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    Die your potential

    Okay, here’s a chance for you to earn $20.

    I’ll give a Jackson, 2 Hamiltons, 4 Lincolns, 20 Washingtons or one-fifth of a Franklin to the first person who can send me a biography, autobiography, or recorded or printed interview with someone who says:

    “I have achieved my full and complete potential. I have done everything possible for me as a human being. There is no way I could have accomplished any more than I did.”

    Your entry doesn’t count if the person in question includes anything to the tune of, “I could have…” and describes anything they didn’t actually do in their life.

    Quick experiment — think of something you could be doing with your life that you aren’t. Something that, were you not on Wii Bowling marathon, you could accomplish that might make you happier in some way.

    Now, feel that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? The one that tells you that you could be doing more, could be more?

    I want to let you in on a secret:


    Of course you’re not living up to your potential… that’s why it’s called POTENTIAL!

    If you were doing it, it would be called YOUR LIFE.

    And no matter what you’re doing in your life, you can always think of something else, something more that you could do or could have done.

    That doesn’t mean you SHOULD be doing anything different. It just means you have one of those features that comes with the human machine — the ability to imagine something other than what you’re currently doing.

    And when you engage that feature and imagine something you’re not doing, especially something that you think would lead to more of something (money, happiness, fame, sex, whatever), comes an interesting side effect: a FEELING.

    Think about sucking on a lemon, you get the “lemon-sucking” feeling. Think about all the cool things you could do if you weren’t surfing for porn, and you get the “I’m-not-living-my-potential… now-I-wonder-where-else-I-can-find-free-porn” feeling.

    This “living up to your potential” is one of those sales pitch lines that makes me want to scream. In fact, when I read someone pitching “you can live your full potential,” I don’t just want to scream… I usually do it for real, followed by slamming the book or magazine onto the ground. And if I hear someone say it on TV, I’ll scream and then wish that I had enough money to buy televisions by the six-pack so I could throw a brick through the one in front of me (note to self: GREAT business idea — TV tubes that cost $1 and screw in and out like light bulbs… sell by the 6 pack with bricks included).

    If some “personal development” dingbat convinces you that the feeling you get after imagining some other life proves that you’re not living up to your potential (instead of pointing out that it’s just the side effect of imagining something “more”), then I guarantee that said dingbat will be reaching for an order form for you to fill out and has a credit card processing machine nearby.

    If you haven’t been to a “living your potential” workshop, I’ll fill you in on a secret. Nobody’s potential includes being a fry cook on the graveyard shift and the IHOP, or the French Tip gal at the nail salon, or aΒ  paraplegic on a ventilator.

    The bottom line is this: You always have “potential” until you’ve just exhaled your last breath. So you’ve only truly lived your potential once you’re done living. So, dying is your ultimate potential!

    And here’s another secret (though you probably already knewΒ  this one): As far as I can tell, everyone who has ever lived has, at some point in their life, typically very close to the end… DIED.

    What good news, since you will!

    Like the 112 billion people who’ve been on the planet before you, I’m positive — anti-aging advocates be damned — that you’ll reach your fullest human potential by kicking the proverbial bucket (I guess I should put up another $10 for anyone who actually died while, because of, or simultaneous with actually kicking an actual bucket… “pails” do not count).

    Nobody seems to know when the potential-fulfilling moment will happen. You may blow a gasket at the end of this sentence. Or you may engage in an impromptu physics demonstration if your mildly massive body gets slammed by a massively massive bus.

    No matter how you do it, when you do, you’ll have proven that you’ve reached your potential, regardless of what you did or didn’t do with the preceding time.

    Now, physics fans, chime in with how the word potential is used in the real (non-New Age) world, because that adds a fun twist to the whole “living up to your potential” thing.

    And non-physics fans, just notice that the most accomplished people you’ve ever heard of still think they could have been or done more… because that thought also comes as a built-in feature with these human machine. Doesn’t mean it’s true, just means that we all get it.

