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  Chapter 79 from
It's Not As Tough As You Think
How to smooth out life's bumps.

By Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski 

Other Available Chapters
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Lack of Success Is Not Equivilent to Failure

“You have such great potential!” How many times have you heard that? Or perhaps your report card read, “Naomi has great potential. Her grades are far beneath her potential.”

Why do some people fail to actualize their potential? One person said, “Ever since I was a child I heard that I had great potential. I was an underachiever. I never got good grades, and this was especially painful because my brother’s grades were always good. I felt terrible about myself. My only consolation was that I had good potential, and I held on to that for dear life. I couldn’t risk really trying to achieve anything, because if I failed, that would mean that I didn’t even have potential. My only redeeming feature would be gone.”

Some people may not believe that they have potential. Some may have been told the equivalent of “you’ll never amount to anything,” and all the reassurances about having potential are futile. Others, like the above person, may believe that they do have potential, but the risk that a failure will disprove this makes it too hazardous to try and develop it.

Telling a child that he has potential should be accompanied by an explanation. Remember the phrase, “Thar’s gold in them thar hills”? People who believed there was gold in the hills set out to get rich. They sometimes dug in the ground or panned the river for days and weeks before they struck gold.

Having potential does not mean that one will immediately succeed. There can be a number of failures before one “strikes gold.” Lack of success is not equivalent to failure. It simply means that one has to keep on trying.

Children should be rewarded for their effort, not for the results. Then they will not fear developing their potential.

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