Remember when you were a child? Did your parents, a teacher, or someone else in your life tell you about all the great things you could be: an astronaut, doctor, or Olympic athlete? We may not have understood it then, but this person was helping us unlock our potential. For too many of us, the reason we do not fly is that we persist in seeing ourselves as earthworms, not just tied to the ground, but destined to eat dirt for the rest of our lives.
About eighteen months into my chaplain career, I was given the dubious honor of being made supply officer. Soon after I found that no one in the command had any idea of what or how much supplies we had on hand. Ever the practical one, I took an inventory at all the chapels and offices under our control. Among the many things I uncovered were over 40,000 candles. This may not seem so surprising but consider that we used only about 1000 to 1500 per year. We had at least a 26-year supply. Meanwhile, I kept getting requisitions for more candles.
Thinking about it earlier today, I was struck by how much light was lost through having these tens of thousands of candles sit idle. The intensity of light is measured in something called a footcandle, "the illuminance cast on a surface by a one-candela source one foot away." In a way, our ability to shine can be measured in footcandles, or maybe legcandles. How much legwork are we willing to devote to finding the things at which we are brilliant?
Here is a five-step plan for discovering your potential:
- Talk to friends and family. Ask them to tell you about the traits and skills they admire about you.
- Examine the lives of people you respect. What talents do you share in common? Which ones would you like to develop?
- Read several biographies of great people. The Penguin Lives series is a great set of short books. Highlight or list the abilities you share with them. Are there others that you can cultivate in yourself?
- Perform a skills assessment or meet with a vocational counselor who can do one. Be honest but not overly critical. List your accomplishments that support your evaluation.
- Take the lists and lay them side-by-side or make a spreadsheet with them. Which ones do people agree on? Which ones surprise you? These especially help you unlock latent talent.
Each of us has an internal luminance. Are we going to bury it in some unexamined storeroom? Or are we going to take inventory, uncover out hidden stock, and one by one light these candles until our brilliance shines through for all to see?
What did you uncover when you searched for your potential? How much still lays concealed? What is holding you back from taking stock?