Inherent in the idea of reaching your potential – ‘doing more with yourself and your life’ is the fact that where you are right now isn’t enough, that there is more. It is the admission that you are capable of more.
But to get where we need to go, we have to examine where we are now. How have we lived so far? What are the results we enjoy or endure? What the present scorecard of our life experience? How ever we want to judge it.
Life is a 1 + 1 = 2 equation. Asides from circumstances and forces outside our control, where you are right now is as a result of your past choices – your thinking, your mindset, your reactions to events and your actions or non-action towards your goals.
To get different results, to move forward and tap into more of your power and potential, you have to think and do different things. You need to manipulate the variables of your life equation. You need an evolved disposition and a way of being. But you can’t do that if you think you already know everything.
There is an enemy that is so close to us. He is more than close, he is actually within. His favorite trick is to blind us. He makes us feel good but keeps us oblivious to opportunities for growth, for success, and to our blind spots. He promises to trip us up at every point and turn. That enemy is our ego.
There are various layers and levels at which to engage with the concept of Ego.
First, there is the concept of self, and these are esoteric waters, so bear with me if you are unfamiliar. We all experience the ‘self’. We believe we are something, that we are someone. This bundle of thoughts and emotions, this state of consciousness that resides where? Our heads? Our heart? Our gut? All over our body?
Who are we? Where’s our soul? The illusion of self is so persistent that we cling to it very strongly. We are us – a separate entity from them. The rabbit hole here goes much deeper, but my point is we usually think the sense of self is a constant real thing that almost never changes. We say things like, that is just how I am, I can’t help my temper, my procrastination, whatever traits and habits we choose to hold on to. But the self is far more malleable than we think. What we anchor as ourselves, our personality, is nothing more than a bundle of habits and patterns we have picked up. They can be unraveled. They can be changed.
The rigid sense of self especially when it is unconsciously chosen and engineered becomes a stumbling block to our progress. If we must reach our potential, if we must take up new habits, new patterns of thinking, then we must see the self as malleable, and everything as learnable. Which means that we cannot hold on too tightly to our present notions of self, we must be flexible enough to evolve, to grow and change.
Ego as we usually know and refer to it, is having an unnecessarily inflated sense of self. It is pride. It is the scared child within that seeks to protect itself, that needs to be right at all cost. It is the spoilt petulant self that wants to be the center of everything, to be acknowledged, to be validated.
It is also this ego that we must confront and bring into submission. It is the thing that flares up when we are confronted with evidence or ideas that go against everything we believe and stand for. It is that flash of anger and self-defense that spontaneously arises when we are called out or corrected. It is the response that comes to a seeming attack on our character, on our person.
To grow, you have to be able to manage this side of you. Otherwise, you will never move forward. Your ego is the sum total of the ideas and beliefs you have set up around yourself – who you are, and what you are capable of. It is ego that clings to excuses…because it is not really your fault, someone else failed you, harmed you, made you who you are. It is ego that refuses to take responsibility, that chooses the easy way out, that chooses to indulge yourself instead of doing the hard work you need to do to move forward and change your situation.
It is the ego that judges others. It looks at other people enjoying things you would like, things such as material goods, notoriety, fame, accomplishment, and lashes out saying ”…they were lucky, that person thinks they are all that, they had rich parents, they suck up to the boss, I bet if I had what they had…”. It is ego that projects and makes everyone else the enemy.
It is the ego that gets offended. How could that person say that about me? How could that person say that at all? Who are you to refer to me as this kind of person, and yourself as that? How dare you think you are special?
It is ego that must protect the self at all cost. Because the ego really believes in scarcity. Attention is scarce, resources are scarce, success is scarce. The more that person has, the less I do. It is the reason bad leaders hog all the credit and treat their followers like crap. It is ego that must inflate the self and preserve its perch above all others. It is the ego that prioritizes personal short-term gain over the long-term good of the collective.
If you must move forward, if you must live up to your potential, you must go to war against the ego every day. You have to humble yourself and build your confidence not on who you think you are, but on how you actually behave and what you accomplish. Let your sense of pride be earned and forged in the bitter trials of change, of trial and error, of actual learning and education.
Be open to receive correction. You don’t know everything. You don’t even know what you don’t know. The way you have done things has brought you this far for better or worse. But there is so much more to be and to do. To grow, you have to allow yourself to learn new things. Don’t shut down ideas just because they offend you, be willing to entertain, to calm down, to think through rationally and make a decision. It doesn’t mean listen and agree with whatever one says, it just means don’t be so quick to dismiss, at least check yourself. Be continually open to the idea that you might be wrong.
