Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. -Nido Qubein*
I am conducting research as part of my work on a personal development program for young adults. In one of the books, I am reading (more precisely listening to on Audible) the author provides insight into the environment and characteristics that determine success in school and life. To illustrate the weaknesses of one model, he shares a story about a teen who attended a NYC charter high school. The student, Tony, did quite well academically in the highly-structured environment of the charter school and was accepted to a four-year university.
But when he started college, Tony floundered and after a couple of tries, eventually dropped out for good. Using Tony’s story, the author highlighted what was missing from this particular charter school and advocating for a formula that emphasizes traits like grit rather than a traditional model focused almost exclusively on intellectual/academic success.
During his research, the author interviewed and quotes Tony, now in his late 20’s and working at an AT&T call center. With resignation, Tony sighs,
“I really had a lot of potential.”
…and then not missing a beat the author continues with his growth mindset hypothesis.
And that’s when my next door neighbors may have heard my rant.
Wait! What do you mean had? Had?
Tony is 28 years old; his dreams and the possibilities for his life are not in the past tense. Given the difficult circumstances of his early years, he has done extraordinarily well. But still he has the potential to do much, much more if he chooses.
Tony doesn’t need to accept his current circumstances as fate because of his college/teenage struggles no matter his history, but particularly keeping in mind that he was likely still recovering from trauma.
How ironic that a text that is focused heavily on the growth mindset (the malleability of intelligence and success) implies that potential has an expiration date?
There are countless famous, historic and everyday examples of people hitting their stride in every decade of life, literally until 100 years old.
Tony’s potential ends when he decides it does. And so doesn’t yours.
Your potential ends when you decide it does. Take two minutes and consider what you have the potential for (maybe it comes in the form of regret or a tinge of if only) by brainstorming answers to this question:
What would you do today if money, time, or the opinions of others were irrelevant?
*source for quote: brainyquotes.com