This is a followup to my earlier post (“Transitions Are Like Being Lost In The Pacific“) on high potentials and the number of transitions they go through in life, and how that increases their risk for massive failures. Here’s a story about a high potential who screwed up and failed completely.
Let me tell you a story from another land (I live in the U.S.) that I first heard years ago. It shows why I believe in hidden high potentials (HHPs), and although the story is somewhat dated, it shows what happens to HHPs even today.
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there were two types of people living in the same country. One dominated the economic, social and political life. It’s fair to say that they ran everything. The other type of people were a different ethnicity. Like many minorities before and since, during hard times they found themselves getting the shaft from the ruling ethnic group. But they persevered. Let’s call the ruling ethnic group “Greens” and the oppressed minority, “Blues”.
Now the Greens ran a country that was the envy of the entire world. All the nations acknowledged their power. Indeed, the land of the Greens was mighty and all their neighbors feared their great might and learning. This great wealth and learning did not trickle down to the Blues, however,
One of these Blues, a young man we can call “Fred” — old names from far away are hard to pronounce for us — who by a stroke of good fortune found himself adopted by a rich and powerful Green family. His face and color was not quite as blue as other Blues, and he could successfully pass as a bluish Green.
They raised him as their own child, giving him all the benefits of their money and position. It turned out that this young man was quite intelligent, although a bit hot-headed. They conspired to get him into the best university in the country and had plans for him to join the family business. They even had negotiated a wonderful bride for him, from another powerful family. It would make a great alliance in this time of troubles, what with all the Blues acting up and all.
So Fred had it all. When the other Blues were beaten for learning too much, Fred was encouraged to learn everything that he could. The other Blues were scourged for showing signs of leadership, lest they start a rebellion. But he was allowed to learn the ins and outs of his parents business, including the management of their many Blue servants.
Yep, Fred had it made. All he had to do was keep his mouth shut about really being a blue.
But the idiot threw it all away. Secretly, Fred harbored a desire to see the betterment of all Blues. He felt guilty about his good fortune when the other Blues were little more than slaves to the Greens. He watched and seethed. He had to do something for them, his brothers.
One day, as he was walking through the streets at dusk, he spied a scuffle off in the darkness in one of the alleys. Fred believed in justice and knew that none would harm him, because his family was powerful and would wreak terrible vengeance upon any who hurt him. He stepped into the alley and shouted.
A Green boss was beating two of his Blue servants, as if to kill them! Fred didn’t even think: he just acted. Grabbing his walking stick, he smote a mighty blow to the boss’s head.
The boss fell, dead, to the ground. The Blues fled.
As he began to cool down, Fred knew that he had to do something with the body. If anyone found out, his position would be in trouble. He would be found out as a Blue and surely put to death. So he dragged the body over to the dumpster and hid it.
Hid it well.
Fred knew his dumpsters.
For the next couple of weeks, Fred was careful, looking for any sign that the police were after him or even had discovered that it was a murder.
Sometimes, you can get away with murder.
Fred started smiling again. He had gotten away with it. No harm done: it was just a lowly boss, not another elite like himself.
Then one of the Greens tried to blackmail him.
They all knew. Everyone.
So Fred fled out into another land, far away. A land where his university learning was irrelevant because almost no one could read there. He needed to learn how to find water, not surveying techniques. Fred went from being the top of the heap to the bottom of the barrel, a barely useful ranch hand.
Would you hire him, this dirty ranch hand? He had thrown away his entire future in a fit of anger, sold his adopted rights for the pleasure of a single act of violence.
He ran away from the murder rap when he was just barely a man. He spends his life ranching, mostly as a nomadic herder, really. He doesn’t read, he doesn’t keep up with news. He doesn’t even have anything to write with and nothing to read. He’s the only one out there who has any idea that there is more to life than just subsistence.
He spends years. He’s now past his middle years, past his prime.
This is a waste of a man. He had high potential but he threw it all away when he killed that boss.
Would you hire him? Surely this is exactly who my cigar-chomping associate had in mind: a loser who thinks he’s smart but can’t find his rearend with both hands and a mirror. “Hidden high potential? Hidden for a good reason. What in the world could he ever accomplish? Who would ever waste effort on this guy?”
Fred found out who one day he got a job offer out of a burning bush from a new boss. who seemed to know something about real leadership that my CEO friend does not. Apparently when God picks a leader to take His people out of Egypt, he doesn’t think a CEO has the leadership chops to get it done.