I was in a conversation with a group of businesspeople and one of the group – a published business coach and “life coach” (she also has a business that focuses on ‘talent’) - said that when it comes to public speaking people either just “have it” or they don’t. Apparently, she thinks she has it. I immediately disagreed and launched into why she is wrong.
I cannot count the number of times I have come across people, quite often some kind of highly regarded professional or educator, who think that some seemingly special skill cannot be developed in others. I shudder to think of the kinds of staid and regimented growth their clients would have if they listened to them. Talent can be developed.
In one of the books out there on strengths, the authors go into almost ecstatic praise of General Colin Powell for how he demonstrated such a brilliant gift as a speaker at one of their events. The authors then comment along the lines of, “But that was Colin Powell and he has an innate gift that no one can approach. That’s his strength.”
The conclusion that they seem to draw is that a strength is an outcome in an adult’s life that should be accepted for what it is, without any others being able to make the commitment to developing that same strength. That is, they believe that what you’ve got is all you’ve got and you should just work with that.
The evidence from psychology, neuroscience, biology and life around us is that new talents and strengths can be developed.
Every week, I work with clients on their leadership, their communication, their businesses and their lives. Within ONE DAY, I have seen people turn from fearful, anxiety-ridden, shy people who would never get up and speak to becoming powerful speakers confidently moving a room with reason and emotion, because they were given the tools to see how they could talk with a group in a meaningful way and they had a reason to now try to develop this skill. It CAN be learnt.
My doctoral studies are on the development of professional giftedness. It’s an original term that I have coined, to denote someone who appears to have an innate gift that they have developed into a talent that sets them apart from the rest of their peers. There is a great deal to consider in terms of human development and how that contributes to these individuals’ talents and skills, but their ‘innate’ gifts are ones that the vast majority of people have within – these people have learned to tap into their own gifts in order to achieve a meaningful goal and purpose. They use their existing strengths to develop new ones.
But ‘therein lies the rub’: if you don’t have a real purpose and need, you won’t be as likely to develop the gifts and talents you need.
One last point: I have a very different perspective on human development. That’s because my youngest daughter has cerebral palsy. She turns 6 in May. She cannot move herself around, she cannot feed herself as a rule, she cannot speak (though she communicates a lot).
In the last couple of months, she has started to sit herself up consistently. It has taken over 5 years of hard work on the part of teams of people to finally get her to be able to sit herself up. When she started doing it, my family was jumping up and down and basically throwing a party for her. It’s a huge relief for health reasons and her ongoing development.
This is a small step for others, but an incredible leap for Alyssa. If we had said, “Well, you either you have it or you don’t!” we never would have gotten to this point.
Don’t give up on becoming something and growing because some self-proclaimed life coach or otherwise says you can’t. It may take a lot of hard work and assistance and you may not become the world’s greatest. But that small step for others may be a giant leap for you and it will all be worthwhile.