For a long time in my life I was the potential guy. I was the guy people looked at and assumed I would do something big with my life. At 35 I can almost certainly assure you I have not come close to the potential others thought I had, but especially what I thought I was capable of. I feel like I need to make up for lost time as I wasted so much of it chasing happiness rather than attempting to pursue my potential. Do I resent this? At times, absolutely. It affects me deeply because for a big chunk of my 20s I did not put my true best effort forth even though outside looking in it probably looked like I was doing the work. I was getting the recognition and career advancement, but based on the vision I have for myself and knowing what I have accomplished over the last 3 years I can assure you I was not. I was holding myself back and I know a lot of it had to do with fear. Fear of failure for sure but more than likely it was the fear of achieving my potential that really held me back. I was scared shitless of the expectations that would create so I would always leave something on the table,  I would hold back something and that protected me from both those fears. It is much harder to fail when you don’t push to your limits and you never have to worry about reaching your current potential if you are not putting in maximum effort.

For most of my life I was under the impression that potential was something finite something you achieved or found, not something you had inside of you the whole time that you developed, nurtured and grew. What I have realized in the last couple of years is that your potential is not a destination it is an ever expanding world you unlock inside of yourself and the limits of it are only defined by your imagination and the work you are willing to put in. This has put me on the path of constant improvement. The premise of potential unfulfilled has pushed me more than almost anything else. So I am going to lay it all out and attempt to define the two ways you can never reach your potential. From there you can make your own conclusions.

My premise invariably is that no matter what we do we are never going to reach our potential. I am not even sure it is something we need to focus on and that our main focus should be on fulfillment (which we need to be very careful not to confuse this with happiness). Now that this is out of the way I want to surmise the two very distinct ways we can leave potential on the table and how that has affected my life.

As we see with almost every record broken, person of greatness and obstacle in our way we eventually overcome whatever is in front of us and if it isn’t us that overcomes it, someone else always does. If potential was a finite thing and each of us only had so much of it, at some point as an individual and a species we would hit our limits, there would be an obstacle that we could not overcome. Yet here we are through just about everything imaginable with our indomitable spirit well intact. We have all seen things deemed impossible toppled throughout history and often by the underdog to boot. This brings up my first key point. You will absolutely never reach your potential because invariably as we continue to work, practice and improve the things we love we expand what we are capable of; this effort increases the maximum potential for ourselves and for those that come after us. It may be incredibly difficult to cross over certain thresholds but once they are crossed often the proverbial floodgates are opened. Just like Roger Banister surpassing the 4-minute mile in 1954. This feat was deemed impossible, it was actually touted as dangerous to even attempt and the absolute limit of human performance. Yet here we sit 75ish years later and the record is down to 3:43.13 and almost 1500 people have surpassed the 4 minute barrier. This is a story I reflect on as I love running, but I am sure each person that reads this will be able to recollect a story similar. And at this point the only thing that seems impossible is trying to set the limitations of human performance in any category we can think of.  Now you may not be chasing a 4-minute mile or any athletic endeavor for that matter but in every industry, hobby and pursuit there have been limits met and then exceeded. We have yet to find the ends of our potential in any single area.

But there is another side to this potential coin and the other path to never achieving it.

 Just don’t try.

 It is so simple, easy and utterly unfulfilling. Let your potential sit out there in front of you and never reach for it. Instead we reach for the remote, our phone or a beer and wonder why there is always this nagging feeling of needing more. It is so strange how our brain works because we know we need more but often what we pursue are the things that keep us where we are. This is a place many of us get stuck in, usually when we are on a path we don’t want to be our end goal or after what we have decided is a big failure. I for one got stuck here for a number of years after I parted ways with my big fancy Director of Ops role in a big unnamed corporate company. I felt like I came crawling back to Original Joe’s (who I am incredibly grateful to for accepting me back with open arms). I went from a director of operations of western Canada title (see also corporate douchebag) back to operating a single store. No matter why I made the change which ultimately saved me, it was a huge blast to my ego and I did not deal with it well at all.  It took me the better part of 2 years to lick my wounds and realize I was only a failure if I never picked myself back up. Through those 2 years I spent the majority of my time cycling through feeling shitty for myself and thinking I was too good to be doing what I was doing. Both of those things led to me probably almost losing the position I was currently in. Thank god the people I work with knew what I was capable of and toughed it out to see me come out the other side because I was an asshole.

It has been about 3 years since I did the work I needed to, to humble myself enough to realize the only failure in my life was due to lack of effort. Having learned this lesson now is why I feel I need to make up for lost time and hope maybe this little piece sets someone in the right space sooner than it did me.

It really boils down to a choice. We often think this choice is around potential but as I pointed out earlier  your potential is unreachable for two reasons, either you are not reaching for it or you have realized it is an ever expanding universe for us to explore. The choice we are really making is between long term fulfillment and short term happiness.

In my humble opinion I think convenience and short term happiness have killed more potential and long term fulfillment than anything else in our lives. So it would be awesome if you joined me in the journey to never reaching my potential!

