Our first article is from new member Heidi Kessener.
“I like your mug,” I commented to a co-worker.
“And your cup is nice, too!” I winked.
My co-worker snorted with mock disdain, then told me that the item in question was a gift from her father.
“You're supposed to be able to color it with markers, then bake it to make the colors stay.” She frowned. “I couldn’t bring myself to do it! I like it the way it is… and what if I hated it once I left my mark?”
“I would have felt exactly the same way!” I commiserated.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about potential. Not a day has gone by since the new year began that I haven’t exclaimed, “I’m nearly forty years old!” and pondered the implications. Is my life halfway over? Perhaps more? Am I halfway to where I ought to be?
I’m certainly not halfway to where I want to be.
As a child, I was led to believe two things:
I am an individual with a staggering amount of potential
To leave potential unfulfilled is morally wrong
Now, there’s a lot to unpack there (preferably with the help of a therapist), but for now, let’s talk about the different ways potential can go unfulfilled. The two at the top of my mind are untapped potential and squandered potential.
I am a huge fan of untapped potential. New Year’s Eve is my favorite day of the year, because I like to think that there is a whole year ahead of me “with no mistakes in it yet,” à la Anne of Green Gables. My house is filled with organizing solutions I have purchased but never used, because the thought that I could organize my belongings sparks immense joy for me; the thought that I could organize my belongings, however, sparks no joy for me whatsoever. My whole life feels like a pattern of getting excited about something I could do, but knowing I’ll regret how I did it once I did… if I did.
That leads us to squandered potential: Something you found you could do, so you did, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been. A rocket, launched with enough fuel to reach the moon, which fizzled out among the stars because the coordinates were incorrect. A high school valedictorian who was awarded scholarships to university, only to lose them upon failing class after class.
My co-worker left the potential of her coffee mug untapped, for fear of squandering it.
I’ve left pretty much all of my own potential untapped, for the same reason.
I grew up hearing, “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” This made me feel like I had to fulfill all my potential, no matter what. I had to do all the good I had the potential to do.
Friends, there is a lot of good to be done. There is a lot that I could do. There is a lot that I have tried to do, and have failed to do well.
Something I have learned to say at work, to myself and to my co-workers, is: “You can only do what you can do.” Sure, I could do it all, if all the time in the world were mine to command. I could handle the workload, if I didn’t need to eat or sleep. I may have the ability, but if I don’t have the capacity, it’s not going to happen.
If I tried to do it all, I would fail spectacularly. (Of course, as an optician, “spectacularly” is how I do everything that I do! …Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.)
I can only do what I can do, but perhaps the best thing I can do is become a “we.”
Just as two eyes working together tend to see more than either eye can see on its own, just as my co-workers and I can accomplish more as a team than any of us could do alone, so, too, are “we” more effective at doing good when we pool our resources.
I am thrilled to have had the opportunity recently to join a philanthropic group in my hometown, called Impact Central Illinois, a dynamic collective giving organization devoted to supporting programs or projects proposed by highly capable organizations to address measurable needs within our community with innovative solutions.
Grant Review Committee director Paola Hinton said it best when she addressed members old and new at our first meeting of the year: “By the time our annual vote rolls around, you don’t have to stress. You know that the review committees have moved forward with the best possible candidates, so no matter who wins, the grant is going to a good cause.”
I may not be able to fulfill all my untapped potential for doing good, but I certainly like the idea of putting myself in a position to do good without any fear of squandered potential.
Great Job Heidi.
Very interesting perspective. Thanks for your contribution! - Cathy Kwon
Thanks for writing a thought-provoking article! Impact Central Illinois is always looking for woman that want to use their talents to improve our community and organization. Tap into your potential and be involved on a committee!
I cannot change our community on my own but I can join with 314 other women and be a part of significant impact! I love this. I too will never fulfill all of my untapped potential however I certainly don't want to leave my mug unpainted! I want to try! How much richer and more fun to learn, grow and make a difference in Central IL together!!
Thanks for making me think on this today Heidi!