When people talk about 'living up to your potential' there is generally an expectation that what you need to do is climb the corporate ladder until you have some kind of job corresponding to your success in school. If you sucked in school then you can be forgiven for not flying high but if you had great marks then to live up to your potential you need to run your own company or have some other kind of 'maximum success' career. Obviously I don't have my to speak of for living up to my potential since I managed to have decent marks in high school and get a degree (barely...) but I stay at home tinkering on my projects and doing housework. I don't place much or really any importance on how high a person flies careerwise and although I am certainly not alone in this I surely must be in the small minority.
Back when I was interviewing for my last job I had an interesting conversation on this topic. The interviewers gave me a standard sort of speech about the opportunities the job had for advancement into management and made it clear that people in the job I was interviewing for could go far with the right attitude.
Me: Generally managers would be expected to work more like 50 hours a week, correct?
Me: So more like 60 hours a week?
Me: I have no interest in doing that. I want to work 40 hours a week, work hard, do a good job and I haven't any desire to be promoted. If you want a new manager to groom, you don't want me. If you want a really top notch employee then I am your man.
I wasn't at all sure at the time if that speech was going to change my chances of getting the job but I figured it couldn't hurt to be honest on this point since I had absolutely no desire at all to get promoted - if for some bizarro reason they really needed a corporate climber (because they are short on those?!?) then I won't get the job, which is good. It turned out that they didn't care at all whether or not I wanted to be promoted but actually thought that me being very forthright about my intentions was a good thing.
Even for people who claim to place little importance on status there is usually a very strong drive to climb higher. How often do you hear of extremely competent, good employees who turn down promotions? How often do people celebrate being promoted even when it comes with strings, like longer hours or more stress, attached? Of course some people do really prefer the job further up the line but for most the costs are offset by the additional status. Status has always been a huge driver of breeding success among humans though so it isn't like this is new... nor is it going away. It seems like the lack of desire to compete for status is probably bad news for my genes down the line if the past is any indication.
Another take on the same thing: