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Potential is Pointless
Don’t Let Wasted Potential Waste Your Potential
While watching the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors, we heard ESPN analyst and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Grundy discuss on-air the passion required for athletes to be great. He laughed about a player he coached (whom he refused to disclose) who was a great person to talk to about real estate but not pick-and-roll action.
As a high school coach, I laughed because I coach a majority of kids who are like the athlete Van Grundy referenced. But I was also taken aback that a coach coaching the most elite athletes would have the same problems I have coaching athletes. But Van Gundy’s revelation also gives me hope in a profession that often makes me feel irrelevant, ill-equipped, and downright depressed.
When working with or leading people, it doesn’t matter how much potential they have if they have no will to use it. The potential is irrelevant.
A Lamborghini has just as much potential sitting in my garage as my Honda Civic. They both have four wheels and a working engine. The same goes for a top-notch racehorse and a cow. They both have four legs and graze in similar settings.
To make my point all the more ridiculous—I have just as much potential as NBA All-Star legend Stephen Curry standing in a basketball gym. But applying equal amounts of potential in each instance is ludicrous until we use the right amount of passion, focus, energy, skill, and intention.
Coaches try to help their athletes realize and get the most out of their potential. But over time, it becomes evident which of their athletes value and use their potential consistently. Some will appreciate it only when it’s time to compete—when it’s too late. Some will understand and use their potential when they feel like it in practice.
But how or when someone else decides to use their gifts, talents, skills, and intelligence has no bearing on what we as leaders do well. Yes, our job is to get the most out of the people we lead, but as the famous old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
So for all leaders, keep doing what you’re doing regardless of how your followers respond. Yes, it will be frustrating most of the time, and you’ll feel like you’re wasting your time. But don’t let that diminish your potential as a leader. Keep leading.
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