At the core of his ‘Principles’ Ray Dalio has the idea of truth as the ultimate benchmark. He is always trying to find out what is true about a situation or about life. Not what he would like to be true, not trying to confirm his assumptions or beliefs, just what is actually true, regardless of how it tastes. It is humility in the face of reality. To try, to fail, to clearly analyze failure, take instruction, make corrections and try again. It is understanding that as diverse as we are in personality, physicality and inclinations, we are also diverse in perspectives and strengths. Each of us has something to teach the other. If we will move forward and reach our potential, we have to be willing to lean on the expertise of others in search of the truth that will take us where we need to go.
To break through to your highest potential, you have to be willing to do some different, you have to be willing to be someone different. Regulate the ego, stay humble, stay open, don’t judge, don’t be offended, just keep your eyes on the prize, keep learning, keep evolving and keep moving forward.
I had just posted my last piece on the 7 reasons you don’t reach your potential when my friend George hit me up asking if I had ever written about anxiety. Personally, I like to write about what I know best and stick to my comfort zone which is the personal development stuff. But there is the saying that if you can design one thing, you can design anything. So, I’m going to see if that also applies to writing.
I approach matters of mental health with great care. As someone who has had his own fair share to deal with, I understand that it is a triggering and fragile thing to discuss. It is great that lately as a collective, we are recognizing mental health issues as valid conditions and not just sweeping it under the rug or being oblivious like previous generations. At the same time, it is not an exact science, it is a very subjective experience, so these are murky waters.
It is only recently, like 4 months ago, that I started to realize that perhaps I actually am a lot more anxious than I realize. I have always had a low level of anxiety going on. I just never called it that. I just bookmarked it as fear, but this low-level feeling of tension always exists. It rears up its head when I have to do something new, when I sit in the car with a mentor or someone that I look up to. It rises when I have to go out into the world and interact with people. It rises when I get phone calls. It builds when I need to do something important. It flares up when I have to go out to an event or a party. It is my faithful companion. Sure you could call it nervous excitement, but sometimes it never really leaves, there is easy to constantly worry about anything and everything.
But life and growth require that you move forward. They require that you try new things, that you stretch yourself out of your comfort zone. Because otherwise, you would remain stuck. So, I’ve always viewed this anxiety as fear, and fear as something to be embraced and overcome. One of my favorite quotes is the Latin phrase ‘nihil timendum est’. It means ‘nothing is frightening’. Recently, I’ve come to meditate on fear as a specter, a ghost. There is even the acronym F.E.A.R. meaning ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. Fear is just a projection of our subconscious mind unto the screen of life. If it is a matter of projection, perception and interpretation, then perhaps it can be influenced or even controlled.
When my friend asked me about anxiety, he framed it in a specific way. As young men (and everyone really) trying to come up in the world, it is difficult and we are prone to anxiety, whether we talk about it or not. In the prevailing social narrative, as men, we are supposed to have our shit together. It is said the only time a black man is truly loved is for his money. Which means if you don’t have money or means, then you are useless. Now that isn’t completely accurate, because there are a lot of broke men who are loved and supported by their women, but there is still a truth to it. Life is real, and you have to be able to shoulder the burdens.
So, the anxiety mounts, coming into your own as an adult. Figuring out your career, figuring out relationships, paying bills, getting married, raising children. All very real, very weighty things. At the same time, the whole world around us looks and feels like it is going to hell in a handbasket. In Africa, we face hundreds of years of exploitation from outside forces and broken promises and dashed hopes from our own leaders. There is conflict worldwide at every turn, even the empires and structures we used to look towards for stability or a sense of aspiration are all crumbling. Everything is falling apart, the ground beneath our feet seeming to give way. With so much going on, the mounting anxiety is understandable.
I read a copy of the New Internationalist the other night, and it was back to back full of bad news. Printed across its pages was one crisis or the other, from the underdevelopment and exploitation of Africa, to the piling plastic and electronic waste from our consumerist capitalist society, even to the damage of the inner psyche of the average person, we are faced with the most pressing challenges of our species and we are woefully unequipped to deal with them. It gets so overwhelming, it is easy to look out for the check-out button, both literally and metaphorically.
How do we cope?
