Life is full of barriers. There always seems to be something between us and a desirable future. Failure happens all the time. In such a mess, how can we measure “our potential” to do something big in life?
Well, we don’t have to. There is one thing easily proven in life. Human potential is unlimited. Everyone can achieve anything meaningful. Any. Single. Thing.
If you’re a 40-year-old-couch-potato-with-no-idea-what-to-do-in-your-life, within your lifetime you have the potential to be a trillionaire in $, the world’s most celebrated scientist, artist, writer, leader. You can be the next Musk or Bezos, Einstein, Van Gogh, Tolkien, and Mandela. Combined.
I’m sure by this moment (if you haven’t already hit the big X button of the browser) you are thinking “What the bloody hell!?! The author has lost their freaking mind!“.
But in fact, I haven’t. The word potential (the capacity to develop into something in the future) means that your future is limited by your capacity which is influenced a bit by your genes and age but in the modern fast-paced, dynamic life – much more by your choices.
Of course, your current situation in life limits your choices considerably. If you’re a poor uneducated farmer in Africa, your chances of becoming a top scientist short term are non-existent. But in the long term, there are no tables that can’t be turned around. Freedom, human connections, education, and resources can be found. Situations that increase our knowledge of ourselves and the world will happen to anybody and the more you follow the speed and scale principles, the more intense the learning will be and the faster the growth that will follow.
The human potential question is a valuable one because we can forget about the odds. Even if you have the lowest odds, this doesn’t mean shit in this context. Can you (possibly) do it? If yes, you have the potential.
First, let’s define a meaningful achievement. At age 50 and untrained, can you win the Olympics marathon? No. But can you start training and eventually finish one in less than 4 hours? Surely. You will be an inspiration to yourself and those around you and this is no less meaningful than an Olympic gold in one of the longest, most boring sports to watch 🙂
So what achievements are the most meaningful? Well, you can touch the hearts of others with art (including non-boring sports 🙂 ) and character or you can change their lives with money/resources, intellect, or leadership. And there is not a single thing of those you cannot do. Still don’t believe me? Let’s prove it!
Think you cannot do amazing art because you never did?
Life is art. Everything is art. Just live and you may stumble on a way to express yourself that will touch the world. Your art potential is unlimited.
Think you cannot amaze the world with character?
This would be a 100% Game of Self issue as your character is in your head and nowhere else. Game of Self problems are potentially the easiest to fix due to nothing in the real world having to change, you just need to rewire your human brain a bit. Once you believe it’s fixed, it actually is (known widely as the “fake it till you make it” principle). You gotta believe 🙂 Your character potential is unlimited.
Think you cannot have any amount of money?
Do you know how many ways they are to make money? I don’t and that’s the point, no one does and many are easy wins. Opportunities to make tons of money are everywhere, you just need to find them and make good choices. But since we’re talking about potential, the hypothetical you always make the best choice 🙂 Then money makes more money and it’s a huge exponential curve. Your financial potential is unlimited.
Think you cannot invent anything or be a scientist because you’re not smart or educated enough?
Your brain’s best ability is that it can learn and change and this also happens exponentially. Of course, we’re talking about potential so you quickly find the best mentors and long-term access to never-ending quality knowledge. Then in the words of Isaac Newton you “stand on the shoulders of giants” and complete a huge discovery and why not also get a Nobel prize for it 🙂 Your mental potential is unlimited.
Think you cannot be a world-changing leader?
Again, 100% Game of Self issue and an even easier one. While for the character you may need courage and other not-very-evolutionary-rewarded traits in humans, leadership is mostly empathy, something non-psychopaths of us (or of you… if I happen to be one 😀 ) have by default. Some fake it till you make it and you’re the next Nelson Mandela. Your leadership potential is unlimited.
Think you cannot be all of these things all at once? Actually, they are helping each other:
Art brings money, money buys education, character helps leadership and leadership brings money if you’re Vladimir Putin (If you are, this place can make you human again, stick around and grow younger 🙂 ).
Do you believe me now? Your potential for any kind of meaning and success is absolutely unlimited?
Good. Now I’ll ruin your euphoria with 7 words 🙂
Your potential for failure is absolutely unlimited.
Oh, shit… eh… same logic in reverse?
Absolutely. If you make certain choices you can become a serial killer or the next Hitler. Let’s leave this thought and don’t dwell on it too much but it’s true.
You may think this thought experiment was rather pointless and at best it showed you that the word potential has a more lateral meaning than you had expected. But there was a hidden point.
You can look at the world and humans in two ways – a set of odds or a set of potentials.
Technically, everything is odds. Even if you believe stuff is predetermined (fatalism), from your standpoint all you have is (unknown) odds. The common and most sensible school of thought is that our thoughts and actions are largely driven by the environment that is not under our control. So we’re randomly tossed in different directions by the people we meet, our interaction with them or by pure chance (like people who win the lottery or ones who missed the departure of the Titanic because of minor events like a hurt ankle).
The problem is this odds thing is way too complicated for humans to deterministically follow or even fully understand. While it’s clear that base jumping increases your odds of premature death for the sake of adrenalin (not judging), not all deals with fate are so clear cut. It’s mostly a mess, changing in real time.
And while The Game of Life needs an understanding of odds as good as possible (a core skill there), The Game of Self needs something to make us feel better, while still thinking realistically. Because if you don’t feel-you-can-make-it in something partially or mostly under your control, you likely won’t. And this is where the potential perspective comes along, the beautiful (and actually correct) story that you can be anyone and achieve anything. Something to makes us believe when the odds don’t look good, to get inspiration and hope from, so we don’t kill our always existing chances… in our heads ourselves.
So don’t ever listen to someone who tells you what you can’t do. They are always wrong. Can’t has one meaning, no human potential. This is never the case. However, also be smart, think, share and get feedback, research and trust your intuition. The odds may not be in your favor. Your goal may be stupid as hell and persisting may lead you down dangerous paths. Just because you can do anything does not mean you should! Options in life are so much more than your mind can comprehend and you can follow an almost infinite number of life paths. Shit will always happen unexpectedly and your attempts to make structure from chaos may or may not help your cause depending on the environment. So believe anything is possible, still evaluate the odds and always remember the much better idea may be the next thought you have, if only you keep options open.
Btw anyone who tells you you “will make it” does not understand the odds side of things and is not helping your cause by spreading potential misinformation and loading you with expectations and pressure. Can make it are the right words to use 🙂 Or, if asked for a clear opinion, you can dismiss stupid social protocols and say exact odds, it’s fun and helps you develop odds intuition. My ex-girlfriend was always thrilled when I told her we’re super late, but still had 60% chance of catching our flight 😀
You can greatly increase your odds of being Mandela vs the ones of being Hitler by remembering you have unlimited potential for both. If you don’t, the barriers in The Game of Self will likely stop you from being a Mandela, while life may always turn you into a Hitler, just to remind the world how no one is in control of such unfortunate events.
Almost all humans are inherently more good than bad these days. If everyone had a choice with no consequences or effort, would they save the life of a stranger or kill a stranger? See, we’re good 🙂 Some people are misguided into doing bad=stupid things by scarcity or misinformation but this is fixable and the solutions are part of the potential we have to develop as a society.
And if everyone comes to believe in the unlimited human potential inside them and lives with this hopeful
thought feeling, what a world we would live in… 🙂
How do you feel about your potential now 🙂