Everyone remembers their time in school. This was the most significant time in our adolescent lives. We spent a majority of our time in elementary, junior high / primary school, and high school. I can remember the tests, the playgrounds, the fights, the teachers, and most importantly, the friends I made. School was a more socially dynamic version of the old Medieval caste system. You had the popular kids, the nerds, the bullies, the jocks, the pretty girls, the hustlers, and everyone else. We all had socially or scholastically awkward moments in our early schooling years. Times where we were king and when we were pawns. Throughout all of this, there was always the most popular “top of the food chain” individuals who you secretly cursed for being more live than you. For attaining a certain status that you craved, or praise that you may not receive or may deserve. You hated on them, but strove to be better than them all at the same time. In high school yearbooks, they were the “most likely to succeed” & “most likely to be famous” people. They were the most athletic, the most aesthetically pleasing, and the most charismatic individuals in the school. These were the dudes who may look down upon you because you weren’t them. Who found it easy to tease and talk as if they would never have any real issues. Everyone wanted to be them, and you knew that their hot streak would continue way after we all graduated. No doubt about it!

I randomly thought about this as I got in my car one random Wednesday afternoon and drove myself to the gym. It was one of those days that I was dead tired, and didn’t want to be bothered by fitness. Since I’m kinda committed to the cause, I had to stop bitchin and proceed. I zone out on the drive, because I know the way by heart and at this point, I drive on autopilot. I thought back to my time in elementary school when I was shorter, plumper, probably smarter (lol), and envious of dudes whom I thought were in a better social light than I ever was. I got taller and thinner in high school, kept the intelligence, but was more concerned with sports and books to really worry about being popular. In fact I knew I LOT of people in high school, was cool in all circles, but never considered myself one of the cool kids. Maybe I was lowkey cool? No clue. I was intelligent enough to realize that those who were popular and considered attractive had their position, and instead of being like everyone else who tried to supplant them, I would heed my uncles words “focus on your school now, everything else will follow. You don’t need the extra distractions! It doesn’t matter now anyway. Trust me!” So I stood and cheered while those other fellows starred, and focused on me. Focused on graduating JR High and High School. Focused on the future, while letting the those who were on the top of the social caste system live.

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Anyway, as I was driving, getting closer to my gym, I thought about the cool kids. The popular dudes. The baddest chicks. I thought about how far I came since those early years, and even since college, and how I’ve grown in all areas of life. I swear this reminisce moment was like 5 minutes tops. I could genuinely say that when I ran through it in my head, that I was pleased with my accomplishments, while craving more. I stopped at a red light and waited at the intersection before my gym. I glance over to my left, looking inside of a popular fast food chain, and the vision that struck me was shocking. A dude that I knew from high school was working behind the counter! Now, he wasn’t the manager or owner of the place, he was an actual employee! Uniform on, scowl on his grill, and giving off an aura that every minute he was there absolutely sucked!

This blew me away because he was one of the popular dudes in my school. A dude who all the girls wanted, who all the guys respected. It was a foregone conclusion that he would be famous, rich, successful, and every other favorable adjective you can bestow upon an individual. We didn’t keep in contact after school, but it was clear to see that the mighty had fallen. Now, this is in no means meant to throw shade at anyone who works in these types of locations. Earning a honest living is commendable. However, knowing the kids and their potential, hearing the same “I’m not working 60 hour weeks for you to be flipping burgers in some fast food joint” speeches from their parents, and witnessing their success at an early age, I expected much more out of them, and to see them in that way… Let’s just say the incomparable Christopher Wallace once had a famous saying about temporary success and magical little people who love the color green.

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I always wondered what the hell happened? Was their popularity and success in those early years a facade? Were they in no better shape that us “common folk”? Did success come easy to them and when they were out of that small bowl, they couldn’t swim with the bigger fishes in the ocean we call “The Real World”? Did they forget the skills they learned and applied in junior high and high school, tried to switch it up, and failed miserably? I have no clue.

I do know that this is the problem with potential: The allure of the “possible” is more appealing than the road it takes to make it “tangible” The draft lottery for the NBA was yesterday. Think about all the potential that comes out of college, high school, and even overseas. All of these kids have a dream that they will be big stars in the NBA. NBA execs have high hopes that the kids they draft will turn out to be valuable assets for their team. They were big stars on the high school, college, and European platform, so naturally they should translate to the NBA game. Well that’s why they play the games, and that’s why you have draft steals, and draft busts.

Then you have the players who were solid in college, and who worked on their games to ascend into marquee players. I consider myself to be in this category. Had a lot to work on, but got into college and the real world, and with my experiences and observations, applied those lessons to my day-to-day life, and shaped up nicely. No I wasn’t the most poppin dudes in High School or Junior High, but I heeded my uncles words, focused on my self and my studies, and worried about the “other stuff” later on when it mattered. I’ll always bug out when I see a woman who in high school was top of the line, now look regular, broke down, and sorry. I’ll always be a little surprised when I see a dude with LeBron James potential years ago, look like 2011 Greg Oden.

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We will go through life wondering why certain people have success and we don’t. Why certain people are seen as the “next big thing” while we are “just ok”. Perception is reality, and while we can’t always control what people perceive, we can control our effort and determination. We can control our belief in self. We can control how we analyze ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and become better. Remember that potential energy needs a catalyst in order to be released as kinetic energy. Otherwise, the energy will remain latent. For those men and women who years ago were seen as potentially great, have fallen short now. Maybe in those early years, we were just great potential, and the true catalyst emerged once we reach the real world. it was enacted for some, and dormant for others. No matter what scientific and logical sense I try to make out of it, I still remain shocked today, that as I continue that same mundane drive to the gym, I will look over into that fast food restaurant, and see a dude that I once envied, that I once thought would be greater than us, that looked down at times upon the less popular, now in a fast food joint, taking shots instead of shot calling.



P.S – Single Black Male is a finalist in 5 categories in the Black Weblog Awards this year thanks to your nominations! We need your help one more time! Please vote for us in the finals for Best Blog Design, Best Blog Post Series, Best Sex & Relationship Blog, Best Group Blog, and Blog of the Year. Make sure you use a valid email address otherwise it won’t count. Click here to make it happen.

P.P.S. – This entry is an excerpt from my e-book dropping sometime this summer #NoDetox. The process has been interesting and I hope you all enjoy it when it is released.  Check out Dr Jays latest e-book “17th and K street” HERE