Measuring potential, emotions required



Potential counts for a lot these days.

Right now, the UK Board of Trustees is narrowing down the field of potential candidates for president No. 12.

Thanks to the crazy spring weather conditions in Lexington, the past couple of weeks have been fraught with potential thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash floods. And soon-to-be college graduates are learning their potential for job placement as the semester winds down.

But don’t misconstrue potential for something else. It is not aptitude, which can be measured by examination, nor is it a solid prediction of the likelihood of an event to occur.

Potential only tells you what is possible, as opposed to what is actual and fact based.

That distinction makes me wonder: How and why do we as a society value potential so highly?

We put our faith in the potential of things working out as they should. We prepare for the potential side effects of a course of action. We do this, and yet we don’t seem to give it a second thought.

How potential is your potential? Can you quantify it? Can you measure whether a person or event has the type of potential you desire?

Talk to any physics student, and he or she will most likely tell you the definition of potential is the measure of energy stored in a body or system due to its position or configuration.

So, in the physics student’s terms, potential is stored energy.

Tell me why, then, do employers reward it? Why do job recruiters look for what applicants have balled up inside of them, rather than what they have accomplished already?

It might have something to do with the emotions attached to potential. These emotions prompt us to act, with the hope that our decisions yield desired results.

We care about the future of our university, so the trustees take great care in determining the presidential successor. We fear for the worst when we hear about storm predictions, so we take precautions.

And employers gauge how a company can improve and expand not only by what its new hirees have already done, but by what the employers believe the applicants can do in the future.

This may seem backward initially, but it’s only natural. And because potential is not definite, we don’t feel cheated in cases when acting upon these emotions did not result in an anticipated, often advantageous, consequence.

“It was a shame that he was fired because he has so much potential.” “No tornado formed from the sighted funnel cloud, but we were prepared in case.” See, we justify potential, even in spite of results.

Potential may have a hand in circumstances, or it may not exist at all. But the hope of potential makes it very real, which prompts society to praise it.

All we can do is hope for the best, and see what potential has in store.