What Idle Potentials Do You Have?

Do you have idle potentials that you don’t develop? I have one: coding.

I remember that when I was in high school I often spent time coding just for fun. At that time, I had a 80386 computer with 4 MB memory (it’s amazing how people could live with just 4 MB memory back then – it’s not enough to run even an empty browser window today!). I could spend hours writing programs (mostly simple games) and enjoyed every moment of it. But in the last few years I no longer did any serious coding. I still coded a bit because I teach programming, but I no longer considered it a fun it used to be and spent most of my time on other interests instead.

I recently realized that to live my life to the fullest, I need to make the most out of my potentials. Just think about it. If you are capable of doing something but don’t do it, can you say that you are living your life to the fullest? I don’t think so. You can only say that if you develop your potential.

That led me to redevelop my coding talent. It’s something I enjoyed doing, but for years I’ve left it gathering dust. I’m digging into it again these days and what an exciting world I find! There are many possibilities today that weren’t possible even a few years ago.

So back to the question: what idle potentials do you have? Here are three ways to discover them:

  1. Remember the things you enjoyed doing. Is there anything you enjoyed doing in the past that you no longer do these days? It could be an old hobby or the way you spent your spare time. Whatever it is, there’s a good chance that you can develop it.
  2. Remember the things you’re trained in. If you’ve been trained in a particular skill in the past then you can work on it again. You may later use that skill to complement your other skills.
  3. Ask people around you. People who are close to you can give you hints about your idle potentials. They could remind you of an event in the past that you’ve forgotten about. Ask them about it and listen to what they say.

After discovering your idle potentials, here are some tips to develop them:

  1. Find the fun. It’s hard to dig into something if you don’t enjoy it, so try to find the fun in it. Remember what made you excited about it in the past. Was it the sense of challenge? Was it the thrill of accomplishing something? Once you find the fun, the rest is easier.
  2. Find good resources. It will be much easier for you to develop your potential if you have good resources at hand. Obviously, you can use search engines to find them. You can also find relevant links at Delicious. For instance, delicious.com/popular/design gives you popular links in design. Finding relevant videos at YouTube or other video sites is also helpful because it could be more fun to learn something through videos.
  3. Work on projects. The best way to develop your talent is working on projects. It doesn’t have to be a big project; it could be a small project that you can finish in just a few days. The nice thing about working on projects is that you put your talent to practical use and you feel the satisfaction of getting tangible results. That will motivate you even further.
  4. Find companions. Having good companions around you helps you develop your potential faster. You can brainstorm with them and encourage one another. At the end, everyone wins.
  5. Synergize your potentials. Rather than just developing your potentials independently, find ways to synergize them with your other skills or knowledge. If you have a project using talent A, find ways to use talent B to add value to it. This way you will create a lot more value for other people that will in turn open new opportunities for you.

What do you think? How do you develop your potentials?


  1. You develop your potential by doing, I heard once – that person has a lot of potential, but has not done anything! A person with a high potential is somebody that has the potential but has not done anything yet! 🙂

  2. Donald: I like this post and couldn’t agree more. We should never overlook our idle potentials. There is always a reason why we are attracted to certain things and why they seem to come easier than other things. However, if we overlook those things and never devote enough attention and effort to them, we can miss out on something really good that we were meant to do. Thanks for all the great tips and the post.

  3. Yup, I remember you back then in highschool; you were one heck of a genius, Don. And you still are; may God bless you 🙂
    I agree with you that our idle potentials are to be discovered, not created. Because our past leaves some clues, and all we need to do is to connect the dots, just like what Steve Jobs been telling us. And after we’ve discovered our idle potentials, not only we should work them out on projects; it has to be useful and provide values for others. And that’s exactly the reason why we should discover our idle potential to begin with: to enable us provide more significant values for others.

  4. Juan,
    Yes. That person could be me, by the way 🙂
    Exactly. Isn’t it sad if we let our potentials idle? We can achieve way more by working on them!
    What a surprise 🙂 Thanks a lot for the kind words! You’ve accomplished so much in your life and I have a lot to learn from you; may God bless you too. I also agree with you: our potentials are there so that we can provide value for others.

  5. Hi Donald.
    Congrats on finding you passion again. I also love coding HTML/CSS/PHP and have developed my own webshop a few years back. It is adjust header and ready to go. I could probably make a living out of it. I am an educated webmaster but have been working as a leader for the last 8 years, not in the web business… But I do blog now, and once in a while I add a widget that mess stuff up… ah… my evening will be amazing.. I dig in the code and correct it and afterward I need to brag to my wife; I still got it… even if she don’t get it 🙂

  6. Yeah I have one, Graphic Design but haven’t been able to work on it properly yet. Your article made me think about that again. 🙂

  7. Frode,
    Nice 🙂 Even if you don’t actively work on it, it’s always good to get in touch with an old passion every once in a while.
    Graphic design is also something I’m interested in actually. It’s not a core competence of mine (in fact, I know practically none about it), but I’d like to learn just enough of it to support my other skills.

  8. Donald this got me wondering what I had put away, shelved or denied about myself. Maybe I should re-visit ‘me’ to see if there is any wonder in waiting that is ahead of its time rather than a not wanted when. I thank you for the timely reminder.

  9. I believe in the the use it or lose it philosophy. What talents and skills we consistently develop are those that will be the strongest and most automatic. My experience with this has been playing music. I started playing drums when I was about 14. After a few years I stopped playing and didn’t resume until about 5-6 years age, (I am now 26). I wish I never would have ceased cultivating this talent and can’t even imagine where I would be if I stick with it for the last 10 years. It is something I love and will certainly continue to engage in this wonderful hobby for life.

  10. John,

    any wonder in waiting that is ahead of its time rather than a not wanted when

    I like the way you put it 🙂
    I agree with you.

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