Tapping Into Untapped Potential, The Cornerstone of Worldwide Change
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
2 weeks ago I sat on a plane bound for a destination that brings both hope and hopelessness to its residents. I left the confines of my comfortable life to take up temporary residence in a place that was unlike anywhere I had ever been. In the weeks and months leading up, this trip had been defined in many ways by many different people.
Almost immediately, I found myself questioning the validity of the description. I questioned if what I was doing was becoming lost in the excitement of what I was doing. Was the purpose of the trip taking a backseat to the idea of the pending adventure?
My wife and I landed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa at 8:30 pm Sunday, April 23rd. Exhaustion overtook us as we shuffled our feet and made our way through the airport. It felt as though we were being fueled by an acid trip that we hadn’t signed up for. One by one, bag by bag we crossed customs, made our way through security and sought out the van that was scheduled to pick us up.
Even though the drive to our new home was done in the dark of night, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something very different about this city. As surreal as the experience was, the moment my head hit the pillow I drifted off to sleep.
I awoke the next day with a false sense of expectations. As if channeling my inner John Wayne, I envisioned riding into town on a tall, white horse ready to save the day. I was a Westerner ready to impart some of that Western Wisdom on each person I met. It didn’t matter that I had untapped potential. I was about to unleash it on everyone.
As our group walked through Korah the reality of life set in. This was a town built on a garbage dump and was unlike anything I had ever seen before. In some situations, language can be a barrier to communication. In Korah, this wasn’t the case. The desperation in their eyes and the sorrow on their faces said it all. Will we eat today? Will we wake to see the sunrise tomorrow? How will we provide for our children? Can you help us?
Tragedy struck Korah two months ago (March 2017) when a landslide laid literal waste to the lives of so many. I listened to the stories of the once boys, who were thrust into manhood as they began to dig through the garbage to pull out the dead bodies of their friends and family. These men know pain like you and I may never know. They had lost everything and were now alone in a world that had been so cruel to them.
Mere moments after our arrival in Korah my wife broke down and began to cry. Seconds later, I followed suit. This was only the beginning.
The girls were 5 and 7 years old, without any sort of grasp on what life really means. At that age they did exactly what they are supposed to do…play, have fun and learn.
“Similar to murder, rape is a reprehensible act that leaves a body defiled. But rape victims are not like murder victims; they live and relive the event. Worse yet, they can never leave the scene of the crime.”
One of them raped and the other tied so tightly to two trees that the force broke each bone in her arms and legs. Then and only then was she raped too. Children…these were children and this wasn’t right. Call the assaulters what you will:
I call them pieces of shit.
Anger and frustration filled my heart. How could this have happened? Why did it happen? Who could do this? All I wanted to do was to take each of these girls and tell them that everything would be all right. I wanted to protect them, shield them, and make it so this never happens again. But how?
Reality of life
As we continued to learn about the realities of life outside Addis Ababa, I looked deep into our storyteller’s eyes and saw three very distinct things. I saw the expected combination of sadness and exhaustion. This was a man and his mother doing as much as they could, desperate to do more in a fight that appeared endless. I also saw hope. Hope, the foundation for life in Ethiopia.
In our conversation, it came out that he and his mother travel to their orphanage once a week from Addis. On a good day with a good vehicle, the travel takes 6 hours. It’s grueling, tiring, and uncomfortable. For our new friends, the trip is 9 hours, 4 bus transfers and absolutely necessary.
He explained that he and his mother had been saving for a car to take away the stress of travel but as you can imagine, saving in Ethiopia is easier said than done. As he poured out story after story, I looked over at my wife on my left and the friend on my right. Very little was said between us. Very little had to be said. With his story concluded, I let him know that we were going to buy him the car that he sorely needed. For a brief moment, we tapped into our untapped potential.
No matter how hard I think about it, my thoughts always wind up right where they started…what’s the solution?
Somewhat frustrating, I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that we must tap into our untapped potential in order to help. To do this, we must shift our mindset. We must turn:
- We’re too busy into we’re never busy enough.
- We don’t have enough time into time is infinite.
- Resources are limited into resources are unlimited.
Remember, the mind believes what we tell it to believe. When it believes something, it is only because we have told it to believe it. It begins to filter out everything that contradicts our beliefs and absorbs things that coincide with them. Only with a change in mindset do we have a chance at reaching our untapped potential and implementing real change.
I’ve talked about it before. Humans are an amazing species capable of so much. In a very short time, we’ve beat disease, extended life, and recovered from far too many wars. On top of that, we’ve built and brought down walls, closed the gap on sexism, and have begun to venture into worlds that we don’t understand. Yes, we are remarkable.
However, what about the other stuff? When will it be addressed? When will we tap into our untapped potential and make changes where changes are needed?
- Worldwide equality
- Even distribution of resources
I can’t put it any other way. We must begin to give a shit about one another. We must care for those we don’t know just as much, if not more than we care for those we do know. No longer can we look at others and think “not my problem”. We must look at others and find a way to help them just as we would ourselves.
It’s been said that the world is a cold place. I ask you why does it have to be this way? Why can’t each of us do our part to warm it up? Why must we compete with one another rather than work with each other? In the grand scheme of things, our goals are all the same. We each want to be happy, healthy, and safe. Why then do we sacrifice someone else’s goals for personal gain? There is more than enough personal gain to go around if it’s evenly distributed. But it isn’t. If it was, the people in places like Addis Ababa wouldn’t suffer as they do. Finally, why can’t we take just a little less so that someone else may have a little more?
This is tapping into our untapped potential. And this is what will change the world.
Cheers to your success,
If you desire to know more about the organization that my wife and I traveled with (and you should) it is called Ordinary Hero and here is a link to it. These people are simply the salt of the Earth and have done more for Ethiopia than I could have ever imagined possible.