If you are religious, you hold on to the hope of a life beyond this one, sure that this will pass away and a utopia will ensure. Otherwise you can cope with various philosophical or political responses – nihilism – eat, drink and be merry today because tomorrow we die, resistance – we can change this, we just need to change our prevailing systems, radicalism – let’s just burn everything down, anarchy – let’s descend into chaos and let everyone be responsible for themselves.
I don’t have the answers fam, I’m just as overwhelmed as you. But I’ll share how I think and approach it. It might not work for everyone, but it works for me.
Mindfulness helps. Which is really just the practice of being aware. If you are aware that you are being anxious, then you can resolve it. But it starts with recognizing that it is happening. When I realized how anxious I got around people I looked up to, I started consciously breathing deeper and deliberately relaxing into the present, into their presence and bringing forth my true self – as a human being, with personality, and ideas and a point of view. Basically, acknowledging that I am valid, and I don’t need to pander to be accepted by anyone.
Meditation helps too, and it ties in well with mindfulness. Taking the time out to reconnect with yourself, to deepen your inner reserves, to increase awareness give you more control in your day to day life. You can lengthen the time between occurrence and reaction and fill the space in between with impartial observation. Once you master the discipline of perception you can react or act accordingly.
In stoic philosophy, we are encouraged to see the world as it is, not as we want it to be. That also means a radical acceptance of what is. Amor Fati – love what it, as if you wanted what happened to happen. Even if it is failure, even if it is destruction. Once you can accept it, then you can deal with it. Too much psychic energy is spent resisting what is and wishing for something else, instead of dealing with what is and transforming that to what you want, if possible. So sure, things are hard, I am anxious, accept the fact, embrace and then decide what to do.
We are also encouraged to focus on what is within our locus of control. You can’t control everything, not the decisions of other people, not the things happening halfway across the world. You can’t even control what will happen to you in the next 5 minutes. But you can control the meaning you give to it, and you can control your reaction and your action to it.
Cultivate an inner citadel. In a world of chaos, it is imperative to have a space within that you can retreat to, a place to drop anchor. It is a place cultivated in meditation, in prayer and in contemplation of the transcendent. It helps you understand that everything physical will pass away, but that you, your consciousness, your soul is more than just what you see. And you can root yourself in that awareness and draw strength, even in the most-dire of straights.
All these tactics help to deepen our resolve, our reserves and manage anxiety. To be calm when needed and to arouse passion when needed, so that we are not overrun and overwhelmed but with emotional discipline, we have what it takes to meet our challenges.
You know you are capable of so much more. You feel the stirrings of it deep in your soul. Even though you may have shunned that voice for so long that you have given up believing you have ability to be anything greater than you are right now.
Sure, I get it. Life has been hard, it hasn’t dealt you a fair hand. There have been many obstacles, born into the wrong time, the wrong part of the city, the wrong country. Maybe you are frustrated by debt, by the lack of money, by the lack of help or support from those who were supposed to take care of you.
Or maybe things have actually been good. Maybe everything was provided for you. Maybe you went to the best schools, aced your studies and are working at the job of your dream.
But you still feel it, the nagging feeling you could do more, do something worthier, more impactful, more than just filling your pockets.
Let me assure you that you are definitely not reaching your full potential. As long as there is more to give, you are not done. Reaching your potential is a perpetual journey to the death. And it doesn’t necessarily mean go bigger every time, amassing more and advancing to bigger stages, although that can be a part of it. It can also mean going deeper, growing stronger, more connected, more aligned to the call of your heart.
You could be playing your craft at highest world stages touching millions and still miss your potential if the ache of your soul really is to create something more meaningful that resonates deeper with a select few.
Your potential is negotiation between your soul and your creator.
So why are you not reaching it. Why do you fall short of your potential so consistently? What trips you up? I thought about it and came up with so many reasons you are not where you should be, but today, we will start with just 7.
You don’t believe
You have been in your situation, accepting the status quo for so long that you don’t believe that more is possible for you. You have completely rejected the idea of your potential, that you could be more. You are seated firmly on the sidelines, convinced that living your dreams and doing the things your heart longs to do are for other people, the lucky few. It is not for you. Sure, life may have knocked you down a couple of times and kept you in your place. So what? Everyone gets knocked down. Everybody gets rejected and hurt. There is someone out there who has gone through far worse than you and made it out. It’s what you do with your obstacles that matters. You have to get back into the ring, you have to fight for yours. But first you have to start to believe again. Like Charles Xavier said to his younger self in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ – ‘we need you to hope again’.
