Not long ago I wrote about things being good enough. I would like to play off that idea a bit more. Have you ever heard someone say, “that person has so much potential.”? What do they really mean? They apparently see something in that individual that indicates they can do more. We all have potential. Some greater than others and it obviously depends on the situation.
In any area of life, the potential is there for all of us. I honestly think potential is overrated. Yes, that person can run fast. Yes, this person can see trend correlation before anyone else. What are they doing with the potential? What is driving them? What are they passionate about? Sometimes those things align, but not always. To me, you can have all the potential in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything unless you are willing to fight for it. Unless you are willing to put in the hard work, potential is pointless.
Recently, I had a discussion with someone about pushing through a plateau. Reminding them that progress is never a straight line. There are dips, valleys, peaks, setbacks, you name it. But as long as the trend line is still moving in the general direction, progress is being made. There is a lot of truth in failing and learning. There will be good days as well as bad.
Thinking about this made me remember the story about breaking the sound barrier. Chuck Yeager, in 1947, did just that, he broke the sound barrier. But the story isn’t necessarily about Mr. Yeager, but more about the process. You see, there were many other pilots before him that tried. Pilots that had more, potential, than he. The issue with trying to do something that has never been done is that things start to get tough the closer you get. Think about things in your own life. It’s always hard to do something, until you do, right? Well, these other pilots all made valiant efforts and the engineers learned greatly from their efforts.
As a pilot approaches the sound barrier, things become very turbulent. The plane rattles and shakes, almost as if the bolts holding things together are going to come flying off. Engines work so hard that they just stop working, leaving some planes free-falling in a nosedive back to earth. Things are so bad, so rough, that most pilots back off before getting there, fearing what might happen to them, fearing that what is just beyond that barrier isn’t worth the effort. We, as human beings, tend to do that same thing in all aspects of life. We begin to think the work isn’t worth it. We begin to turn to a level of comfort. We don’t want to risk pushing things to see what’s on the other side. We might have the potential, but not the desire.
Mr. Yeager did push through though. As he was approaching the barrier, Mach 1. His plane shook, rattled, came close to complete collapse, but needing to know what’s waiting for him on the other side, he doubled down. With a thrust of his engines to push him over the line and….BOOM! He broke it. The clap of thunder the crew on the ground heard was him making history as he broke through the sound barrier. One might think that at that speed, his plane couldn’t continue. Yes, he had made it, but it wouldn’t be long before his plane disintegrated. Well, the opposite happened. Once through, the skies became calm. The smoothest flying he could imagine at speeds faster than sound. What just seconds before was the worst turbulence one can experience, now was so smooth he had to think he was dreaming.
What this story tells us, if we are willing to learn from it, is that even though things are hard now, who knows what’s on the other side of that turbulence. Things are always harder just before they become easier. The other lesson here is that the ones with the most potential, couldn’t make it work. They weren’t willing to put in the work. They weren’t willing to risk the failure to learn from the process and push through. But Mr. Yeager, who didn’t have as much potential but was willing to put in the work. Willing to risk and learn, well, he made history didn’t he.
What turbulence are you experiencing? We all have it. I employ you to push through it. Be willing to put in the work to get on the other side of the turbulence. Witness the smooth skies waiting for you….until you pick your next target and begin to push again. Potential is overrated. Hard work is the key.