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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Unleashing Potential

Have you ever witnessed the hidden potential suddenly unleashed inside of someone? It can be life transforming, as exemplified in this true story.

As a committee board member for People’s Light and Theatre Company, I was invited to attend a play that was being performed by neurologically challenged kids at a local school. The theatre director had been working with these children for several weeks preparing for the “big show”. One boy, with the most severe autism, sat non-participative through every practice and rehearsal, never uttering a single word.

As the parents, teachers, and board members sat watching the play unfold, smiles abound as the costumed children did their best to remember lines, manipulate the hand-made props, and sing little songs about the planets in the solar system. Of course, the autistic boy sat off to the side watching it all unfold around him.

The play had intended to reach its climax with all the children from each act singing, in unison, a piece about the Earth being the most important planet. And just as this “final act” was about to start, the autistic boy shocked us all.

He stood up and walked to center stage.

No one knew what to expect, and the entire audience as well as all the other children fell completely silent. It wasn’t just an “awkward silence” where we were waiting to see what would happen; it was more of a “concerned silence” along the lines of “is this boy OK?”

After about five or six seconds, this boy, standing alone on center stage, lifted his eyes from the floor to the audience, and began singing. And not just mumbling words, but true, choral singing! Something immediately stirred in the other children, and they joined this boy and began singing along with him. Goosebumps ran down everyone’s spine, and of course there wasn’t a dry eye in the school. It couldn’t have been scripted any more dramatically, yet this was real life.

Something had been awakened in this little boy, however momentarily, that enabled him to reach that achievement. Yet how many of us allow potential and passion to remain locked away deep within us? And what can we do to tap into that hidden reservoir?

In my next posting, I’ll share what I’ve learned over a few decades of cultivating talent and unleashing potential, including topics such as:

  • Personal development plans (based on unique personality traits and skills)
  • Self-awareness and the role of a healthy ego
  • Personal advisory boards (and other components of encouragement and compliance)

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