Your potential is more powerful than your proven track record.
In “The Small BIG: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence” by Steve Martin, Noah Goldstein and Robert Cialdini they talk about how potential is incredibly attractive, so much so that there are studies into interview situations where a candidate with potential will be chosen over one with a proven track record. Potential intrigues us.
As a novelist I’m constantly writing stories of characters going on a journey, a quest. It may be an inner journey, one of personal development, or combined with an external one, to achieve or fail to achieve some ambitious goal. The point is that stories take people on a journey from who they are to who they can become.
Talent quests and reality television shows know the power of journey stories to hook viewers. That’s why the contestants that are pushed are often those with the most compelling journey ahead of them. Viewers are engaged by the contestants’ potential and commit to going on that journey with them. Will their potential be realised, and at what cost?
For a lot of us in creative industries (such as authors) self-doubt can be a terrible burden. Like elite sports people, we strive for perfection. And of course, perfection is never attainable. Even as we reach one goal, we raise the bar and strain for the next level. We constantly put pressure on ourselves, thinking that people will only like us (or rather, our work — but sometimes we confuse the two) if we are THE best.
The power of potential releases us from that burden because it says that while we need always to put out our best work, working at our craft is, in itself, a journey that readers are engaged by. Fans are on the journey with us, hooked by our potential and helping us realise it.
The power of potential applies to everyone. No matter where you’re at in your life, your light shines and people are attracted like moths to it, wanting to see how brightly you will blaze.