Growing up as a young child, we all made mistakes. We lied, we stole, we took advantage, and we sure as hell ransacked our parents’ lives. Through it all, you hoped your parents forgave you for your lack of common sense and simultaneously leaned on them for just about everything. Where you lived, what dinner was, what schools you attended, and even whom you associated with. You did this without blinking an eye or second-guessing it because you had no choice. Mainly, you did it because you didn’t know any better. You relied on someone to give you the best possible overall experience you could get. Sometimes it turned out well, other times it didn’t. But whether it worked out in your favor is neither here nor there – that isn’t the point of this article.
Let the Teachers Get Paid to See The Best in You
In school, you started to rely on teachers for a few reasons, the most obvious hoping you’d get a decent education out of this raw deal. Whether you were a good student or the kind that make educators question their career choice, you were told you had potential. And even if you kept screwing up, they still saw the best in you and hoped you’d turn it around. Most of you did, some didn’t. But whether you had a revelation or not, the idea of knowing you had it in you peppered your daily academic existence.
Just imagine this scenario: Sally and Billy, obvious screw-ups in their own right at a young age, full of animosity, jokes, and a disdain for any kind of academic education. In a seemingly hopeless and fruitless situation, their teachers just knew deep down they had it in them to turn it around. Sally had a bad upbringing, while Billy’s parents divorced when he was super young. Today, 25 years later, Sally is thriving as a business owner. Billy, on the other hand, is addicted to meth and crashes on friends’ couches since he can’t hold a job.
The key here is the teachers are paid a shitty salary to see your potential. No matter what the eventual outcome, they made you believe some light was shining within. But only Sally was able to ignite that fire and become a productive member of society. Billy, on the other hand, blew that flame out long time ago. But as Billy’s friends and former girlfriends (and teachers) will tell you, he had potential, and lots of it. “If he could only have applied himself somehow, because he always talked about becoming ______________ (insert something smelling of success).”
Here’s a fact: everyone has potential. Whether you were a little slow or a little shit, something deep down had the possibility of triggering you to turn your life around. It’s always there your entire life. We all have innate desires deep within our system that we want to accomplish or become. But it takes a load of discipline and hard work to become more than just intentions, and instead become it through your actions. Your teachers saw it in you, and as some sort of full circle favor to them, you decided to pay them back by now seeing it in others. And unfortunately, you really, really love to see this potential in your closest friends, family, or significant other, even if they’re proving you otherwise on a near daily basis. And here’s the best part – you aren’t paid to see someone’s potential like a teacher is. So why do you do it?
We’ve become reliant on other people’s potential.
We do it constantly in our deepest, most meaningful relationships and friendships. And in turn, we expect everyone else to judge us based on our intentions instead of our actions. You want to help the world, volunteer locally and internationally, help children, help animals while you’re at it, do all these warm fuzzy feel-good things… but you haven’t done a single one yet. And you expect people to know all this and judge you as if you accomplished every single last one.
We try to see the potential of someone in our relationships and friendships. They treat us like crap, but somehow last week they were super friendly and made us realize they’ve got it in them to be that way more consistently. They jump from job to job every few months with no ambition, but when they claimed they held one job for a year, you just know that they’ll be like your parents generation and stick at a company for the next 25 years with enough coaxing and love. They like to flirt around and even went as far as to cheat on you, but they said it was in their past, so let’s take them at their word.
At what point do you realize that this reliance on invisible potential is just a crutch?
See People at Their Face Value
As you get older, smarter, and more mature, it’s essential to understand that potential doesn’t mean anything – it’s who they are right now. For the most part, people are stuck in their ways once they become adults, and that’s a fact that’s been proven time and time again. And you’ve probably fallen for it time and time again. People can change – but I hate to burst your bubble, it’s not because of you. The sad truth is, if you were to get them to change, chances are you gave them an ultimatum and they’re only doing it to please you. This is mental suicide waiting to happen. It’s damaging and counter productive.
People change for the better on the premise of a simple fact: they refuse to keep living at the same level they’re at. Contrary to your ego, it’s not because they want to make you happy. When you change for a specific person, it only leads to a short-term gain. A short-term gain means just that – short term. And what happens after the short-term? It ends, and blows up in your face.
There are three scenarios regarding a person’s ability to change: for themselves, for someone else, or no change. So, knowing they won’t change for you, are you content with who they are right now? Could you continue as their friend or lover knowing not a thing will change about them? If the answer includes any hesitation or doubt, move on. Wasting your time with someone because you see some sort of potential is like buying a car because you think it’ll get better with age. It never does, because a car works in the opposite way; it depreciates in value and reliability. Everyone has potential. Everyone thinks they’re capable of great things. Truth is, most are. But it’s the secret sauce in the doing and the action, not the talking, that gets you results.
Flip That Switch
So here’s the deal. What happens when you become handicapped by always seeing the good in someone? You waste a lot of time. A lot. I don’t know about you, but considering time is your number one most valuable resource and every day that we live means we’re one day shorter to make our dreams happen, wouldn’t you want to spend it on the people that you can actually get something out of? The crutch becomes an energy drain, forcing you to constantly turn a blind eye to the reality and put all your chips on the potential. Like a washed out gambler who keeps thinking they’ll hit that oh-so-sweet number in roulette, you’ll end up walking out empty-handed years later with nothing to show for it but another life lesson telling you “I told you so”. There’s a reason casinos look so good from the outside; suckers pay for it through their stupidity when the house has the advantage. And there’s a reason washed up people with potential look so good from the outside; suckers like you pay for it through your constant denial of seeing the face value, giving them no good reason to change.
You have enough in your life to worry about trying to reach your own potential. Why waste it worrying about someone else’s? Don’t handicap yourself seeing potential that doesn’t exist. Take people for who they are now, not who they claim they’ll be.