What is our infatuation with making things easier with no conception of why we are doing so? We do it because “we want it now” but the only things we really want right now are never good for us. We have 24 hour gyms that close down all of the time because there just aren’t enough people utilizing it, but almost every fast food place and convenience store is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is never sales or volume that closes these places, it is the fact that they cannot staff to cover that many hours or the amount of volume they may do. This alone sums up the point. We are unwilling to provide others with the convenience we want. Isn’t that telling. We want the McDonalds to be open when we want it but we aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to work the shift. Which is totally fine, I for sure wouldn’t work an overnight at a fast food joint, but I also don’t expect them to be open at 3am to fulfill my needs. But this is the life we live in at the moment. We want what we want but expect others to go out of their way for us. We expect the Amazon package we ordered last night to be at our door the next day and when it isn’t, there is a quick few clicks and a 1 star rating for delivery. We have an unfulfillable need for more, yet are less inclined than ever to put ourselves out for what we want. Now I didn’t exactly have to walk up hill both ways in the snow to school. I am firmly in the middle of the generation that created, adopted and proliferated this culture of convenience. When I was a kid I had to get up, walk over to the TV and change the channel. If I wanted to watch my favorite show (Ninja Turtles) unlike kids today who can literally click a few buttons on almost any device in their house and pull up the exact episode they want to watch I had to wake up before 6am on Saturday mornings to be in front of the TV when my show came on. I know this seems like a small thing but these little things that have changed over time become big. The speed of it all has become supersonic and now with apps like Uber, Skip and Amazon we have an unprecedented level of convenience.

I know it sounds like I am the old guy talking about how change is bad and things were better back in my day but I want to promise you in many ways they weren’t and there are a multitude of stats to prove that quality of life for most people is drastically improved in the last 30 years. In no way am I about moving backwards, and technology isn’t going to anyways. No, what I am concerned about is the fact that much of the convenience today was developed for convenience sake and has gone mostly unchecked as to how it is affecting our lives. It has created a whole new set of problems that personally and societally we are ill equipped to deal with. I actually believe that unmanaged and unnecessary convenience is the root of much of our problems in regards to obesity, depression and anxiety. The trouble is we aren’t talking about it because we have become so unconscious in our daily actions and our technology has made it even easier. Not only that but we live in a capitalist society that covets growth over sustainability which means that if our companies, sales or profit are not growing we are somehow failing. I am not all about maintenance but there are many factors that go into success and just getting bigger is definitely not one of them.

Think about the things we have made the most accessible in the last 30 years. With the advent of the internet we are able to get almost any food or product delivered to your door at any time, from your phone. We have literally made every industry more accessible and convenient. But has the convenience actually bettered us? Or is it the actions of individuals that have improved their own lot in life. That have utilized the convenience and access to get better. I believe it is the latter. They are conscious of the tools that have become much more available to them and taken advantage of it. Whereas the majority of people are not conscious of their actions and just utilize what is available to them without thinking about why they are doing it. They are ordering the food from DoorDash or the item off of Amazon not because they need it but only because it is available to them.

Look at the 5 pillars of health as I call them. Let’s look at financial first. We no longer have to enter a bank to do anything, hell you can get a mortgage from your phone. Sounds great right. Need some credit? You can get it faster than ever. You can also gain access to financial literacy resources for free from that same phone but these are rarely accessed as that requires work and provides no instant gratification. If you want some sobering statistics the average debt load for a household in 1990 was about 70% of disposable income, That number in about 30 years has risen by over 100% to 171% of disposable income. Basically we owe $0.71 for every dollar we make. While there are some things out of our control, financial literacy is not one of them. You have more access to free financial information than we could ever imagine.  This is just one example in one pillar. The other pillars of health as I see them are physical, mental, spiritual and relational. I am not going to expound on my example in each pillar as I think it is obvious that the advent of the internet has allowed us more free information than we can manage. It is overwhelming sometimes isn’t it? You go to look something up and there is about a million options and opinions. Look at what untethered convenience has done for us. It is too easy to even find the information and that often brings us to a standstill where we do nothing because of the overwhelming amount of information conveniently available.

There is no person or thing to manage the flow of information in a manner that is good for us. There are no societal rules for convenience and excess because up until the last 50 years or so all of our societies were firmly planted in a place of lack. So while this incredible access we have should be celebrated immensely I am sure we have all experienced just what too much celebration does for us the next day. Now all of this being said I would love to sit here and give you the silver bullet for how we solve our issues of unconscious convenience and excess but I don’t believe there is one. It is going to take awareness to the fact that the rules of the game have truly changed. As a kid I was told you didn’t get whatever you want, whenever you want it, just because you want it. But lo and behold, here we are. I can have almost whatever I want, whenever I want it, just because I want it. And I can have it at the click of a button with almost no human interaction. Now that marvel of human ingenuity is incredible but it has happened so fast, faster than could be planned for and this has led to a plethora of unexpected issues from the struggle of managing our diet to our children not learning social skills. We assumed these were inherent skills we should all know but they truly are taught and learned. So again I don’t have a silver bullet, honestly I don’t even love the way I have written this as I don’t think it fully gets the severity and the point across but I believe my part in this is just to hopefully draw a little awareness to the importance each of us holds in learning the importance of discipline, being conscious of our actions and starting to implement some rules around convenience even if it is just personally.

I am sorry for all of the doom and gloom. I actually feel this is completely fixable but it is going to take some work as we have sped things up at a rate we can no longer control. I will leave you with one tangible piece that has helped me immensely in a few ways in my life. This isn’t rocket science but it works. I think of it as “the gap”. If there is something you want, especially impulsively you need to make a gap before you can have it. This gap can be time (but make sure it’s long enough), distance or some form of work. If I want to buy something small I will still make myself wait 10 minutes and if I still want it I buy it. A larger purchase (for me this is really anything over $50) I have to do some sort of work for it, usually some task I have been putting off because of its undesirability or I make myself sell something before I buy whatever I want to buy. In this way I keep myself honest and keep myself out of the hamster wheel of convenience while still partaking in the 21st century.

So thank you for reading my longwinded take on convenience that isn’t as well fettered as I would like. Maybe when I become a better writer I will be able to write this in a much more succinct fashion. Either way it seems as though you don’t mind it if you have made it this far and if that is the case it would mean a ton if you subscribed here and headed to my IG page and gave that a follow to stay up to date.

Stay well.