Al Campbell, Field Editor

February 16th, 2004

Al Campbell

I want to discuss a single word with you. What image appears in your mind when you hear the word "potential"? I'm guessing that a dozen people would have about a dozen different answers to that question. Most likely all the answers would be partially right, and undoubtedly none of the answers would fully cover the word. Have no fear folks, my answers won't cover it all either.

If you are an electrician, potential might mean the voltage produced by a battery or other power source. Harvesting that potential is what makes electrical things run. The greater the potential, the greater the opportunity to get things done. However, un-harvested potential does absolutely nothing at all. A 12 volt car battery has at least 12 volts of potential, but it does absolutely nothing until some of that potential is used to power lights or a radio or a starter.

To a car mechanic, an automobile engine might have several hundred horsepower of potential. That's great, as long as you have the ability to harvest that potential. If you put that car's transmission in neutral, the engine might make a lot of noise and even roar if you step on the accelerator pedal; but none of that horsepower potential can do anything until you put the transmission in gear.

To a guy who studies pressure dynamics, a standard air compressor might hold about six gallons of compressed air pressurized to about 125 pounds of potential per square inch. Hey, that's cool; but it does absolutely nothing until you hook a hose to it and release it through some sort of tool. Without a release, it is nothing more than a bunch of high-pressure hot air.

A hydrologist might look at the water stored behind a dam and say it has the potential to turn a certain amount of turbines to produce a certain amount of megawatts of electricity. However, unless someone attaches a pipe to the turbine and lets that water flow through that turbine, the water with all of its potential, does nothing.

When you start a forward cast, the rod flexes with the weight of the fly line, storing energy. That stored energy is called potential. When your power stroke stops, the energy is released as the rod reflexes. If the rod is never allowed to straighten back out, none of that potential is released, and nothing happens. It takes stopping the rod to release its potential to propel the line to where you want it to go.

You may be a college graduate with the potential to become a nuclear physicist; but if you never use that stored knowledge, it is just potential, and as we have seen, potential does nothing until it is used. All of the education in the world is nothing more than useless potential until it is used to make something happen.

In my lifetime I have observed a lot of people with great potential who didn't accomplish anything because they didn't put that potential to use. They just stored it up and it became wasted promises that never did anything. I have also observed some people who didn't have a lot of potential in the form of education, strength or skills; who accomplished a lot because they used the potential they did have. It is putting that potential to use that gets things done.

Which are you? Do you have a lot of potential, or are you getting things done by using the potential you have? Do you have the potential to be a writer, rod designer, teacher or just a good friend? If you do, what are you doing with it?

When I die, I hope people will say I was a man who did something with my life. I want to be the guy who accomplished something by putting the potential I have to its best use. The last thing I want to hear about myself is that I was a guy with a lot of potential. That would mean I didn't use what I had. How about you? ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice