What Is Your Potential, and How Do You Get There?


My second post comes early this week because my friend, Tim, died, and I am heartbroken.  His sweet wife, Peggy, called with the tragic news this morning.  It is such a sad day.

Tim and I were close and shared many deep conversations.  For me, this made him special, but from Tim’s perspective, it made me one of hundreds if not thousands of people who felt close to him.  Tim had a way of creating space for deep, meaningful conversations, and all who responded to his invitation to “pull up a chair” helplessly found themselves baring their souls to this kind, sweet man.

Tim’s favorite part of his job was counseling people, mostly students, and I was privileged to be his office neighbor for the past four months.  Today, several grieving souls made a pilgrimage to the place where they shared their deepest fears and greatest dreams to a man full of wisdom and love.

Last week, Tim popped his head in my office with a new idea.  He shared that his typical approach to counseling students had always been to ask about their goals and dreams, which led to all sorts of meaningful moments.  But he had a new idea.  He asked what I thought about a new approach that asks students about their potential instead of their dreams.  He thought that just might be the better approach.

I’m not sure what I loved more, the idea itself, or the fact that this counseling maestro never stopped refining his craft.  Well, what I loved more was him.

Today, after absorbing the shocking phone call and then sharing the news with his loving colleagues, I walked into Tim’s office just to feel his presence.  I breathed in the spirit of the room and silently took in the sights of the pictures and books and stacks of work waiting for him this Monday morning.  And in that moment I noticed a little sticky note on the side of his computer monitor with the following notes: Reaching your potential – What is it?  How to get there?

I am sad that Tim won’t be able to work this new approach like a street magician, but from this day forward I will use these questions with students to tap into the magic that was Tim Pownall.  I am honored that he left me this final gift to use for good before moving on.


7 responses to “What Is Your Potential, and How Do You Get There?

  1. Beautiful story. Beautiful man. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My heart hurts for the Pepperdine community and everyone who was honored to know him. My prayers are with you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stephanie Blondell

    Graceful words for a grace-filled man. Thank you for putting it on paper. It soothes my hurting heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Al, I’m so sorry to hear about Tim’s passing. I am praying for you and everyone mourning. Thank you for sharing about “potential” in the meantime–what a powerful way to think about our future.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Professor Tim Pownall passes away (UPDATED) - Pepperdine Law Surf Report

  6. I only knew Tim but for a few moments but you could sense the depth of connectivity he sought to seek with others. Great post. Reminds me of a story – Field of Dreams. In the movie you’ve got a character that so badly wanted to play in the major leagues. When he gets his moment – his dream -it passes by and he never gets to live out his dream. But it is not tragic because in the end he becomes a doctor and touches the lives of many. So in the end he lives his purpose, his destiny, what I now believe Tim would have called his “potential”. May all those that knew Tim be comforted by memories of him.

    Liked by 1 person

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