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Many people don't put a high value on me,
even though I have more potential than most.
I have certain well-defined tasks to complete,
but if I complete them all, then watch out!

It's true that I'm smaller than others,
but pass by me on the 5th and you might pay.
It's true that I'm slower than most others,
but I've never reverted any of my decisions.

Even when I cannot physically move forward,
I do everything I can to fulfill my duties.
My siblings and I help each other succeed,
But few reach enlightenment and are transformed.

What am I?

The accepted answer will explain all the lines.

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Would an answer related to radioactivity be off the mark? $\endgroup$ – Going hamateur Aug 10 '15 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Goinghamateur yes sir $\endgroup$ – JLee Aug 10 '15 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ Nice riddle! Reminds me of riddlersden.com/#11 :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 10 '15 at 19:08
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You are

A pawn in chess

Many people don't put a high value on me,

Pawns are generally worth 1 point

even though I have more potential than most.

Pawns are the only piece that can be promoted

I have certain well-defined tasks to complete,

Can only move forward, so no decision about direction

but if I complete them all, then watch out!

Once a pawn has moved to the last rank, it may be promoted to a more powerful piece

It's true that I'm smaller than others,

Pawns are the smallest chess piece

but pass by me at "5 o'clock" on the 5th and you might pay.

If a pawn moving two squares passes the capture area of a pawn on its fifth rank, it may be captured en passant

It's true that I'm slower than most others,

Pawns only move one square at a time (or in certain situations 2)

but I've never reverted any of my decisions.

Pawns cannot move backwards

Even when I cannot physically move forward,
I do everything I can to fulfill my duties.

Blocked pawns still provide defensive coverage to neighboring files

My siblings and I help each other succeed,

Pawns are usually arranged in a defensive formation across the width of the board. Also, pawns next to each other can form a chain, which makes them stronger.

But few reach enlightenment and are transformed.

Most pawns don't make it to the last rank to be promoted

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer, brilliant insight. My only quibble (and that's with the original riddle, not your solution) is with the "5 o' clock" part - I don't see how that relates to the fifth rank of a chess board. I might just have said: "Try to get past me on the fifth, and you might pay". "The fifth" is still a bit of a misdirection if you think about it in terms of time (i.e. the 5th of the month), but it also fits perfectly with the fifth rank. $\endgroup$ – Deepak Aug 11 '15 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Deepak It might also refer to the fact that, from the opponent's perspective, one of the capture squares is approximately in the "5 o'clock" position $\endgroup$ – Sabre Aug 11 '15 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Deepak Great suggestion. I am now changing the riddle to incorporate your idea. Thx. $\endgroup$ – JLee Aug 11 '15 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Well it should be 5th or 4th depends on the color of your pieces. $\endgroup$ – Zikato Aug 11 '15 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Zikato Although the ranks are numbered in chess, unlike file, "rank" is usually used relatively. For example, if someone says, "I pushed my pawn to the last rank," it means the rank furthest from him, which would be different for each player. You also hear things like, "I've got a pig on the 7th," meaning I've got a rook on the 7th (relative to my side) rank. So, what I'm saying is, it's always the 5th rank (from the perspective of the player capturing). Wikipedia uses it like this too: "A pawn on its fifth rank may capture an enemy pawn..." $\endgroup$ – JLee Aug 11 '15 at 13:44
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Are you perhaps a

Seed?

Many people don't put a high value on me,

Seed packets are super cheap, usually costing less than a few dollars.

even though I have more potential than most.

There are many seeds that can grow into many things from such a small object.

I have certain well-defined tasks to complete,

Seeds have many duties such as protection and transportation to ensure that the embryo within is safe and can grow.

but if I complete them all, then watch out!

If the seed can protect the embryo, then it will start to sprout. I guess it's exciting to see the first signs of germination?

It's true that I'm smaller than others,

Seeds are indeed small.

but pass by me at "5 o'clock" and you might pay.

Not sure about this. There are plants called "4 o'clock" flowers, but I've yet to find a correlation to this line.

It's true that I'm slower than most others,

Seeds take a long time to grow, roughly 10-21 days.

but I've never reverted any of my decisions.

AFAIK, seeds can't reverse their growth :P

Even when I cannot physically move forward,

Seeds cannot move without some kind of aid.

I do everything I can to fulfill my duties.

As mentioned above, protecting the embryo.

My siblings and I help each other succeed,

Some seeds will travel and grow together.

But few reach enlightenment and are transformed.

Only seeds that have the right conditions can grow and transform.

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Could it be,

A Red Light

Many people don't put a high value on me, even though I have more potential than most.

I don't really have anything for this one.

I have certain well-defined tasks to complete, but if I complete them all, then watch out!

A red light pretty much only has one task and you need to watch out for it

It's true that I'm smaller than others, but pass by me at "5 o'clock" and you might pay.

A red light is smaller than a stop sign and if you run it, especially at 5 O'Clock rush hour, you might get a ticket, or worse, pay with your life.

It's true that I'm slower than most others, but I've never reverted any of my decisions.

red lights have a delay on them before they change to green in order for remaining traffic in the intersection to clear

Even when I cannot physically move forward, I do everything I can to fulfill my duties.

Red lights can't move but they are always trying to do their job

My siblings and I help each other succeed, But few reach enlightenment and are transformed.

A red lights siblings could be yellow and green and they are enLIGHTened when they change, transformed, colors

My answer seems kinda stretched but it's something

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