If your High School was like many, the yearbook showcased a vote from the graduating senior class about their identities at the time.
Best Dressed, Class Clown…a whole list of identifiers about what people perceived their classmates to be.
In my class, the person voted Most Likely To Succeed was named Bobby.
He was handsome, funny, an all-state football player and an incredibly bright guy.
He was also one of my closest friends and my college roommate for a semester.
But late in his freshman year of college, Bobby started hanging with a different crowd and started making bad decisions…one by one.
At first it was a choice about his social circles. Then it was whether he was going to engage in recreational drugs.
Then after a year or so, he was no longer enrolled in college and was bouncing from sales job to sales job.
He had no trouble getting a job because he was still charismatic and smart…but his lifestyle wasn’t leading to him being the most dependable employee.
By the time we were in our early twenties I’d run into Bobby from time to time. I was the baseball coach and strength coach at the University in our town by that point and he was either selling cell phone plans or TV advertising or something…and when we’d run into one another he was quick to tell me how great things were going and that he was making plenty of money…and how he was taking a few classes at the University in the evenings.
But I could tell as we talked that he was embarrassed.
He knew he was not being honest (I would always find that he was lying about the being enrolled in school or something else)…
…and he knew that he was the epitome of unrealized potential.
As we moved into our late twenties I’d see him less and less.
I might run into him at a gas station or something, but his choices had pushed him to a point where he was avoiding anyone he’d known when he was younger – in part due to his different interests, and in part due to being embarrassed about how things had turned out.
It was a small town so he was having more trouble staying employed. Word had spread about him being less than dependable.
Then, out of the blue I got a call from him.
He told me how we was trying to get his life back together.
For the first time he spoke openly and didn’t put up a front suggesting all was well.
Then he told me that his fiancee was pregnant and he was going to be a dad. He said he planned to get married and asked if I’d be in the wedding.
After the call I was hopeful but not confident.
The New York times, CNN and a host of other media outlets have featured my hometown and how it was overtaken by prescription painkillers…so I was well aware of what he was up against.
Then, two weeks later Bobby was dead from an overdose – never having met his unborn son.
So when someone talks to me about potential…this is what I think of.
The person who was most likely to succeed in my graduating class sabotaging himself, one choice at a time.
In fact, his potential was so great that over 25 years after we graduated, I still see people sharing stories about him on Facebook…talking about his intelligence, wit or charisma.
But, in truth, potential means almost nothing.
Every day we get to make small or not so small choices that are either moving us toward our goals or pulling us further away.
Some of those choices can seem insignificant…but very few actually are.
The positive choices give us momentum and reinforce our beliefs about us being who we aspire to be…while the less than desirable choices are incrementally digging us a hole that we’ll have to eventually climb out of if we ever want to reach our goals…and those choices reinforce our thoughts of becoming what we are trying to avoid.
So today you’ll be faced with choices of your own.
Choices that can help you move from potential to performer. From aspiration to accomplishment.
See, there were plenty of other people I grew up with who didn’t have Bobby’s combination of talents and traits who became successful. Professional athletes, doctors, entrepreneurs…you name it.
But they made better choices.
Better choices about where they’d invest their time. Who they’d be around. What their focus would be…and what they were willing to do to get where they wanted to go.
All choices that you have the power to make…today and from now on.
So do yourself a favor. Forget about your potential and what you could be.
Focus on your performance and the choices you are willing to make to get where you want to go.
That’s how you become the most likely to succeed.