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I love to read car magazines. Four or five years ago, I remember reading about how much money Daimler Chrysler was making selling cars that were manufactured with an extra-powerful engine called a HEMI (well before the company went bankrupt). One automobile magazine said that the HEMI cost the company no more than $500 extra to build and install in a car, and that they made more than $5,000 in profit from each installation. This weekend I was traveling, and I picked up a couple of automobile magazines in the airport. I was astonished to learn that companies like Mercedes charge around $40,000 for putting a big engine in many of their cars, and Porsche charges around $50,000 for a bigger engine and for turbocharging some of its automobiles.
If you walk into an automobile dealer, you will notice the salespeople emphasizing “horsepower” whenever they talk about car engines. For example, during a recent cash for clunkers sale, I was looking at a family SUV for my wife. I asked about the difference between the 2009 and 2010 models of a particular SUV. I looked the two models up and down and got inside both of them. I could not understand why one model was $10,000 cheaper than the other.
“They gave the 2010 an extra 20 horsepower!” the salesman exclaimed, as if this extra 20 horsepower easily justified a $10,000 difference in my purchasing decision.
If you ever speak to people who pull horses, boats, and so forth with their trailers, they will usually brag to you about a truck’s towing capacity. People pay a lot of money for more towing capacity. In order to accommodate this towing capacity, for many trucks, you may need to spend $10,000 or more on specialty transmission builds and other various equipments.
People who purchase SUVs will often brag about how it has four-wheel drive. Beginning in about the late 1980s, people across the country started purchasing SUVs with four-wheel drive, and they have not let up buying them since. The purchasers all know that these vehicles can get them through all sorts of inhospitable terrain.
In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing wrong with any of this, and I do not want to be critical, but some important facts are:
Most people rarely or never need to utilize all the extra horsepower they are paying for in a car. Certainly not $50,000 worth of extra horsepower. People who purchase cars that travel this fast, rarely use the extra acceleration speed they carry. If these people were to go from zero to sixty in less than five seconds for only fifty times during their ownership of the car, I wonder if they would have been okay had they paid $1,000 for each time they rushed off the stop line.
Most people who purchase a special towing package for their truck will rarely or never use all of the extra towing capacity, although this extra capacity may in some circles be considered a huge bragging point. The people who spend an extra $7,000 for a heavy-duty towing package could actually hire someone for less than $7,000 to tow whatever it is around the entire circumference of the United States if they wanted to; the average tow is less than fifty miles.
Most people who purchase an SUV will never use the four-wheel drive. In fact, many of the drivers would have no idea how to turn on the four-wheel drive if they needed to. I once owned an SUV and after it had 40,000 miles on it, I tried to activate the four-wheel drive. I struggled with this for fifteen minutes before eventually figuring it out. After I drove around some sand dunes for a while, I struggled for another twenty minutes to get the four-wheel drive unlocked. I bet the option of the four-wheel drive added an unnecessary $20,000 to the price of the vehicle when I had purchased it. What a waste! Was this the best use of $20,000?
So if people are not really using any of these special features their cars include, then what the heck are they doing with them? Why is it so important for people to have access to these incredible features that they never use?
Since we cannot push out our feathers like peacocks, vanity probably has something to do with it; however, I believe that vanity is not the true and only reason. Deep down, each one of us wants to feel important and significant, and there is no better way to feel important and significant than by having potential. We all want to feel as if we have potential. The more incredible potential we have, the better we feel about ourselves.
If we have a car sitting in our driveway that goes 200 miles an hour, then we have a lot of potential. If we have an airplane that goes 235 miles per hour, we also have a lot of potential. Better yet, if we have a jet that goes 650 miles per hour, and can go anywhere in the world with only one fuel stop–like a Gulfstream V, then we really have a lot of potential, don’t we?
Private jet ownership is something I have puzzled over for years. Frankly, I still don’t understand it. But if you meet a guy who suddenly makes $100 million, the first thing he will often do is run out and buy a jet. It was the first thing one of the founders of Google did after Google had its IPO (he got a very big jet), and it is what many people seem to do once they hit it big.
