Today I was browsing through the funny images that stream to me on the little electronic shiny thing I carry around with me, saving them and sharing them, when I came across a concept that struck me like a brick. The kernel of wisdom is found in a comic I will not share here per the wishes of its creator, so instead I will simply state the last bit of text, wherein it is contained:
“…you are an adult and potential is useless.”
This simple, intuitive concept has never occurred to me. Nor has it been related to me, or appeared in something I’ve seen until today. But there is much importance here. It’s something I’ve been gradually interfacing with recently.
I’ve talked at great length here about considering your own death when setting goals. The great conceit of setting your life’s aim and undertaking your life’s work, I argue, is that you have unlimited time in which to do it. I think this blanking out of the truth, willed by the self and assisted by others, results in great loss for many of us. This is something I try to keep close to my heart.
The balancing act between my creative interests has always been driven by the fact that wider pursuits means less results. Time is limited. If I pile my plate full, I won’t finish anything. And my plate is way too full. I am an advocate for specialization of your craft, yet I live in constant violation of that principle.
The arc of your life is a finite thing, and it is not the same at the beginning as it will be at the end. Where in your progress should you be when you are 25? 40? 75? At what point should you allow yourself to slow down, admire your work, and take a less involved approach to doing the things you love to do, setting smaller goals instead of larger? Will you reach an age where your contributions are no longer relevant? Will you expire before you can finish?
How can you ignore these questions?
Death and the often slow approach of death are great simplifiers of the passions that enthralled us. Yes, the happiness of pursuit is the model, but achievement is a part of that. If you have a single work that you dedicate your life to, at what age should you complete it? Setting the goal just prior to your death is self-defeating; you won’t know when that is or be able to act appropriately when you do. As well, wouldn’t you prefer to have years upon which to enjoy your accomplishment?
You are an adult and potential is useless. Do not develop potential as an adult. You are past that level in the big game. You have either decided on your primary skillset or it has decided on you. This has already happened. Do not be fooled by the notion that you are keeping options open or opening your mind to new things. These are important positives but they do not apply to the major pursuit of your life. There are just as many challenges to take on and benefits to reap at this stage of your life’s work; happiness is not found by returning to the drawing board time and time again, forever.
So what is your reason for being, and where in its progress are you?