Treating success as an option is one of the major reasons why more people don’t create it for themselves – and why most people don’t even get close to living up to their full potential.

Grant Cardone

A recent Facebook post caught my attention as it challenged parents to reconsider how they push their children toward achievement:

“Too many parents want their children to be exceptional, sometimes for the child’s sake, sometimes for their own. But there is a creeping insidiousness to the idea that only an extraordinary life is worth living, and that bowing out of the highest possible echelons of achievement is weakness.”

The writer’s lament is directed toward the parents of students from a private high school who are very driven by academic and material success. The post goes on to say that many feel that “it is somehow a sin not to reach our potential” and that most of us “in the end, live ordinary lives: we are not Nobel prize winners or leaders of nations, even if perhaps we might have been.”

I get it. The writer is pushing back on those “tiger parents” who take a tough approach to driving their children to academic and professional success while viewing anything less as failure. Yes, there are those who push too hard, attaching a child’s value to their achievement, often burying his or her childhood in that quest. The ultimate message that there is happiness to be had in the ordinary of life is a strong counter point to the hyper-competitive approaches that drive tuition scandals, fights at youth sports contests, and endless campaigns to remove unwanted teachers, coaches, and school administrators. Perhaps a bit of perspective is needed.

However, the writer’s line about it being a sin to not live up to our potential really struck me. Not because I don’t agree with it; I do agree that it is not sinful to come up short of our potential. No, the real sin is to suggest that it might be ok not to try to reach your potential. To be content with what other’s might consider an unremarkable life is perfectly fine. To have spent your life not trying to be all that you might be is a crime.

Each of us is born with unique gifts. Throughout our lives we are presented with unique opportunities. Each day we live, we are given the chance to do something with our talents. Our duty in this world is to work to make the most of each of those gifts and opportunities. We are made to work toward our potential each and every day.

What about the call to achievement? The beauty about living an exceptional life is that it has nothing to do with a particular type of achievement. We get to define extraordinary for our life. Some pursue it through business, some through medicine, some through art, some through education, some through charity, some through faith, and some pursue the exceptional through what many might call “ordinary.”

Living a remarkable life is choosing to use your gifts in ways that make a difference: for you, for your family, for your community, for the world. The size of the difference doesn’t define your life but your quest to be all that you might be will. To be exceptional is to find joy in doing your best, being your best, and sharing your best. An exceptional life is built on choices that move us toward our best – toward our potential. The notion of “getting-by” is a cop out. Though we never truly arrive and there will be times that survival is enough, the call is to thrive. We thrive when we are fully engaged in our lives and with the world around us. To pursue your potential is to fully engage with your life.

Looking at our broken world, it seems that not enough parents call their children to be exceptional nor show them how to lead a truly exceptional life. From birth on, each of us is given gifts. To not pursue one’s full potential is to reject God’s call to be good stewards of those gifts. This does not mean you must sacrifice goodness or not appreciate the ordinary – quite the opposite. It means we need to love as much as we can, live as much as we can, and pursue goodness as much we can, every day. Yes, we will continually fall short but that is ok. Call your children to be remarkable in all of their best ways. It is their duty. And yours.