s consider two additional perspectives.  First, there’s the potential of today – a person’s present capacity based on their talent and preparation-to-date.  There is also lifetime potential – a person’s absolute maximum capacity which combines natural talent with a lifetime of total commitment and preparation.

Understanding Mediocrity

I say with humility and a sense of regret that I sometimes perform at a mediocre level.  People who know me best would agree.  Those who know me casually or have a different perspective about potential are possibly confused by this, so let me explain.  A mediocre result is not a comparison with the results of others.  Just because I beat out others for a spot on the team doesn’t mean I reached my athletic potential.  Just because people enjoy my singing voice does not mean I have fully prepared and performed consistent my potential.

Mediocrity is a measurement that says, “You can do much better!”  It’s settling for “good enough” when your potential begs for more.  We are mediocre whenever we rely too heavily on our talent to get the job done.  Even when our accomplishments appear better than someone else’s, mediocrity is still mediocrity.

Confronting Limits of Our Potential

Some motivational speakers say that human beings have unlimited potential.  I disagree.  As long as we exist in human form, we have limitations. Could Olympic athlete Michael Phelps swim 100 meters in 30 seconds?  Certainly not!  Even if he could, how about one second?  The point is, potential is NOT unlimited – human beings have physical limitations that limit our potential.

While it’s useful to accept this truth, it’s much more important to avoid the trap of setting the bar too low.  Western culture teaches a code of practicality called “realism” – that somehow being realistic is virtuous.  Consequently, well-meaning people caution idealists to be more realistic and dreamers are ridiculed for their so-called “unrealistic goals.”

Realism is important, but it is also overrated.  The greatest achievements of mankind began with “unrealistic” dreams.  The conclusion is this.  As we look for our own potential, we should err on the side of “bigger is better” because our true potential is found at the very edge of impossibility.

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that
this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”
– Walt Disney

Limited Vision Limits Potential

Zig Ziglar was famous for pointing out the negative effects of stinkin’ thinkin’.  This practice includes the self-imposed limits people place on their potential.  The more you focus on your limitations of the present, the more difficult it will be see the potential of your future.  It’s far more productive to expand your perspective of possibilities and adopt a plan to get there.

Action leads to both successes and failures.  When I succeed I gain a clearer sense of my true potential.  Failures provide benchmarks of my progress and offer clues about what needs to change.  Both inspire me to keep pushing toward the next level.  Every time I approach my limits, I uncover new potential.  It’s staggering to imagine where I would be today if I had discovered and embraced this bit of wisdom earlier in life.  How about you?

Fear of Excellence

Why do so many people settle for less than their potential would allow?  The answer is fear.  We fear the sweat and sacrifices involved.  We fear how excellence could change our comfortable lifestyles.  We fear the responsibilities and expectations that follow high levels of performance.  Most of all, we fear failure.

Here’s the truth.  Failure is not avoided by choosing mediocrity.  We just learn to fail at a lower level.  Responsibilities don’t go away because we accept underachievement and we are not free of expectations simply because we choose the easy path.  Mediocrity is nothing less than an unfulfilling substitute for excellence.

Gratitude Leverages Potential

Are you truly grateful for the talents you have?  If so, you probably ask questions like these.  When was the last time I reflected about my potential?  In which areas am I settling for mediocrity?  What talents do I have that are collecting dust on a shelf?  What is keeping me from reaching my potential in my gifted areas?

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
  – Walt Disney

What I’ve learned about myself is this.  The more grateful I am for my God-given talents, the more I reach for the impossible, invest in my development, and apply my talents in service to others.  I believe these responses are as God intends.  And the benefits are amazing!

Two More Magic Moments

Tuesday, January 31, 2012, it was the Greeneview Rams hosting the Springfield Catholic Central Irish in a high school boys’ basketball contest. It was a special night and once again it was my privilege to be “The Voice of the Rams.”

After scarfing down a couple slices of pizza in the hospitality room, I was cornered by Athletic Director Mark Reinhart, who had a secret and a special assignment.  A player on each team was about to reach a career milestone, 1000 points.  At the high school level, this many points is not an everyday occurrence.  Twice in the same game is unthinkably rare!

Greeneview High’s Evan Bradds, a junior, needed 14 points.  Catholic Central’s senior forward Brian Kelly needed 13.  Apparently both players knew they were close, but not exactly how close.  Neither knew about the surprise that was in store.

Only a handful of people were briefed: the head coaches, the referees, and the officials at the scorers’ table. Jane, the lovely Greeneview scorekeeper, was responsible for monitoring their progress.  When either player reached the milestone, she would alert Kenny, the reliable and steady timekeeper, who would hit the buzzer to stop the game. Then, yours truly would have the privilege of announcing the player’s name and his outstanding accomplishment.  The fans would cheer and the players and coaches would celebrate as athletes do with high fives, chest bumbs, knuckle bumps and a few hugs.  Then, the game would resume and the process would continue hoping for that historic second milestone.

Here’s how it played out.  Bradds scored his 1000th point with 1:45 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Kelly followed suit in the 2nd half. The script played out just as if we had rehearsed it — two 1000-point celebrations in the same game!  What made it exceptional was seeing the sportsmanship of rivals enjoying each other’s accomplishment.

17 years ago, when Athletic Director Bob Roach entrusted me with the job of public address announcer, this special game was not on my radar screen. How could it be?  Evan Bradds was either an infant or a twinkle in his father’s eye. Clearly I did not seek this job in preparation for this moment or any other specific highlight. My long-term vision is not that acute.  Motivation for the job was to improve my skills and audition for an announcer position at a Division 1 college program. That opportunity never materialized.  However, with perfect 20-20 hindsight I’m glad it didn’t.  Each time another magic Rams moment comes along I’m reminded how grateful I am for the opportunity to be the man behind the microphone in my hometown.

“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills
so that when important occasions arise, you will have
the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”
— Jim Rohn, Motivational Speaker

What opportunities are you looking for?  What opportunities are looking for you?  What are you grateful for?