When I was in school, I thought my goal should be to become educated, find a useful way to express whatever intelligence and creativity I had, and become some kind of positive and contributing member of society. At least that's what I thought I should be doing based on how I was interpreting society: be a good person; don't do bad things; learn the laws and boundaries; live within and by them.
Then I learned that society (reality), didn't deal equally with everyone. Those that came from more wealthy economic backgrounds had a head start in just about every area you can imagine. People who did not fit into the general mold of what was defined as "normal", were treated differently and often with discrimination. Society tended to have varieties of expectations towards different people at different times, creating double standards.
What I ultimately concluded is that success has nothing to do with living up to true potential. Success was directly related to my ability to interpret not just what society was literally saying but what it was transmitting within the subtext of its messages. Not everyone understands subtext at the same time or in the same way, and those that do so faster tend to be the ones that get ahead because they are able to size up what society expects from them and give it back, before others. This gets them the attention, the pat on a back, and the proverbial gold star.
When children are referred to as a geniuses, it's not that they are more gifted with abilities than others, but are capable of doing things much earlier then the majority of other children within their age group. Walking at 6 months as opposed to the normal 10-13 months is considered a sign that a child has developed a mastery over their physical coordination quicker than others his age. Talking in complete sentences at 18 months would certainly qualify a child, by most, to be a genius. Reading at that age would also raise eyebrows that a child is meant for great things.
Genius is not about ability as much as about timing. The earlier you are able to cognize what reality expects of you and demonstrate it, defines pretty much how society will label you as smart or slow, capable or not, competent or not.
Trying to define what true potential means is really a quest that is more a distraction from defining what society really wants or expects. It would be more fruitful to simply focus initially on what society wants as its potential for you, or from you, give it what it's asking for to get its approval. Then develop your talents for your own sake, through an individual search for self realization, rather than spending a lifetime wondering whether you have lived up to what you think your true potential should be.
This post was written by Jon Percepto from Eclectic Commons. If you are interested in contributing to the thinking process and become a guest writer on The Thinking Blog, find out more information here and be my guest!