I hate writing a blog that has anything to do with politics because of the divisive nature of the landscape. But, this blog is more about a philosophy on human growth and development. I cannot get a comment made by a commentator out of my head as it made an outstanding point on playing to one’s talents. After watching President Donald Trump address a Joint Session of Congress for the first time, commentator Van Jones stated, “If he finds a way to do that over and over again, he will be there for eight years.” This comment has been circling around in my mind for weeks now.
“If he finds a way to do that over and over again…” What Van Jones is saying is when you play to your talent, and when you do the things you are good at over and over again it leads to success. This is what those of us who have studied talent and potentiality have been passionate about for decades. Growth is about finding those things you do well and finding more time, avenues, partnerships, opportunities and people who can benefit from your strengths. This is what will lead to the outcomes you desire. You will not find the results you are looking for by identifying your areas of weakness and trying to change them. I’m not saying you should ignore them either by the way.
Let’s take an area of aptitude – say you are a great strategist – finding more opportunities to create and deliver on strategy is just like a violinist spending hours on scales, or a football player going through practice after practice perfecting their footwork, throwing or blocking. As leaders we need to be more proactive at our practice. And our practice is varied.
Let’s say you have this great talent for strategy but what you really stink at is mentoring others. What many people may try to convince you to do is spend MORE time mentoring. Or going to classes to learn how to become an ‘active listener.’ What is the result of this? You will be spending less time learning about and doing strategy and more time trying to hone an area of non-talent or non-interest. Would it be great if you were a great strategist and loved mentoring? Sure, but those aren’t the cards you were dealt. You were born to express the talent of strategy, not to be a mentor.
As a leadership development consultant who specializes in talent-based coaching, I get to share with leaders all of the time what makes them special and unique – I get paid to tell them, “Look, this is your gift to share with the world. What are we going to do about it?” Too many times I hear back, “yeah that’s great but what can I work on – you know get better at?” Warren Buffet in the book, Getting There: A Book of Mentors, shared:
“My brain is not a general-purpose brain that works marvelously in all situations. There are all sorts of things that I am no good at. My son can do things with music that I couldn’t do in a million years, I can’t play football well; I never could. I can’t play chess like other people can. But my mind does work in terms of evaluating businesses. I have this one little skill, and I was dropped into a society where it’s paid off in a huge way, huge way.”
I am sure the investors in Berkshire Hathaway are mighty glad that Mr. Buffet didn’t get fixated on becoming a better musician. In fact, he even identifies he is at his best in simple businesses and that he can’t understand complicated ones. He recognizes where his talents are the most effective and has gone deep and wide into that area.
If you have a weakness or fear that inhibits your growth in your area of talent, think about how to work around that, get a partner or work to improve it. For Warren Buffet, it was a fear of public speaking – a fear he has managed to overcome but is by no means seeking a career in that lane.
I highly encourage you to find your area of talent and spend time creating plans and seeking learning opportunities that allow you to do more of that well. If you are working in an environment in which your greatest talents do not have an outlet you need to think seriously about how you want to spend your life. You were born with talent – all humans have it – your job is to find it and exercise it as much as humanly possible. There is no cap. No finish line. No “done.” It is your gift and you need to use it.
The most important being practice. You are not going to move from having talent as a strategist to being one of the great strategic minds in your industry by reading about strategy. However, that said, you also can be more proficient, well-versed and agile by reading.
Libby Farmen, M.S.
Chief Consulting Officer
Libby Farmen, M.S. works as the Chief Consulting Officer for Talent Plus, overseeing consultants, interviewers and quality specialists. Using a growth-focused approach, Farmen works to provide integrated front line, manager and senior leader solutions for our client partners, specializing in creating innovative growth plans for leaders and employees