“potential” is a bad word!

work sucksI am no more (or less) crazy than the next guy, but I am here to tell you that “potential” is a bad word.

It’s seductive. (Or we’re easy.) It’s misleading. (Or we’re misreading.) It’s deceitful. (Or we’re dupable.)

Back when I was still in high school, my parents went to a parent-teacher conference. They had talked to many of my teachers, and a recurring pattern had emerged:

“He is really smart, he really has potential…” – so far, so good – “but he doesn’t study!”

They came home and told me all about my great potential. About how smart I was, and about how much my teachers liked me, and about how I needed to study more. How I had to work!

This is when “potential” showed its true self to me.

Potential is shorthand for “now you no longer have excuses for not working hard”. You know? It’s the “you got what it takes and it’s all up to you, and only you!” It is not the end-all to your 9-to-5, but may very well be the beginning of a brand new 24/7/365. Especially for everyone who’s come up with a great new idea, an idea with amazing potential, and for everyone who decides to chase his or her dream and turn that great idea into hard, shiny reality.

Why am I writing this?

Well, mostly because I have seen all too many enthusiastic young people, talking about too many great new ideas. Startups upon startups, who are so enthusiastic about their fancy concepts, which will definitely carry them to greatness and wealth, mostly by way of silly VCs who are, somehow, willing to simply throw money at them for their ideas.

For their potential.

Probably everyone has seen Southpark’s Startup episode “Go Fund Yourself.” Or heard about it. If not – you should. Also, everyone should read at least one or two first-person accounts of startup failures. Such as “How quitting my corporate job for my startup dream f*cked my life up” or “Seven lessons I learned from the failure of my first startup, Dinnr.”

Potential does not equal success. More often than not, it equals having to take a first step. Out of your comfort zone. Which, in the case of business ideas, means taking a risk.

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Image by michelhrv

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