2. You don’t do the work
Listen, reaching your potential is no cakewalk. It is something that you must fight for. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. You can’t skip over the process and get to the result. You have to do the work. And that’s where a lot of people falter. They don’t work nearly as hard and as consistently as it would take to really move the needle towards their goals. It is easier to do many other things. Maybe it is games, maybe it is TV, maybe it’s Netflix, or social media or social events. You have to let those take a different position on your priority list and do the work. Doing the work, embracing the struggle has to be more fun, more interesting to you than anything else. In fact, the work has to become the reward in itself, the accomplishment just the cherry on top. Also, you could be working ‘hard’, but really you just doing busy work and avoiding the actual crucial but painful tasks that will make a difference. But that’s a topic for another day.
3. You don’t love it enough
If you loved it, like really loved it like you said you did. You would do anything for it. There would be no excuses, no retreat, no surrender. You would do what it takes, you would learn what it takes, you would pay the price. You have to decide if you really love the idea of what you are capable of. It is not a love that comes easy, it must be cultivated. You cultivate it by doing it, by investing in it, by nurturing it – with your time, with your energy, with your pain. Sure, you have the initial spark, the thing that ignites the passion and excitement to pursue your potential. But you have to fan that flame into a blazing fire. You have to love it, like really love it. But that love is nurtured by the amount of attention and work you put into it. The work feeds the love, the love feeds the work like a perpetual cycle.
4. You are too busy trying to keep up with others
Your potential has nothing to do with the next person and what they are doing. Everyone is on their own path, and everyone has to give account of themselves to themselves and their creator at the end of their lives. Comparison and keeping up with the Joneses are diseases that will cripple you, taking you off your path and unto a futile chase. You chase things you don’t really want, buy things you can’t really afford, to impress people you don’t really like and lose yourself in the process. You have to focus and stay true to you – whoever you are. And I promise you, the more you do that, the more you nurture your potential, the less desire you would have to compare yourself to another, and the more content you would be. Because your soul will be full.
5. Your ego blinds you
To reach your potential, you have to admit that what you are doing now and where you are isn’t working. You have to be open to correction. You cannot be so arrogant to assume that you know all it takes to get you where you want to go. You have to learn to be ego-less, you have to do things you don’t like to learn the things you don’t know. You have to humble yourself to take real action. In the pursuit of your potential, everyone becomes a teacher, even your enemies, even those that get on your nerves. You have to let go of this ego, this person you think you are, this self-image you have created and open yourself to so much more.
6. Your habits and addictions destroy you
You know them. The things you cling on to in order to cope. To cope with the dullness of life, or even the fact that you know deep down in your soul that you are not where you should be. It could be the obvious choices for abuse – drugs, alcohol, sex. It could be even more insidious – oversleeping, entertainment, negativity. Your habits of thought and action are slowly destroying you and you don’t even know it. Every second, minute, hour, day spent indulging those things are seconds, minutes, hours and days lost. Time that could have been invested in pursuing your potential. You have to fix it. Focus on your pursuit, do what it takes, and these things will lose their hold on you. You will have something higher to strive for.
7. You are distracted
You can’t even focus on pursuing your potential, because you are too distracted. Your attention is everywhere rather than on what matters the most to you. You wake up and the first thing you reach for is your phone and your digital drug of choice. You spend your days completely driven by the agendas of others, businesses, your boss, your family, media. And some of these things are valid and necessary, but you let them crowd out your dreams, your potential, that thing that you must do. You don’t reach your potential because you don’t focus long enough for you to attain them, and trust me, it requires a lot of focus. You have to steal time and energy for yourself. Even if it’s just one hour a day.
There are so many reasons more you don’t reach your potential, we could talk about discipline, we could talk about fear, we could talk about self-awareness and excuses, but we’ll stop here for today. Take the time every week to meditate on each of these points and consider if they apply and resolve to do something about it. You are capable of so much more, you just have to embrace it.
If you enjoyed this piece and think someone you know could benefit from it, feel free to share it with them.
There is a famous line in the 1999 cult classic Fight Club
The things you own end up owning you.
And I’m reminded of it every time I look at my phone. Now, it is one of the greatest tools we have ever created. At any point in time, I am connected to a vast network of human knowledge. I have the potential to reach out to almost anyone in the world or even to reach a large number of people at once. It is an incredibly useful tool.