If we have the potential to do this or that, and we do not use it, then we still have potential. If we have potential, then we can tell ourselves that we are important, regardless of what we are doing with ourselves right now. People’s relationships with all manners of machine, whether with cars, airplanes, motorcycles, trucks, or ATVs–are all related to the potential of the transportation instrument. We all use the same methods to evaluate different things.
With airplanes, for example, people evaluate the machinery based on its speed, its range, the number of people it can carry, and more. This makes a little more sense than the obsession with speed and power in automobiles, but not much. The difference in the price of a newer airplane that can go 30 miles per hour faster than another model made by the same manufacturer may be as much as $250,000. Since most of these recreational aviation planes cannot go very far anyway, the difference in price between a fast and a slower model could amount to saving no more than 20 minutes on the average trip. The difference between a plane that can go 250 miles per hour and carry fifteen people and an airplane made by the same manufacturer than can go 550 miles an hour and carry fifteen people could be as much as $12 million.
Every dog I have ever owned has been a purebred, and the breeders have always bragged about how the bumbling, clumsy puppies I have purchased had come from “champion bloodlines” and had this pedigree or that incredible parent somewhere in its past. The breeders have always had a need to tell me how important the dogs were based on important relatives in each animal’s lineage. The breeders usually have elaborate family trees made for the dogs and can often pull out pictures and all sorts of proof that the dog you are purchasing is something amazing, and that it will become something even more amazing.
This is no different from how it works with all animals that people buy and trade. I do not care if it is a hog or a cow: All animals have potential according to their owners. I was at a state fair this weekend in Ohio, and I could not believe the pride that goes into breeding cows, pigs, goats, and other sorts of livestock. The real value of these animals is not in their meat, milk, or fur but in the potential that their offspring will have. I once knew someone in the racehorse world who had made millions of dollars brokering the sale of horse sperm. People take potential very, very seriously and will pay a lot of money for horse sperm that comes from a champion lineage.
I do not know how many people I have heard about who are supposedly members of Mensa or have very high IQs. What does IQ say to people other than that someone has the potential to be smart and solve various problems? If someone is extremely smart, we believe that they are likely to be more successful than someone who is less intelligent.
When I was at law school at the University of Virginia, there were a few people who went around telling other people with considerable pride how they had relatives who were well known 100-plus years ago, who had fought for some Southern cause or another. Many people took this quite seriously and felt that it was a very big deal. More specifically, the young men would always tell the young women about these things, because they believed it showed the women that they had potential. What sort of potential? Perhaps the men were saying indirectly that they came from “good stock,” and that they too would one day be powerful and well-known leaders. These young men were bragging that they had potential.
Throughout most of my life, I have heard various people described as having rich and/or important parents. In fact, where I grew up, this was always something people seemed very interested in. When I was in rural Ohio this weekend visiting some relatives, we passed by a farmhouse.
“There is a 12-year-old kid who lives there who thinks he is better than everyone else because his mom drives a Mercedes and they live in an ‘A-frame house,'” my relative said to me.
“What’s an ‘A-frame house’?” I asked.
“It means they have large windows,” I was told.
Whenever I meet someone who has graduated from a top college or law school within the past decade or so, for some reason they always seem to tell me where they went to school within the first fifteen or twenty minutes of our meeting. What are they saying? The message seems to be that they are important and have potential.
It is the same thing with people who work at very prestigious law firms, or who worked there not too long ago. I often hear about this within twenty minutes of meeting such a person, who surely must have a lot of potential, otherwise he or she would not have been hired by these great organizations.
What is it about breeds of dog, car and truck power, famous relatives, schools, wealthy relatives, and so forth that makes people so quick to share this kind of information with others? Again, it is all about showing others that we have potential.
