3000 Shekels or 6000 Drachmas?

I’d like to discuss the idea of wasted potential.

When we think about people who have “wasted potential,” we think about people we know who are astoundingly lazy, or have “wasted” their talents or gifts in one way or another. I’d like to address something slightly different.

We’ve got all these people in the world now who seem to have a natural talent for things like computer science, new genres of music, or extremely specific types of video games. But if these people had been born a hundred or even a thousand years ago, how would these talents have been realized?

I operate under the belief that everybody’s got a talent in something. I also operate under the belief that many people who realize their talents can only do so because they have the access to the tools that will help them do that. What if someone’s got talent in something but doesn’t have access to it? That potential is wasted.

Here’s another scenario: what if someone’s got incredible talent in something that is effectively useless, either in the sense that it’s not able to be commercialized or otherwise undesired? I’ve got a friend who’s gifted at the yo-yo. Where is that going to get him in life? What about that friend I’ve got who’s gifted at underwater basket weaving?

This leads us down a rabbit hole of a thought train. What, really, is talent? Is it innate or developed? Is it specific to just one specialty or can it be applied to a wide range of activities? In other words, would these talented people have been able to strive in a different era with other tools in more or less the same manner? What if all the wasted potential in the world was suddenly realized and everybody was able to contribute to the world in the way in which they were naturally able?

Regardless, maybe it’s not so constructive to think about what “could-have-been” than thinking about what we can do now.