Achievement: 1) Potential

Potential. Knowledge. Wisdom. Will. Power. Luck. This conceptual nexus dictates all animal life, including our own. Each element has its own sub-elements, and its own spectra amongst the constituents of any one species. Everything has varying potential. Nothing is all-knowing. Wisdom is never guaranteed. Will provides the special sauce. Power pushes as much as it can. And luck dances across it all, varying any of the foregoing on a whim. All can be influenced, yet even us humans, on the whole, rarely pause to break things down in such a way and consider how to optimise, either as individuals or as groups. And for that, we are often no better than any other animal. Luck laughs the loudest.

Throughout this nexus there are myriad interplays, feedback loops that influence each pair of elements in both directions, sometimes through other elements as intermediaries. As such, the sheer complexity of results can appear so organic as to have no underlying structure at all. But it is there. These distinct components can each be analysed and considered, and by so doing we may, perhaps, learn a thing or two about how best to maximise the seed and source of the list - potential.

All creatures are the culmination of billions of years of evolution. That's a lot of R&D effort invested in each and every one of us, before we even stop to consider what we're all about. Like it or not, each of us sits on a mountain of skulls, those who came before and pushed us into the spotlight to carry the torch to the next stage, whatever that may be. Anything that we as a species have intentionally created and maintained in relatively recent history, it all pales in comparison to the blind push of nature over aeons. Slow, patient, undirected, yet achieving such enormous complexity. Cell, nerve, muscle, heart, lung, liver, blood - all are ancient technologies that have been cast in a multitude of ways for millions of years. Other than what we do with these inherited tools, we are essentially no different to any of their other custodians from the distant past. Strip away the trinkets that we've made as humans over the years, and we're just the same as dinosaurs.

This is something to deeply acknowledge and to celebrate. Our recent structures of individual lives and of society, even though we are inclined to believe in them as the bedrock of what we are and what we can be, are really just the surface skin of the much, much deeper reality of that distant past. We are evaluated and filtered by our education systems into life-long employment systems, yet those systems themselves are really in their infancy, and their nature and ability to do what they aim to do is nothing more than a mirage that can detract from potential, as well as nurture it.

We all have a claim to be here. Simply being here is proof of that. Each of us has a backstory as far down into the root of existence as anyone or anything else. Our modern systems of being are at a much earlier stage in their evolution than we are as organic creatures, they are are imperfect and biased, yet their impact on all of us is profound. Yes, our mental aspects, including how they present themselves as society, have spent just as long evolving as our physical aspects. But society has only distilled into its fairly rigid systems in relatively recent years, and it is those systems, rather than society itself, which are not so evolved. We should respect ourselves and others beyond how our lives may play out in such systems, and apply the harshest criticism to those systems rather than ourselves, thereby seeking to evolve them further, to shape them to our needs as a society rather than the other way around.

Always the ever-present joker in the pack, the seed of our potential is sewn by luck, drawn from the bag of chance. Where we are born, to what parents, and all manner of genetic and socioeconomic possibilities. Long before our first memories and sense of self ever forms, we all unknowingly sit on platforms of different height. And yet these essential and unavoidable factors are rarely given adequate weighting later down the line, as our judgemental systems cast their votes and apply their filters to the flow of human traffic, systems that the filtered had no say in devising, having to accept the decisions of the past. Struggles ensue of varying degree, and the path of future flow is gently carved by those who manage to have, by luck, just the right combination of the nexus as required for meaningful influence. However, those who achieve the most influential positions may be less critical of the system that put them there, and so less likely to strive for any meaningful change. Things do change, and they do tend to improve, so the foregoing statement is of course not absolute, but there is nonetheless some truth to it.

Two children, in two different families but in the same country, the same town, and even at the same school, may still have enough distinction in their socioeconomic status and family background to completely dominate their whole lives, before they've even tried to make a conscious decision for themselves about where they're going. We could even make them genetically identical, for the sake of argument, and so claim that they have exactly the same natural potential. Yet the social filters will never pick up on that, regardless of how those children may intentionally try to realise their potential, and gradually the genes will also be expressed and filtered differently by the different situations they find themselves in.

One child may have parents who are keen on some subject, for example, and who are likely to impart at least a little positive pressure in the same direction on their child. The other child may have parents with little or no interest in that subject, yet perhaps the child still likes it for some other reason, again through luck playing in the wings. The first child may work well and diligently to achieve high grades, yet the same effort, or perhaps even more, may nonetheless result in lower grades for the second child. The potential of the first child is simply more likely to be realised than that of the second. And on it goes, through every gate that lies between them now and nevermore, a trickle effect that nudges, bit by bit, and carves a separation of lives. Grades lead to qualifications, qualifications lead to jobs, jobs lead to influence ...

Will the system of filters ever truly take into account just how all those second children may be striving, perhaps more than the first? No. The result is all that's seen, and the result flips the switch that opens the gate that leads the way along the path to a point where, maybe, that first child from long ago works in a position of influence, and is considering how the system could be improved. But, after all, it brought them there, didn't it? They are successful, and absolutely rightfully so, no doubt about that, they worked hard for sure, how could that judgement be wrong? No, all looks good here, let's maybe make a couple of tweaks and call it a day. Again, luck wins out. Only a simple mutation of an invisible beast will be made. And the beast is always hungry for more fools to flow through.

That is certainly just one very contrived micro-example, but is an attempt to distill a point that we all, deep down, know to be true. We're all swimming in the same river, yet the flow is more-or-less smooth or more-or-less turbulent at different points, and at different times. It's not fair, not by a long shot, but that disparity creates gradients, and gradients are driving factors for change that will, somehow, sooner or later, tip the balance on something.

From the perspective of any one of us, our potential may never be fully realised, and even somewhat wasted. What must be realised is that that's not simply an issue for the individual, but for the group as a whole. We all lose out if any one of us loses out, as that's another source of effort to the grand puzzle that we then lack. In helping others to succeed, we help ourselves. It may not always be apparent, but in the long run it simply can't be any other way. Yes, luck is an unavoidable aspect in all of this, but that's not to say we should let it dominate. Luck may dictate the shape of the spectrum, but we can still influence its position and spread. In driving the spectrum of achievement to the positive, no-ones loses out, and everyone gains. And in reducing its spread, we reduce the false distinctions among us that only fuel undue resentment on one side and undue pride on the other.

We all have great potential, more than we may even realise. The fulfilment of one person's potential doesn't have to occur at the expense of another's. We exist as a group, and individuals can only thrive if the group thrives. To maximise ourselves means maximising others, not pushing them down to get ahead, as in the long run we will, inevitably, require their help somehow. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We must not let that be dictated by luck alone.


Recent Posts

See All