by Terry Goodwin[1]


Thomas Gray put it so well . . . [2]


Full many a gem of purest ray serene

The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.


Some village-Hampden that with dauntless breast

The little tyrant of the fields withstood;

Some mute inglorious Milton may have rest,

Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.


We all have unused potential, as Thomas Gray perceived.  We simply don’t always recognise it.  We know what we’ve done; we may suspect what we can do; but on the whole we remain in the dark about all the things we could do.


So how do we discover our dormant potential and then begin to nurture it?  We have a number of options, of possibilities, of choices.  Unless we take advantage of the possibilities, unless we open our horizon up to the options, and unless we are prepared to risk the choices, we will simply restrict ourselves to the familiar.


George Santayana told the world that if it failed to learn the lessons of history, it would be compelled to repeat them.  And it did, unhappily  And it does, dismayingly.  By the same (or perhaps the reverse?) token, unless we pursue the unknown, unless we try to push our personal frontiers outward, we will simply repeat our past performance.


There are a number of relatively simple steps we can take to distinguish our true potential.  Here are some questions we might ask ourselves.


*     What do I really want?  Am I satisfied with what I am currently doing?  Is there something I would rather do?  How might I determine what it is?

*     If I think about doing something new in some unexplored territory, does it feel exciting?  Fearful?  Stimulating? Or am I aware of an overpowering tendency to thrust it to one side in favour of the familiar, the comfortable pattern?

*     Am I able to recognise my strengths?  Am I developing them, or am I putting them into a straitjacket?

*     Do I already possess the knowledge and resources (emotional, physical, mental, intellectual) to pursue the new course?  Or will I have to acquire new knowledge, learn new skills, accept new beliefs?

*     Am I aware, or ready to accept, that unless I am prepared to learn new skills or acquire new knowledge, I am unlikely to develop my true potential?

*     Am I likely to sabotage my own efforts to develop my potential?  If I can distinguish this tendency, what might I do about it?


Having established that I am aware of my potential and am prepared to explore how best to utilise it in a business capacity, what might I do next?


*     Recognise that the first idea is not necessarily the only one or even the best, but work out alternative marketing strategies.

*     Ensure that my strategies are correctly designed to produce the desired end result.  Devise tests to check this out.

*     Establish a USP – a unique selling proposition.

*     Think of ways of making the idea foolproof.  This will involve not merely considering clients needs, their possible objections, and their probable desired outcomes, but also one’s own propensity to self-sabotage.

*     Develop a routine that will reinforce the positive energy with which the idea was first greeted.

*     Involve others and invite their cooperation.

*     Maintain an environment for exploration and continued learning.


Above all, do not be content with your initial achievement.  Potential is not finite; that would be a contradiction in terms.  So continue to seek out ways in which your horizon may be expanded.  Fathom those dark caves and bring your personal flower to its full ripeness and sweetness.

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[1] Terry was senior marketing executive at Finexport Ltd in London and Bangkok until his retirement in 1992, since when he has been in private practice as a marketing consultant.

[2] Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard