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The Problem Child’s Potential

October 10, 2017

When I was a senior in high school, I worked with a group of representatives from our class to build a float for the homecoming parade.

We spent hours building our float at my friend Will’s house. We framed the float on a flatbed trailer with chicken wire and filled the structure with colorful tissue paper. The float looked great, but there was a problem. Whenever we moved the trailer, some pieces of tissue paper became loose and fell out. The guys in the group weren’t bothered by this. We just thought it was part of the texture and aesthetic of the float. However, the girls hated it. In fact, they insisted we cover the float with Saran Wrap, so the pieces of tissue would hold in place. We all went along with it and covered the float in Saran Wrap, and the problem was solved, no more loose tissue paper. But to me, there was now a bigger problem—the float was hideous.

In the moment, I didn’t have the strength to stand up, to use my diplomacy skills, and lead the group to a different decision. So, instead of suggesting a reasonable fix for our ugly float, I hatched a plan. Through my scheming, I got some of the guys together and suggested we sabotage our own float on the morning of the parade. We’d spray paint it to say things like, “Seniors Suck!” This plan would accomplish two goals: 1)  It would make it seem like the juniors were behind it the move, abdicating us of any responsibility, and 2) It would force our group to take the Saran Wrap off the float without enough time before the parade to replace it. The float would look just like we wanted, and the juniors would take the blame.

The plan worked perfectly—so perfectly, in fact, that the juniors were kicked out of and disqualified from the homecoming parade. I was thrilled! Our float looked amazing, and our greatest competition for the float building contest was no longer a threat! But my friend Will felt guilty. He, being a better man than I, went to our school’s administration and confessed that we sabotaged our own float and asked them to not the kick the juniors out of the parade.

I ended up in Mr. Richardson’s office. Mr. Richardson was a teacher and advisor known for shooting it straight and telling the truth in the most relatable way. In the midst of reprimanding me for organizing and executing such a stupid plan, he said something that changed the way I think about myself. He said, “Kevin, you are obviously a leader, but you have to decide if you are going to use this gift for good or bad in life.”

Honestly, I just thought I was being a troublemaker, but in the midst of discipline, Mr. Richardson spoke life into me. He exposed a personal gift and challenged me to use my ability to lead for good. In that moment, Mr. Richardson helped me see my potential, and I’ve been working to leverage my leadership ability in positive ways ever since.

When was the first time you realized that you had potential?

Was it the English teacher that affirmed your writing ability?

Was it the coach that made you a team captain?

Was it the boss that gave you your first promotion?

Was it the parent that praised your communication skills?

Was it the pastor that pointed out your gift of encouragement?

If someone has helped you see your potential, have you taken the time to thank them personally? A small word of thanks goes a long way to encourage the people that have invested in your life.

Because of the leaders that have impacted me, I’ve been inspired to encourage leaders at all levels. That’s why I write this blog, and why I helped create ADDO.

Do you encourage the people around you and help point out the potential in others? Let the people who have impacted your life inspire you to speak life into others.

Never miss an opportunity to thank the people that have encouraged you to become who you are today, and vocalize the potential you see in others. Your words may have a greater impact on another person’s life than you realize.


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