    7 Responses to “Die your potential”

    1. Ann O'Johnson Says:

      Well-written. LMAO.

      Did you have to look up who was on the various denominations of bills or do you already know that? My bet is on the latter.

      Love, Ann

    2. sashen Says:

      While I *thought* I knew them, I did Google to confirm which unhappy-looking dead white guy was on each bill (I tend to forget Hamilton).

    3. Stever Robbins Says:

      Oh, Steven,

      I *know* I’m not living up to my full potential. My consolation? I *win* the “biggest gap between where you are and your full potential” contest. I learned to program computers in Albuquerque, New Mexico just as a teenager down the block named Bill was founding Microsoft. We definitely started from the same beginnings, and now HE’S the 2nd richest man in the world, and I’m the 2nd poorest man on my block.

      The despair of it all!

      On the other hand… Bill looks kinda like a potato, and he *is* Microsoft’s chief architect. Both of those facts speak for themselves, don’t you think?

      – Stever

    4. sashen Says:

      I think, Stever, that you’re not living up to your potential in detailing how well you’re not living up to your potential!

      If you are in fact, as many New Age and neo-Advaita teachers will say, God… and, in fact, you cannot do those things that God is supposed to be able to do (say, make a universe), then the gap between where you are and your full potential is practically infinite!

      Which, though, STILL makes you the winner πŸ˜‰

    5. ellen Says:

      Tongue firmly in cheek, I’m going to respond to your first challenge—a man who claimed to have completely fulfilled his potential was U.G. Krishnamurti, the virulent anti-guru, who’s actual claim was that he was a ‘finished man’. Having gone through an experience he labelled ‘the calamity’, some kind of neurological process that destroyed his ability to experience himself as a continuous Self, the sort of concrete entity most of us imagine ‘ourselves’ to be, he went on to refute all objects of thought as false and misleading. He refuted the ‘experience’ of enlightenment as once the imaginary mental construct of ‘Self’ was debunked there was no-one there to experience anything.
      What was interesting and unique about his conclusions was that he did not conclude as a result of this that he was God, spiritual or a part of anything whoo whoo cosmic, the phrase ‘quantum physics’ does not figure at any point, but rather that he and all of us are of no greater or lesser importance in the grand scheme of things than the mosquito currently sucking the blood on your arm. He pointed out that ALL our human manouverings without exception, stemming as they do from thought, (with the primary driving thought being ‘how do I get what I want’) were power plays. His claim of being a finished man rested on his refutation of thought itself as being anything other than a chimera.
      His collected answers to his many questioners are hilarious and refreshing, a bit like yours Steven.
      I love your blog.

    6. sashen Says:

      Hi Ellen,

      Hmmm… I’m not sure if it counts if someone no longer believes in the idea of “potential” or a “me” who is doing anything πŸ˜‰

      But, I await the receipt of the printed or audio material before I release your award πŸ˜‰

      BTW, the “challenge” is tricky. I think if anyone examines their experience and their thoughts carefully, they’ll notice something like: It’s possible to imagine many things that one might do that one hasn’t done yet (for me, I’ll include having breakfast in a few minutes). But given how “potential” is just an idea (one that doesn’t exist in some other cultures), the idea of “living up to” one’s potential (or not), is meaningless.

      That said, I can’t wait for my breakfast… eggs and a brownie left over from last night’s dessert πŸ˜‰

    7. ellen Says:

      I’ll willingly forgo the award as you are probably right, I doubt if old U.G. believed in anything much after his calamity. I never met the man but have enjoyed reading his stuff–all free to read on his website (he refused to claim any kind of copyright on his words but had followers who collated books of his talks)—and guess that he was entertaining company. What strikes me about him is that for about 40 years he was consistently and pragmatically sane and rational in all his utterances with a startling simplicity that shows up how muddled and mad most so-called ‘spiritual’ thinking is.
      Hope you enjoy your breakfast.





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