A great deal of our daily lives revolves around making sure that others know that we have potential. We want nothing more than for people to know that we are really smart and that we can do really well if we are just given the chance, or if we simply try. We want people to know that our car could go 150-plus miles per hour if there were a stretch of freeway where this would be permitted. We want people to know that our parents were rich, successful, or whatever, because it shows that we too have potential to become rich or successful. Once we have attained incredible wealth, we then start wanting to have the freedom and the potential to go anywhere in the world, in our own $46 million airplane–leaving at a moment’s notice.
There are lots of things that can come to signify our different potentials in life. Our current and former jobs signify our potential. Our résumés signify our potential. Our parents’ success signifies our potential. Our car signifies our potential, and, for others, private jets signify their potential.
Despite all of these things we do to show our potential, the pitiful reality is that none of us truly makes full use of our potential. Hardly anyone I have ever met has really made the most of their potential, and attained all that they are capable of achieving. You too are probably not making full use of your potential.
What would you do in your life if you knew that you could not fail? My guess is that you would try to do a heck of a lot more than you are trying to do right now.
Do you even know what you could do if you would put your mind to it, and stick with it, and did not give up? Most people have tremendous potential that they do not even come close to utilizing. Instead, they sit around thinking about their potential, or spending money on things that in some small ways demonstrate their potential. Many people even talk about the potential they have–due to relatives who existed a hundred or more years ago. Yet, when it comes time to move toward success, they sit on the sidelines, afraid to get in the game.
Why not just make use of your potential? Instead of being concerned about what your potential is, why not just go for it and make the most of it?
People spend more time and effort concerned with what their potential is, rather than simply making the most of their potential. When you ask people why they are not making the most of their potential, they will generally give you one excuse or another:
I’ve done better than most people I know.
Given what happened to me, I am lucky to have turned out as well as I did.
If I had had a different childhood, I would have made better use of my potential.
If I had had more money, I would have made better use of my potential.
If I had not been fired, I would have made better use of my potential.
Good for you. But you still have a lot more potential than you have made use of. Do you really believe you have already made everything out of yourself that you possibly could have? You should never stop growing and you should never stop making the most out of your abilities. There is no limit to what you can accomplish with your potential, if you would just stop being complacent and get to work.
I am convinced that one of the reasons that so many people fail to make the most of their potential is that they lack the self-confidence to be the person they are capable of being. You are blessed to the extent that you have potential and you are cursed to the extent that you may not have the self-confidence to achieve everything you are capable of achieving. The results you see in your life come from inside of you and your heart. If you believe that you have the ability to live up to your full potential, then you will. If you do not believe you have the potential, then you will not.
Since my family has been around in this country for hundreds of years, I have enough ancestors, and at least one has been the United States president, and a couple of others have been either famous or very wealthy. Out of the thousands of relatives I have, no one talks about those from a generation or two ago, who lived average lives. It is as if they died and were soon forgotten. This is lousy, and it makes me mad. But unfortunately this is the way it is. This is how life works.
Most of the people you and I will ever know are average and will make scarcely any impact on this earth. People like this stand around and talk about others who are “acting different.” They gossip and never do much of anything with their lives, besides playing it safe. These are almost always the same people who will do their best to deflate your self-confidence, in hopes of derailing your attempts to do anything significant or anything that is truly meaningful with your life.
If you do better than the crowd, then you will make the crowd look bad. That is the way the crowd thinks.
Every once in a great while, someone steps out of the crowd and tries to do something different and to be someone truly great. People around them will often criticize and make fun of them, but these are the people who are trying to make the most of their lives and to make an impact on the world. These are the people making the most of the potential that they have. They are using all of their horsepower, and using all of their intelligence, and using every genetic gift that they have. These are the sort of persons to aspire to be, and they show you exactly what you are capable of.
You can do anything, and you can be any sort of person you choose to be.
You are capable of much more than you probably realize, and you need to maximize your potential and utilize every gift that you have. Many people talk about their potential, but refuse to act upon it. When you make full use of your potential and implement your gifts, you unlock the power to become the person you want to be.
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