I want to discuss a single word with you. What
image appears in your mind when you hear the word
"potential"? I'm guessing that a dozen people
would have about a dozen different answers to
that question. Most likely all the answers would
be partially right, and undoubtedly none of the
answers would fully cover the word. Have no fear
folks, my answers won't cover it all either.
If you are an electrician, potential might mean the
voltage produced by a battery or other power source.
Harvesting that potential is what makes electrical
things run. The greater the potential, the greater
the opportunity to get things done. However,
un-harvested potential does absolutely nothing at
all. A 12 volt car battery has at least 12 volts
of potential, but it does absolutely nothing until
some of that potential is used to power lights or
a radio or a starter.
To a car mechanic, an automobile engine might have
several hundred horsepower of potential. That's great,
as long as you have the ability to harvest that
potential. If you put that car's transmission in
neutral, the engine might make a lot of noise and
even roar if you step on the accelerator pedal; but
none of that horsepower potential can do anything
until you put the transmission in gear.
To a guy who studies pressure dynamics, a standard
air compressor might hold about six gallons of
compressed air pressurized to about 125 pounds of
potential per square inch. Hey, that's cool; but
it does absolutely nothing until you hook a hose to
it and release it through some sort of tool.
Without a release, it is nothing more than a bunch
of high-pressure hot air.
A hydrologist might look at the water stored behind
a dam and say it has the potential to turn a certain
amount of turbines to produce a certain amount of
megawatts of electricity. However, unless someone
attaches a pipe to the turbine and lets that water
flow through that turbine, the water with all of its
potential, does nothing.
When you start a forward cast, the rod flexes with
the weight of the fly line, storing energy. That
stored energy is called potential. When your power
stroke stops, the energy is released as the rod
reflexes. If the rod is never allowed to straighten
back out, none of that potential is released, and
nothing happens. It takes stopping the rod to release
its potential to propel the line to where you want
it to go.
You may be a college graduate with the potential to
become a nuclear physicist; but if you never use that
stored knowledge, it is just potential, and as we have
seen, potential does nothing until it is used. All
of the education in the world is nothing more than
useless potential until it is used to make something
In my lifetime I have observed a lot of people with
great potential who didn't accomplish anything because
they didn't put that potential to use. They just
stored it up and it became wasted promises that never
did anything. I have also observed some people who
didn't have a lot of potential in the form of education,
strength or skills; who accomplished a lot because
they used the potential they did have. It is putting
that potential to use that gets things done.
Which are you? Do you have a lot of potential, or
are you getting things done by using the potential
you have? Do you have the potential to be a writer,
rod designer, teacher or just a good friend? If
you do, what are you doing with it?
When I die, I hope people will say I was a man who
did something with my life. I want to be the guy
who accomplished something by putting the potential
I have to its best use. The last thing I want to
hear about myself is that I was a guy with a lot
of potential. That would mean I didn't use what
I had. How about you?