But instead, most of the time I am held hostage by it. I pick up my phone up to 150 times a day. That’s an incredible amount of time. I’m a bit better, over the years I have slowed down my use of Twitter, Facebook…Instagram I’ve mostly hated for a long time, so I generally use that once a week. My attention now is consumed mostly by WhatsApp, I spend a lot of time chatting to my friends.
My eyes are almost always glued to my screen, and I’m not the only one, I look around and everyone is pressing, tapping or swiping. This is nothing new, many have been wailing about this phenomenon, the way technology hijacks our attention and exploits our evolutionary weaknesses and needs. We are hit with so many things every minute, it is much harder for us to sustain our attention on anything. Distraction is only a swipe and a tap away and we are forever fiending for a fix.
We think we use our phones, but really, they use us. They follow us, they stalk us, they market to us. All these apps and social networks take our attention, condition our behavior, generate and map out our data, they eventually end up knowing more about us than we do about ourselves. As Yuval Noah Harari highlights in his book ’21 Lessons for the 21stCentury’, we are now the ones being hacked by big corporates and technologies.
Before, we hacked technologies and networks, now humans are the ones being hacked. These technologies and algorithms understand us better and better, from our location, to our searches, to our health tracking data, it is becoming easier and easier to nudge us in directions without our conscious knowledge. In a world evolving faster and faster, we are increasingly vulnerable.
I was listening to a Gary Vee interview a few weeks back, and someone asked him who the best people in the social media game were, who was doing the marketing right. And for about 30 seconds, he couldn’t come up with one name, and he said the reason he could not actually point to anyone was because he actually consumes no one. Think about that, one of the biggest names right now in the world of entrepreneurship, famous for the sheer volume of content he puts out (100 pieces per day), and his insistence on the underpriced nature of most social platforms, does not consume social media. Mind blown.
What does he consume? He consumes the comment section of his content, he engages with his people and learns what they are thinking and feeling, or he consumes the comment sections of the biggest things in the world trying to place a finger on the pulse of the current zeitgeist.
That is a massive and powerful mental shift. And something I heard echoed again in The Order of Man podcast with Tyler Harris yesterday. Producers are usually too busy producing to consume content mindlessly. And that is something you can do to shift the control back to yourself. These tools are massively powerful. You have access to a potential audience, you have access to knowledge, you can create and build almost anything by reading the books, watching the tutorials, listening to the podcasts, it is an incredible time to be alive, if you actually take advantage of it. Become a producer, be active, build something, give value, make content, do things, and you will have less toleration for random consumption.
I have seen it happen in my life. I mentioned earlier how much I reach for my phone, I know people who reach for their phones even more. I’ve noticed my time reduce drastically on social media over the years the more I follow my path, the more I make content, the more I learn and execute around my business. The more I learn and create, the more I want to learn and create, and the less time or inclination I have to be swallowed up in the machine.
The sentiments have been echoed by many writers and thinkers. Cal Newport’s book ‘Deep Work’ advocates the ability to turn everything off and focus deeply on solving a meaningful problem. I wrote a post almost a year ago on why ‘Airplane Mode’ is one of the greatest productivity hacks.
In addition to this, you can practice more mindfulness. Don’t touch your phone for the first hour after you wake up. Do something else, read, meditate, exercise, eat, or just stare at the ceiling, you will be bored to tears, but you won’t die. Wean yourself off the addiction to your phone and reclaim your power and your attention. Then deploy it towards that which is truly important to you. It will transform your life.
As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be exploring the concept of potential this year in my blog. I’ll talk about what it is, how to understand it, how to unlock it and how to maximize it. I write to learn, I also write to teach, I write to ultimately apply it to my life. This is as much for me, as it is for you.
We all have goals and dreams, things that we strive for. And the very act of having a goal or a dream means that there is something to attain, something that you don’t have yet. It also means that you have decided that you have the potential to attain said thing. The gap between you and your goal is the gap between you and your potential.
Potential is what you are capable of doing, it is who you are capable of being. It is the potential of the seed of your soul. We are born human, with the massive capacity to learn and adapt, to create, to form, to think, to decide, to act. We are made in the image of God, of ultimate source, of the energy that drives and sustains the universe. We are each made a unique bundle of desires, aspirations, talents, inclinations, circumstances, talents, abilities, and gifts. We are too incredible to be purposeless.
