What with all of the excitement surrounding the Grammys, the Super Bowl and the upcoming Olympics, there’s been plenty of talk about talent. But, ask yourself this: why is it that we can recognize talent in entertainers and athletes and not in other people? Why are acting and throwing a football considered an expression of excellence, but not sales, programming or driving a city bus?
This talent blind spot is created very early in life. While there are definitely other factors involved, the principal cause is the testing that is done during elementary school. At that young and impressionable age, we give kids an IQ test and then designate those who achieve a certain score as “gifted and talented.” What does that mean for everyone else? Simple: they were at the end of the line when talent was handed out and came away empty-handed.
This perception is tragic on both the individual and national level. On the individual level, every single one of us is born with talent, but many of us will never discover it or know the happiness of using it in our career. And, on the national level, we are competing in a demanding global marketplace with one arm tied behind our back as we bring millions and millions of our citizens into the workforce with absolutely no clue about what they love to do and do best.
Now, to be clear, talent is not a skill or occupation. It is the capacity for excellence, which can be expressed as the ability to disaggregate complex tasks into smaller steps that can be efficiently accomplished or the ability to mold a group of disparate individuals into a high performing team or the ability to show compassion and caring for others in distress or yes, as the hand-eye coordination required to throw a football accurately, even on a cold day in February.
Each of these and other talents can be effectively applied in many, but not every field of work. To have a successful career, therefore, you must first eliminate your blind spot and see your talent – discover it, respect it, nurture it – and then make sure you select an occupation where you can use it to excel on-the-job. That’s your mission as a Career Activist – to express and experience your talent in the one-third of your life you will spend at work.
Thanks for reading,