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Alex is a published novelist. He was 21 before someone whose opinion he trusted pointed out to him that he could write. He hadn't a clue. He had started a rudimentary journal when he was 8, and a neighborhood newsletter when he was 10. He thought writing was something everyone could do and no big deal.
This happens all too often with talents. Talents are innate; something so easy for you to do you can't remember when you couldn't do it; something you 'can't help doing' so you don't feel it when you do it, and you also think everyone can, they just aren't. Talents are also things that are fun for you to do, almost in sense of flow - you'd do them even if you weren't getting paid, and in fact they are hobbies and avocations of many of us. If you cease doing it for a while and start up again, you're immediately back up to speed.
Knowledge and skills can be acquired, but talents are innate.
Why is this important? In their book, "Now, Discover Your Strengths," Buckingham and Clifton propose theory that if you work in your strength areas, you can perform consistently and effortlessly at a near perfect level and find great satisfaction. Sounds like heaven on earth, doesn't it? Well, there are ways to get there. Listen up! “Most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths," authors say. "Guided by our parents, by our teachers, by our managers, and by psychology’s fascination with pathology, we become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair these flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected."
Can 2,000,000+ people be wrong? That's how many people were interviewed for data in this book. From their research, Buckingham and Clifton Buckingham do not support extreme and extremely misleading contention that "you can play any role you set your mind to," but it did lead to this truth: "Whatever you set your mind to, you will be most successful when you craft your role to play to your signature talents most of time.”
From their research, they came up with StrengthsFinder profile (you can take it if you buy book) which will return to you your 5 top "themes." There are 34 themes, and they have such names as -- Empathy, Communicator, WOO (winning people over), Deliberative, Intellection, Significance, Achiever, Activator, and Maximizer.
In my work with clients and their profiles -- I'm a coach -- I've found Peter Drucker to be right on when he said most Americans don't know what their strengths are. "When you ask them," he said, "they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is wrong answer.”
Here's an example (used with permission) of a client's profile. He was very unhappy selling insurance, and his profile came back, in this order: Positivity (optimism), WOO (winning others over), Empathy, Communication, Activator. From my experience this man had most seamless interface with people I've ever experienced. He didn't know meaning of "cold call." He thought they were "fun." Even without knowing long definitions of those terms, wouldn't you say this man could talk a bird down out of a tree, and sell ice to an Eskimo? And Empathy made him sincere and authentic about it. Like everyone else I've worked with, he didn't "believe" his profile, as Drucker said. He said, "You mean my boss was right all time. I really am good at this?" "Yes," said I; I was giving him e-courses for free, and it had happened so smoothly, I haven't even noticed it.
The solution in his case was to move him to a much bigger playing field. Such talents, after all. He's now in sales, selling a huge ticket item that benefits humanity (the Empathy) and price tag makes it worthwhile to him, i.e., he can feel it.
Other patterns? I've found that people with Maximizer in their profiles are most sure their profiles aren't theirs. Maximizers are adamant about treating people as unique individuals, and any sort of categorization (such as an assessment) grates on them. See how it works? Even though with 33,000,000 possible combinations, it is highly unlikely you'd ever see two profiles that were same. How unique is that?
Maximizer also has shown up in profiles of 3 coaches I've done; Maximizer means loving to put polish on pearl, to make something great into something really superb. It's what they do! Nice trait for a coach, eh?