Jumping Out of the Box

By: Rabbi Yisrael Baron

(Published April 25th, 2013 Sunny Isles Beach Community Newspapers)


“It is not the consumer’s job to know what he wants,” Steve Jobs responded when asked if he had done any market research.

How can the consumer request a product that has yet to be invented? A true visionary sees opportunity and potential where most people see nothing at all.

Over the last century, many visionaries were able to reveal much of the hidden and untapped potentials of our world. We have witnessed innovations and inventions in the fields of energy, medicine, technology, and agriculture. Real innovation is not about being just better or quicker, as running is to walking. Real innovation is about creating. Jumping to a place where we didn’t even know how to dream of. Running is faster than walking. Still every step is connected to the one before it. Only when you jump do you reach a place that has no connection to where you previously stood.

Wouldn’t you like to claim the title “visionary”? What is the next frontier waiting to be explored? How about human potential? Can we manage to unlock the potential that lies hidden and untapped within us and within the people around us? Can we bring out the best in the people we encounter?

Maybe it’s time to turn the microscope around and look inward.

My teenage daughter’s report card came in the mail recently. As her father, I derived ample satisfaction from her grades, and even more so from comments like, “A pleasure to have in class!” But this reminded me of one of my favorite report card comments: “Has great potential. If he would only apply himself, he would accomplish wonders.” How’s that for a back-handed compliment?

I look back at my school years and then to where my classmates are today. It is amazing to see how our guesses and predictions about who would succeed in life were totally off the mark. In some cases, the ones who may have been (unkindly) seen as “losers” are the ones that have stable jobs, happy marriages, pleasant children, and are productive members of their communities and of our society at large. And others, who were popular or smart and showed “great potential,” are still showing “great potential” with little tangible results to show for their years on this earth.

How do we develop our potential?

How do we help others access and develop their potential?

For starters, we have to believe the potential is there. As humans, “created in the image of G‑d,” we certainly have potential—an infinite supply of it. However, occasionally it takes a keener eye to discover.

Consider this: Valuable commodities are sometimes found deep beneath the earth. Some drilling is often necessary in order to reveal the treasures and natural resources that lay deep beneath the surface. Even the top soil, which to a citydweller might look like plain dirt or mud, is seen as invaluable to a farmer, since in reality this very earth has all the minerals needed to grow fruit and vegetables.

Like the prospector exploring for natural resources, or the farmer working his land, it takes attention and effort to produce. And, I submit, an ounce of courage. Because when we try we run the risk of failure. But as long as we are working at growing and moving forward we are alive and doing what we were created to do—and we will succeed in the end.

Sure, it also takes a little faith in our potential. We don’t always see it. Think of radio waves, though. They too are not visible to the naked eye, but we appreciate them through technological inventions that have harnessed them. Can we, just the same, open our eyes to a see the reality of the human commodities we all possess?

Let us be visionaries and use persistent optimism to unlock the most awesome potential found in us and those around us.