Can a first-year med student perform open heart surgery? No.
A more accurate answer might be, not yet. The freshman certainly has the potential, but not yet the capacity.
Do most all of us may have the potential to fly rockets one day? Sure, but the only thing we have the capacity to operate at five years of age is a kite. We still have a ways to go before we get to the moon.
Potential is all about what you might do. Capacity, on the other hand, is all about what you will do.
The 10,000 Hour Rule, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, helps further explain.
We think of Mozart and Bill Gates as prodigies. But did you know that both men had spent 10,000 hours by the age of twenty-one working in their respective fields? Bill Gates started programming on computers in the 8th grade. Mozart began composing music when he was six years old.
Potential is something Gates & Mozart reached by collecting more and more capacity through their 10,000-hour journey.
I see the two differences clearly in my children's physical development.
First, they learn to sit up. Then crawl, stand, walk and run. Their capacity grows like crazy in those first few years. Then they go on to learn how to control their bowels. Hallelujah! This is followed by other milestones like speaking, reasoning, reading and writing.
On and on it goes. Day-by-day, year-by-year, their capacity expands. And each time it does, they are rewarded with new opportunities because of the potential reached.
Good news! You can reach your potential. It’s possible, but here’s the catch. To do so, you must expand your capacity. The more you expand, the more you reach. Simple as that.