“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
During one of my visits to London, I spent one of the days browsing around the exhibits and displays at the Natural History Museum. It was during the peak season of summer so there was an eclectic crowd, consisting of students, tourists, and solitary explorers such as myself.
Despite having to walk through throngs of crowds in un-air-conditioned halls on an unusually hot day in the UK, I took great delight in exploring the various galleries that enhanced my knowledge on the human species, the animal kingdom, and Earthly phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
The most popular section of the museum was undoubtedly the one that housed the dinosaur exhibits. Visitors were enthralled by the attractions, which included the towering skeletal remains of a T. Rex, the skull of a Triceratops and the shells of Oviraptor eggs. It instantly transported them to the Jurassic era when these formidable reptiles ruled the planet.
I patiently stood in line to read the inscription beside each showcase, particularly the ones that described the characteristics of each dinosaur. What impressed me the most was how each dinosaur, from the tiny Theropoda to the massive Titanosaurus, had distinct bodily features and dispositions that helped them adapt to their unique habitat.
For example, predator dinosaurs, such as T. Rex, had eyes facing outwards on the front of skull to give them the depth of vision to help them hunt their prey. Whereas dinosaurs that were hunted (the plant-eating ones) had eyes located on the sides of their head, which allowed them to see predators from both sides.
It became evident to me that evolution has always ensured that every living entity on the planet is born with attributes and traits that’ll ensure their survival, including us humans as well. Just as how birds have wings to fly and fish have fins to swim, we all possess a blend of characteristics that are not only essential for our survival but which can facilitate the actualization of our purpose.
Each of us is endowed with a unique cocktail of DNA that gives rise to distinct aptitudes, talents and abilities. Yet most of us grew up in a system that did not educate us on how to explore the positive facets of our persona. Instead, we were told to spend more time working on our weaknesses. The people around us were more inclined to warn us about our shortcomings instead of highlighting our gifts.
Without support from the right role models and advocates, we may easily slip into our natural tendency to self-criticize and be hard on ourselves. Focusing on our flaws and attempting to do things that don’t come easily to us is not only demotivating but it steadily chips away at our self-esteem.
If you look at the careers of exceptionally talented individuals such as tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, golf champion Tiger Woods, and singing legend Michael Jackson, you’ll see that they all had family members who validated their potential. From an early age, their family members did everything in their power to nurture their kid’s talents by encouraging them to practice and investing in their training.
If you belong to the majority of us that didn’t receive this form of guidance, you can still turn the tide. You no longer have to your waste time and energy on trying to fit into a mold that doesn’t utilize your talents. The first step is a willingness to acknowledge that you are gifted and that you’ll stay committed to the process of discovery and creating a platform for yourself.
It’s also important to be aware that everyone has weaknesses and that no one is perfect. Even the most successful individuals in history had weaknesses, but what set them apart is that they learnt the art of leveraging their strengths and minimizing or outsource their weak points.
From a productivity standpoint, it makes sense to focus on your strengths. Attempting to improve your weaknesses will consume a lot more energy and time, and will deteriorate your confidence and reduce your chances of maximizing your potential.
In the end, it’s your strengths that’ll take you to higher levels of greatness.
Here are five steps you can take to hone in on your ‘superpowers’:
1. Believe in yourself and find support: The ability and willingness to play to your strengths always comes from a solid inner foundation of personal power and self-esteem. If you aren’t confident about your capabilities and feel out of sync with your inner truth, the first step is to work on your beliefs. Once you have established a secure place within yourself, you need to find a group of supporters who believe in your vision and can offer you advice and encouragement whenever the road gets bumpy.
2. Get clear on your strengths: The way to gain clarity about your strengths is through a dual process of self-exploration and experimentation. You can take an inventory of your strengths by asking yourself questions such as: What am I good at? What am I always complimented on? What comes to me more easily than anything else? What feels natural and does not need effort? At my workplace, what do my boss or coworkers consult me about? Which activities induce a flow state? In addition to this, you may ask friends, family members, co-workers and mentors for their opinion. Additionally, there are plenty of professional assessments that you can take to add more pieces to the puzzle.
3. Find an alignment with your values: You won’t be motivated to use your strengths if it does not fulfill you on a soul level. The only way that you can find that fulfillment is by creating an alignment between how you express your gifts and your values and purposes. Have a look at your top five personal assets and ask yourself: Do I feel naturally drawn to this strength? Do I feel excited or energized by it? Answering these questions may require some trial and error to see what it feels like.
4. Make time to nurture those strengths: The mastery of any skill is through dedicated and focused practice. Based on the Pareto Principle, you should spend 20% of your time doing what you’re good at and let others handle the other 80% that doesn’t come to you easily. As author, Ryan Kahn, once said, “Master your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.” By following this principle, you’ll become more efficient, creative and productive. When you know which activities to partake in, focus on doing them to the best of your ability. For example, if you aren’t a stellar public speaker but you’re excellent at communicating by writing then dedicate yourself to writing and becoming one of the best writers.
5. Create the right opportunities: Nowadays, the marketplace favors specialists and experts in their fields. That’s why showcasing your strengths will give you a competitive advantage in becoming a leader who can add value to the world. You need to package your offerings in a way that’ll appeal to potential consumers and fans. Ask yourself: How can I use my strengths? Where am I already using them and how can I do more of it? How much do I use this strength currently – at work, at home, in my hobbies, in my community? Would others appreciate it?
For example, if you have a beautiful singing voice and you have a desire to venture beyond Karaoke booths, you can start by lending your voice to a local church choir or doing small gigs at local cafes. As you improve and gain more exposure, you can create opportunities for getting discovered by the bigwigs and landing that record deal that you’ve always dreamed about.
When Michelangelo was asked about his process of creating a sculpture, he simply stated that he saw the angel in the marble beforehand and that all he had to do was carve into the marble until he could set him free.
Just like a piece of iridescent marble, you too have potential within you, waiting to be expressed and manifested in the outside world. All you need to do is see it and let it come to light.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are you naturally talented at? What steps can you take towards playing to your strengths?
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