TED Conversations

Kaleb Roberts

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Have you realized your potential?

How did you do it?
Did you just one day wake up, work hard and suddenly you're at the top? Or are you struggling every day, not realizing it, sitting at a desk, watching these TED video's and praying for a better life.

If I may ask, what are your individual stories behind your passion and potential?
Was it starting a company in you're basement, knowing that you could do something better? Or inside a multi-billion dollar company starting in the mail room, then suddenly working on the thirtieth floor?

People's stories, especially on topics like this, really really interest me. I want to learn from them, so maybe I can realize my potential. Any thoughts?


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  • Dec 24 2012: Conversations about potential are usually meant to motivate people. Sometimes they do the opposite, by making people feel bad about themselves. In a sense, personal potential is a myth because we can never know anyone's potential. One of humanity's most pleasant characteristics is our ability to surprise ourselves with our accomplishments.

    Perhaps a more pointed question would be, are you using all of your talents?
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      Dec 24 2012: I agree that the concept is bogus which says there is some particular set of skills built-in to everyone and we must strive to know what set we have and learn to live within the confines of that set.
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        Dec 25 2012: @ Juliette Zahn: Sorry, we have discouraged you. I think, I understand what you mean emotionally and I agree with you :-) Words are not the best way to communicate. Wonderful holidays to you too...
      • Dec 26 2012: The real problem to solve is discovering what your strongest skill-set is. That is the most difficult puzzle for me to solve.
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          Dec 27 2012: Often people are good at something that they don't like doing. And often people are not passionate and energetic enough to make effort to do what they like. E.g. many people enjoy to exercise, but they don't like the effort. That complicates the puzzle...

          Lady Gaga's "Born this way" song makes it sound as if anyone could be a rock star. It may be inspirational, but does not seem to be true. My favorite quote from Eeyore "we can't all and some of us don't" sometimes sounds more encouraging :-).
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          Dec 27 2012: Tedd and Arkady,
          Sometimes, it may seem like a puzzle because we (humans) often try very hard to "think" about it and put it into a logical, reasonable structure. To be aware of what I love doing, I first "feel" it....what makes our heart sing? What brings bliss and joy to our lives? What is the activity we can get lost in? Once something draws me with a "feeling", then I use the logical mind to work out the details of how I will pursue the goal.

          You say..."often people are not passionate and energetic enough to make effort to do what they like. E.g. many people enjoy to exercise, but they don't like the effort. That complicates the puzzle..."

          I agree with this....sometimes people simply want something without putting in the effort?
          To use your example, they may like the RESULTS of exercising, and don't really want to contribute to that process. Do you think that some folks have a sense of entitlement? It seems like I observe that in our world.

          For me, part of the pleasure of reaching a goal, is being aware of the effort I put in to reach that goal, and I'm wondering if that may be a piece of the puzzle that some folks are missing? Contributing the effort is a big part of realizing our potential, in my perception. There's no fun in having something handed to us. In my perseption and experience, it is the journey....all of the journey.....which contributes to potential.....and......everything else IMHO:>)
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      • Dec 24 2012: I disagree. I think Edward is correct. Any estimation of our abilities will be grossly underestimated. When faced with a crisis, especially when survival is at stake, people are capable of redefining themselves and accomplishing the impossible. "Human potential" can only limit us. We must use a better vocabulary, that avoids any limitations and emphasizes the importance of our choices. We do not find ourselves; we invent ourselves.
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        Dec 25 2012: Juliette, what you say, although is well-intended, does not make sense.

        Re: "personal potential being a myth because we can never know anyone's potential" This is exactly why personal potential is a myth. How often those "teachers" of whom you speak consider a student hopeless, and the student grows up to be a successful businessman? I can dig examples from personal life or other sources, but you may agree with me.

        Re: "Every person knows inside their deepest heart what their potential is. No one else." This seems to contradict your thesis that teachers can know potential of their students. I can also argue that we don't know our own potential either.

        It still seems to me that "potential" is a matter of faith. This is one of the mysteries of our life that religions capitalize on - read the stories how David became king, defeated Goliath, etc. I don't think, this concept can be rationally explained. We can only appeal to emotion here as in many other areas of our life.
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      Dec 25 2012: We cannot do more than we can, can we?
      We all have a limit, but the beauty is that we don't know it. This creates illusion of "potential". It all comes down to faith. We set our own limits in our head. I'm not sure if this mental exercise is useful.
      • Dec 25 2012: That is exactly my point. The concept of potential is not useful, certainly not as useful as inventing ourselves. Starting out by putting limits on ourselves puts limits our selves. Not useful.
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        Dec 25 2012: Arkady and Barry,
        I think the concept is useful and a fun exercise...another cycle:>)

        You say..."We all have a limit, but the beauty is that we don't know it."

        Could it be that we are all UNlimited, and we create our limits? I agree that "we set our own limits in our head":>)
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      Dec 25 2012: Re: "Starting out by putting limits on ourselves puts limits our selves. Not useful."

      "Putting limits" is deciding what we cannot do. That is not useful. But is it useful to decide what we *should* do with our life? E.g. if I decide that my potential is to become a scientist, doesn't it mean closing myself to other possibilities?

      I would agree with you that the best approach is to "invent ourselves" by finding out what we love and doing it without much concern of what we can or cannot, should or should not do. Sometimes, even what we love does not matter. We simply have to deal with what life throws at us.
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        Dec 26 2012: Arkady,
        Perhaps we can focus on one thing for awhile when we feel we want to pursue that goal, and that does not necessarily mean we close ourselves off from other possibilities....does it? It hasn't meant that for me anyway. I have passionately, excitedly pursued what I loved doing, at various stages of the life adventure, and that continues to change.

        While pursuing what we love, it also helps to use our logical, reasonable mind to help guide the process. I think/feel it's important to be practical and consider everything else that is happening in our world, like family, finances, etc. Pursuing what we love without consideration for people and circumstances is probably not using our full potential:>)
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          Dec 27 2012: Yes. It's like riding a bicycle - turning a wheel where we lean so that we don't fall while keeping a general direction in mind and, sometimes, taking scenic routes when we like it or detours when the road is not what we expected. Sometimes we just have to get through that sandy road or get off the bike and push it up the hill.
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        Dec 27 2012: I LOVE the metaphor Arkady, and wholeheartedly agree.....it sounds, looks and feels a LOT like balance!

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