The world conspires to make us believe we were born without talent. The messages begin early and continue like a drum beat throughout our education and our career. They say over and over again, “You’re not extraordinary. You’re nothing special.” I’m here to tell you that you are.
How many times do we get bullied by the bell shaped curve? From IQ tests when we’re kids being considered for the Gifted & Talented class to the instructions employers give our supervisors during the performance appraisal process, we forced into a normal distribution. And, what’s considered normal? A handful of “A” level performers, a handful of failures and a whole lot of average people in the middle.
And, that’s simply not an accurate portrayal of people. There is greatness waiting to be recognized in all of us. Now, to be absolutely clear: I’m not talking about children’s sports leagues which hand out trophies for showing up. And, I’m not talking about schools which praise effort without results. I’m saying that all of us have talent, and it’s the expression of that talent which makes us extraordinary.
You see, talent is the capacity for excellence. And happily, it is an attribute of our species. Like our opposable thumb, it is a characteristic that defines being human. Every single person – you, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your siblings – can excel at something because all of you have been endowed with a talent.
The challenge is in discovering it. Some people are lucky; their talent is obvious. You can see the talent of Lady Gaga and Tiger Woods, but they’re the exception to the rule. For most of us, talent is a mystery, and we’re the only ones who can solve it.
So, What Should You Do?
Uncovering one’s talent isn’t easy. And it’s made more difficult by well-meaning programs that encourage us to be satisfied with mediocrity. What we need, instead, is to (a) acknowledge and respect our inherent capacity for excellence and (b) devote ourselves to finding nurturing the talent with which we’ve been endowed.
Why should you go to all that trouble? The expression and experience of your talent is the key to success, at least it is in the one-third of your life you’ll spend at work. Too many of us work our way through thirty or forty years in this field or that and think that the competence and/or seniority we acquire along the way is the best we can do. It’s not. Competence and seniority are fine, but they’re nothing extraordinary.
The expression of your talent enables you to both perform at your peak and achieve a full measure of satisfaction – genuine and enduring happiness – from doing so. When you know your talent and bring it to work with you, you’re empowering yourself to be the best you can be at work. That’s not only an extraordinary outcome for your employer; it’s an extraordinary experience for you, as well.
So, what then are you looking for? If talent isn’t a skill or an occupation, just what does is it? Some, of course, will say it’s your passion, but that’s not right either. I’m passionate about writing and John Grisham has nothing to worry about from me. No, talent is the intersection of what you love to do AND do best. It is a faculty for superior work that you can’t wait to do every single day.
Your talent might be the ability to:
- disaggregate complex tasks into more manageable steps so that others can perform them effectively;
- communicate hard-to-understand subjects clearly so that others can make use of the information;
- show compassion and caring so that others can get the support they need in difficult circumstances; or
- organize others so that they are able and motivated to work as a team in the accomplishment of a mission.
Once you’ve made that discovery, take the next and equally as important step. Respect what you’ve learned by focusing your career on a field or fields where you are able to express and experience your talent on-the-job. Not all talents are useful in every field, but every field is best performed with talent. The key to success, therefore, is work to with your talent every single day. Do that, and you’ll prove to yourself and everyone else that you are extraordinary.
Thanks for reading,