3 Questions That Will Change Your Life

Our purpose is to realize our potential. Each of us has been created for a purpose, a reason, but if we don’t know what it is or what we want, our untapped potential stands idle.

Peter McWilliams


Last week I received an email from Clare (names changed), a former UCLA Extension international student who wanted to give me an update on her efforts to become an effective communicator. Here’s an excerpt:


“I ‘ve been trying to work on finding my voice. I think I’m generally a better listener than talker. Often I don’t express my opinion or defend my point. I don’t insert myself in a conversation, preferring to take a back seat and let other people enjoy the spotlight.

As convenient as this can be, people don’t have a chance to know what I think. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does I’ve been trying to make a conscious decision to make my voice heard and insert myself in the conversation.

Sometimes it’s easy, other times it’s hard, but I feel better once I’ve made myself heard.”


Clare had been painfully shy in class and so I was happy to learn she’s committed to being engaging and approachable.


The great reminder from her story is that change doesn’t just happen.


You have to wrestle with the demanding question –

What do I really want?

And then with the equally challenging question,

What am I willing to do for it?


My friend Ted is a staff writer for a late night show. When he was offered the job, friends and family were shocked because the offer was unexpected. Ted, though, had prepared for the day when just such a job would be offered him.


He submitted unsolicited jokes to this show, as though he actually had a job. He kept his name in front of the head writers, so they knew not only that he wanted a writing gig, but that he was prepared and qualified. Sure, he was surprised when the call came – BUT he had worked with, in and through hope for that day.


Change is always scary because you have to deal with the consequences –

What would happen if you got what you wanted –

if you successfully made the changes you claim you want to make?


Life, though, only makes sense from honestly grappling with:

What do you want?

Why do you want it?

What are you going to do to get it?


A few weeks ago I was having pizza at my favorite local bistro. Sitting at a nearby table was a twenty-something guy who had an athletic build and the air of a competitor.


He was in animated conversation with the waiter, and as a typical nosey ex-New Yorker, I couldn’t help but overhear. Seems he was taking acting classes (so L.A.!) and he sounded enthused and proud when he said, “I’ve always been good at everything I did” which made me wonder what he’s done in the past.


When the guy left I mentioned to the waiter that I admire the guy’s unbounded confidence. He laughed and said that guys like him were always too “cocky” for their own good.


Turns out, the guy is an adult film performer and he’s trying to segue into legit acting!


Chalk it up to my twisted sense of humor, but I like the idea of a porn actor taking pride in his work. I know, I know – but there is something refreshing about being able to assess what you’ve done and declare that it’s good work!


Realistically, his chances of having a legit acting career are against him. However, I don’t think he’ll give up easily because I suspect he’s determined to continue to explore his potential.


Any growth in your life, like it or not, is going to build on who you are right now. We don’t get to start over.

So, you might as well accept yourself as you are and go from there.

Peter McWilliams


Was this guy a smug, delusional porn “star”?  Maybe. But I’d like to think he’s a guy who realizes he doesn’t get to erase the past and he’s hell-bent on making the effort to build upon his successes and reinvent himself.

He knows what he wants and from what I overheard he’s prepared to do what he needs to achieve what he wants.


A timid student, a late-night comedy writer and a porn star – hmm – sounds like the opening of a joke – but they’re not – just three people striving to fulfill their potential.


What about you? What do you want? What are you willing to do to achieve it?

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