You’re Not Everything You Could Be

By | July 30, 2019

[July 30, 2019] Early 19th century French philosopher Auguste Comte once wrote that the secret to life is to “know yourself to improve yourself.” This line of thinking is an ancient and brilliant one too. What it means is that to be a better person, leader, family member, employee, or friend, one must first recognize that we are not who we could be.

One piece of advice my mother gave me was to “live up to your potential.” She was no philosopher, but she was a wonderful person who had lived in some of the most difficult of times and had a remarkable life. She had never read Auguste Comte or Sun Tzu or any other famous person I quote here occasionally, but she understood what it meant to be a good person.

Several months ago, I wrote an article (see link here) that quoted University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson that said: “You’re way less than you could be.” Peterson has gone on to elaborate on this theme, and you can find him discussing it in a YouTube video titled “Life isn’t everything it could be.” It has over 5.5 million views; that’s remarkable because it strikes a chord of truth.1

Professor Peterson gives us some practical advice that makes you a better person in the eyes of your family and yourself (your parents probably said the same thing in a similar way). We should have learned this as a child, but many of have not, so I’m summarizing what he said:

  • Adopt the responsibility you should have.
  • Stop wasting your own time and opportunities in front of you.
  • Stop making things worse because you’re spiteful, hateful, resentful, or arrogant.
  • Don’t do stupid things you know are stupid.

If only we would listen to this prophetic advice. As old as this thinking might be, it is difficult to do because no one likes to admit they, themselves, are the real problem. Times are rare that we are forced from the outside to look inward on ourselves. Leaders who don’t to improve themselves are deeply flawed.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “You’re Not Everything You Could Be

  1. Kenny Foster

    Dennis Prager said, “The biggest obstacle to people becoming better is that you have to really want to be a good person in order to be a better person, and most people would rather be other things.” Sage comment.

  2. Maureen S. Sullivan

    Gen. Satterfield, I loved today’s article. Please keep these wonderful, impactful blog posts coming our way.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      I agree and why I’ve become a big fan of this website.

  3. Eric Coda

    Great article that should be read by all young people who want to make themselves a better person. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield for a home run today.

  4. Roger Yellowmule

    “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.” by US Pres Bill Clinton

    1. Walter H.

      I’m still new on this website and comments like the ones below and the quote from Bill Clinton is why I keep coming back.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      I’m no fan of Bill Clinton but he was right with his comment on never giving up. That is the way we become better.

  5. Janna Faulkner

    Life is a learning experience. We get up, make mistakes, pick ourselves back up, and start again. The important part is that we must start again. Making mistakes is a part of life, and above all, we need to learn from these mistakes. Every day is a new day that gives you the chance to be better than you were yesterday. Apply what you have learned to better yourself, and continue forward with life knowing you’ve grown.

    1. JT Patterson

      Good comment, Janna. I found myself floundering as a young man but finally got my act together after realizing that hard work, honesty, loyalty, and never giving up was the secret to making it in the world.

      1. Tracey Brockman

        If you want something, work for it. Practice. Don’t give up, even if it feels hopeless.

    2. Harry B. Donner

      Thanks Janna. This is the basic idea on how I live my life. Maybe that is why I’ve been reasonably successful in business, family, and with friends.

  6. Max Foster

    This idea that we can be better than we are, is the existential reason for our being. Many ancient philosophers write about it and that is why reading those old documents is worthy of our time. Best to read them with interpretations of modern experts. That way, you don’t have to worry about a misinterpretation or a misread.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Wow, you are a philosopher in the making, Max. Thanks. Very true comment.

  7. Army Captain

    Great post. Being in the US military helps many young people by providing the structure and discipline oversight that helps make them better soldiers (or sailors, etc) and better people. Well said.

  8. Jerome Smith

    Just like the old US Army slogan, “be all you can be.”

    1. The Kid 1945

      I agree. This is also a very old theme of humans. You can even get this idea of ancient philosophical texts and religious writings.

      1. Ronny Fisher

        Thanks Doug for linking to one of the old commercials. I too remember them fondly.

      2. Dale Paul Fox

        I thought to myself that I was the only one who really enjoyed the nostalgia of those times and the commercials that got me to join the US Army.

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