Often, I listen to sports talk shows when I am driving. Usually alternating between enjoyment and….. Let us say Something Less than enjoyment.


I’m a fan so I like to hear about my team’s success and how they gave everything for the good of the team. You know the saying. They left it all on the floor. They gave their best.

Much of what is talked about is the performance of the players and what is expected of them. They use different stats and metrics to determine how well the player is contributing to the overall team effort. Sometimes they compare a player with less talent who overachieves, seemingly coming out of nowhere, to the first-round draft pick who has gobs of talent but is in danger of becoming the latest washout because they can’t figure out how to maximize their performance given the ‘Potential’ they have.

They make movies about the overachiever and soon forget the washouts’ name.

A favorite author of mine, Charles M Schulz said: “There is no heavier burden than an unfulfilled potential”.

Another favorite of mine, Marcus Buckingham has a book entitled 9 Lies About Work.
People have Potential is listed as Lie number 7.

Can both of these statements be true? How could this apply to our performance and really what does it have to do with my life.
Really, is there such a thing as potential or not?

Marcus Buckingham also co-authored the book “Now Discover Your Strengths”. Inside of the Book was an invitation and code to the Strengthsfinder assessment the authors had designed.

I took this assessment thinking I would finally have my potential revealed and acquire the secrets to my success. My top 5 strengths were listed as

Really? My immediate reaction was What can I do with those?

In case you are wondering, Here is a quick rundown on what those are. Input – Collect things, Learner – Like to learn – Intellection – your brain doesn’t stop buzzing with thoughts or ideas, Restorative – Fix things and Connectedness – Everything & everyone is connected. To me, they described my idiosyncrasies but I did not immediately view them as strengths.

Here is why they matter.

When You take the exact same assessment you will come up with totally different results. In fact, the odds of anyone else in our world having exactly the same results are so astronomical it is literally Impossible. We are each unique. A created masterpiece.

Suppose we both are in the same class at school. Your strengths are primarily in the Influencing Theme and your #1 strength is listed as Woo. Might sound like a weird strength but if you add hoo to the end you get woo hoo and that is your strength. You love people and you love to party.

Since my strengths are in the Strategic thinking theme I am typically a good student who finds tests easy and the way our school system is designed, scholastically, I don’t have many problems.

Except I am not going to have as much fun as you. Unless I am your friend. Or later find someone like Sonya and marry her but that is another story.

What happens is our system might label me as having great potential based on the Metrics used for grading purposes.
The same system might label you as not having potential because it might be more difficult for you to concentrate when you are working on your own. You work best with other people. And how can you effectively quantify Woo?

Let’s go back to the two statements, and whether they are contradictory or not.

My interpretation is that Charles Schulz was using the term “potential” in the same context as strengths. He wrote so much about how different we all are in his comic strip Peanuts. Just look at the characters and see the great strengths each possessed.

Marcus doesn’t see potential as something to be quantified because as human beings we are so different from each other. It as wrong to label some persons with potential and others without. It is a label that can follow you throughout a lifetime.

I might always be wondering if I have truly lived up to my potential instead of looking at my strengths and developing them in ways where I can be who I was created to be.

My question is, Who were you created to be and are you pursuing your strengths and understanding how to put them to their greatest use.

Don Goertz

Don Goertz


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