Everything that exists has a potential and purpose inherent in its function. An orange seed is just a seed. But its function is to produce a tree. When the seed is planted, it germinates, it unlocks its potential, and over time, with nurturing and rain and good soil and sunshine, it grows and becomes the tree it could have always been. Potential is the capacity for reproduction, the ability to grow. Potential is pre-ordained destiny. Potential is possibility.
Embracing potential reveals hope, optimism, a clear admission that more is possible.
But to know what you are capable of, you have to understand your purpose. I mentioned earlier that humans have massive capacity to learn and adapt. You have the potential for almost anything, in the strictest sense of the world. We could do anything. We could exercise the potential to be more and more of anything. You could be the biggest baddest partier that there ever was. You could work hard to be the best most nurturing husband or wife this side of the equator. You could also learn and develop yourself to be the most incredible con artist who ever lived. You just have to decide which potential you are willing to pursue and explore.
But everything and everyone has a true potential. I could keep my iPhone off and use it as a paperweight to prevent the many papers on my desk from blowing away in the wind. That would be a violation of its true potential. With more computing power than the computers that sent the man to the moon, it was made for much more than just being a paperweight. To truly unlock your potential, you have to understand your nature and your purpose.
The potential of a product is determined by its purpose. This is true of everything…including you.
And the best place to find that out is at your source.
When purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable.
On Christmas day, my family went out for lunch as is our tradition, and we sat down in this restaurant to eat, and my brother and I kept joking to ourselves about the music that was playing. It was a lot of 90’s and early 00s RnB, at least 40-50% of it were R Kelly songs. This was just before the documentary that came out, and We reflected over the controversy surrounding the man and how difficult it has been to ‘cancel’ him because of the quality of his music, especially the uplifting stuff. This man made many iconic songs, songs that have lifted our spirits, entertained us and marked many moments of our lives.
But his potential is cut short. This extremely gifted individual refused to heal from his trauma and pain and proceeded to inflict heinous pain and abuse on many women and many people around him. The man who once sang ‘You saved me’ is now covered with utter filth. The same talent he used to bring joy to many people, he has also used to damn many. His legacy is compromised.
That is the nature of potential. It is truly able to go both ways, positive and negative. And usually it goes bad when its true purpose isn’t honored, because that energy must go somewhere, or die.
When potential is kept unfulfilled, it self-destructs.
But for the vast majority of people, we don’t go that far, we just simply don’t live up to our potential. We expect too little from ourselves, or rather we demand too little of ourselves. We do just enough. We give in to our excuses, we let fear stop us. We want to write books, but we never do, for one reason or the other. We want to start companies, but we never do because of the fear of losing our present comfort. We miss out on what is uniquely ordained for us because we are too busy looking over into our neighbour’s yard, trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Even worse, we gain some level of success and we become self-satisfied. We become impressed with ourselves and we rest on our oars. We feel like we have arrived. But as long as we still have breath in us, there is still yet much more to be done.
Potential is never what you have done. It is what you haven’t done yet. Once you have done something, it ceases to be potential.
It is okay to stop and smell the flowers. It is totally fine to congratulate yourself and take some pride in what you have accomplished. It is not acceptable to park there. You have to keep moving. Your job is to convert all your potential (possibility) into concrete reality. Exhaust the mine of your potential. Arrive at your grave empty.
You are only as good as your last at bat – Gary Vee
Don’t be that guy in your middle age still bragging about the things you did in high school, or the parties and the fun times you had in your youth. Nobody cares. What have you done lately? What have you done now? Unless you have a massive legacy like a Mandela ‘fathering’ a nation, you have no business resting. It is a new year, stretch yourself. Exhaust your potential. Stay vital to the end.
All unattributed quotes above are by the late Dr. Myles Munroe.
As 2019 approached, I wondered what I would write about next. One evening, I lay in bed watching YouTube videos like I usually do (terrible sleep hygiene I know). I came across a video by Patrick Bet David and watching him speak about ‘How to really unlock your potential as an entrepreneur’, it hit me, of course, that is what I would write about.
Last year as I committed to writing more consistently – putting out a blog post every week, I wrote around the theme, ‘How to get what you want’. I had been working diligently to accomplish certain things over the previous 2 – 3 years, course correcting, clarifying my business, learning new skills and positioning myself. There were many things to attain and accomplish. As I discovered concepts, applied them and started to see some success, I figured it was my duty to share what I learnt as I went along. Not everyone likes to read books, or spend hours every day on YouTube or Medium, so if they could encounter some of these ideas in my writing or talking to me, then that was a good thing.
So that is what we explored last year – How to get what you want. From figuring out what you want in the first place, to setting goals, to doing the work, to staying focused, to getting back up after the inevitable setbacks and failures, all the way to recommitting and going even harder, placing an extra layer of accountability and measurement to really push you forward. It has been an incredible journey so far. One that will culminate in a book by the same name.
But it all starts with intention, an idea I explored briefly in my short book – How to live with intention. The way I see it, you begin with living intentionally, consciously, geared towards an overarching purpose. As you walk on that road towards intention, you begin to set goals and targets, things to strive for. These goals implore you to set up systems in your life, to craft micro-habits and create a whole new lifestyle to support them. In this way, over time you get what you want.
But every mountain top only gives you a better view of the next mountain top. Our lives are a series of summits and valleys we travel through till we shuffle off this mortal coil. It is this journey that we undertake over and over again, hopefully getting better at it each time. We write one book, and then get the idea for three more. We craft a business for ourselves at first, now we look to build teams. We touch the lives of 100 people with our content, now we look to touch 10 000. Growth is an important part of life, progression is key. There is a beautiful video by Ray Dalio that illustrates this journey.
Now that we have gained some traction, working, hustling, pushing, and bagging wins under our belt, we recommit ourselves to the journey. Especially at a time like this, the dawn of a new year. With our early successes, we begin to explore and ask ourselves, what we are really capable of? Sure, we have gotten this far, but just how much farther can we take this? That is the question of potential.
I have been obsessed with the concept for many years. If you asked me at any point in the past 14 years what my biggest fear was, it would be ‘not living up to my potential’. See I got it into my head a long time ago, thanks to authors like Myles Munroe, that every human being is born with immerse potential. Tom Bilyeu starts off his Impact Theory shows with the affirmation that he believes that the human potential is essentially limitless. When we are born, we are completely helpless. Unlike other species, we cannot feed ourselves, we don’t walk until many months down the line, we can’t even hold our heads up by ourselves. We are born knowing nothing. We depend on our parents and care givers to do everything for us, helping us survive and eventually teaching us everything we know. But this is what makes us quite special. Humans are born with a tremendous capacity for adaptation and learning. We are quite literally learning machines. Which means that we are born with tremendous potential, to be many things, to be anything, but it is our environments and experiences that shape us and bring out the manifestation of what we can be.
For some of us, those early environments are nurturing, building us to great versions of ourselves. For others, those environments are toxic, uncaring and indifferent. They cause us to grow warped and stunted, armed with less than ideal coping mechanisms and reactions. However, another powerful trait of the human species is the capacity for self-reflection – the ability to think about our thinking and even change it.
See regardless of your past and your environment, you still hold an incredible capacity for change and growth. You can take charge of your life and move forward, if you want to, if you decide to. You can also just throw your hands up and let the nation you were born in determine your fate, or your home situation keep you locked mentally. You can even allow your body to limit you, claiming you are too weak, the wrong gender…whatever your excuse.
You can have excuses, or you can have results, never both at the same time.
Everyone has different potential. Between genetics and our environments, what is possible for A might not be for B. But we all have the capacity to discover and max out our personal potential. We can dig deep and figure out what we are truly capable of. That is the point of growth, that is the point of living with intention, pushing to get what you want over and over again – to max out your potential and give life everything you have got.
Myles Munroe always used to say that the richest places on earth were not banks, or treasure vaults, they were graveyards. There lie the remnants of millions of souls who lived and passed on. But also, there lie the many dreams that died. Books that went unwritten, songs that were never sang, nations that were never transformed, lives that were never touched, charities that didn’t begin, inventions that never saw the light of the day, industries that never changed, so many potentials that were never fulfilled. Will you end up one of them? When you give account of your life at its end, will you be able to boldly say you gave it your all?
Each man/woman and everyone in between must decide this, unconsciously or consciously. It is a new year, what are you capable of? I ask myself the same question, and I am super curious to find out. So, this year, I will be exploring this theme in my content, teasing out the concepts, lessons and ideas that help us discover and reach our potential. It will be real, it will hold no punches, because to reach your potential, you must push yourself, you must do the uncomfortable, you must shine light into the places you have kept hidden, you must hold yourself to a higher standard.