I can guarantee you: you are underrating your own gifts and talents.
The vast majority of people whom I meet underrate their own gifts and talents. I see it reflected in the many works and conversations surrounding people’s thinking about their strengths. “Work to your strengths” they say, and this becomes a skills list, not an exploration of their potential. You shouldn’t just work to your strengths. No, you should embrace your underlying gifts and talents – who you are – and use everything you have to develop, apply and work with your skills in order to achieve something you believe in. That means that sometimes you’ll be working against what you perceive as personal weaknesses,
If people just worked ‘to their strengths’, here’s a list of some of the things they would do:
- Stay in exactly the same job year after year for fear that that is all they are good at and all they will ever be good at.
- Never get married, because they’re good at being single and that’s it.
- Never learn a new skill or hobby, even as an adult, like drawing or singing or kayaking, because they’re simply not good at that and never were as children.
- Tell themselves they should never aim for promotion or executive positions, because they should simply stick with what they are currently ‘good at’.
- Never take a course or tried to develop in an area of fear or challenge, because they just don’t have the skills.
- Stick with overeating and no exercise, because frankly, they just aren’t good at that ‘self-discipline stuff’.
- Never spend time helping their own kids with projects, sports or social events or talking through personal issues, because that’s better left to ‘the professionals’.
How the Deficit Mentality Brings Us Down
I cannot begin to recount how frequently I encounter the deficit mentality everywhere I go: from government, to schools, to management, to recruitment evaluations, to executive appraisals, to team assessments, to personal growth and development. “I’m not good at that and never will be.” You don’t have to be good at everything – that’s just vain ego-driven nonsense – but if you seek to learn and grow as an individual or as a corporate entity, then you will be trying things that are out of your comfort zone, that you may not, at first glance, be good at.
Instead of having a deficit mentality through which we view everything – I am, or they are, not good at this and that – develop a ‘surplus’ mentality that looks at everything as a surplus from which you can draw, in order to accomplish something meaningful.
That Voice in Our Heads
We all have that voice in our heads that says, “You’re not good enough” and it’s hard to not listen to it at times. But whatever your beliefs or your faith, it’s a truism that the human spirit is capable of greatness. If you don’t believe it, watch my 8 year old daughter, whom we once thought might never be able to walk by herself, take her first steps. It doesn’t mean we won’t grumble and complain along the way, but we should accept the encouragement, help and positive vision of others as part of our daily walk.
This doesn’t mean that we are an island to ourselves. Every human being acts in relation to those around us. And we should learn to trust and work with the gifts and talents of others. If we simply rely on ourselves, we will fall flat on our faces. My daughter already knows that. We should all learn that lesson as well. It is strength to seek the help of others, not weakness. The fool relies only on himself, but the wise person seeks counsel.
Imagine, however, if you truly sought to understand and utilise your gifts and talents – and those of the people around you – to their fullest extent.
What People Have Achieved
Here are some of the things that people from history have achieved, despite the odds being that they would never achieve because it went against their perceived strengths:
- Albert Einstein progressed from being a boy who didn’t do very well at school and was lousy at mathematics, using his visual, allegorical imaginative bent to become one of science’s most venerated theoretical physicists.
- Helen Keller, blind, deaf and mute at a very young age, became a world leader and political advocate for numerous causes, an author and inspiring public speaker and lecturer.
- Winston Churchill went from a young man with a rebellious spirit and a speech impediment, to becoming the “bulldog” that helped the UK – and the free world – to weather the storm of Nazism.
And more recently…
- A hippy-ish, sometimes grumpy computer geek was sacked by his own company and, with his eye and instinct for technology design, returned to lead it to become the Apple that we know today.
- Bindeshwar Pathak used his academic, sociological bent to found a company (Sulabh International) dedicated to building toilets and thereby working to eliminate a whole aspect of horrific class denigration in modern India and emancipating thousands of women and families.
And if you think that each of these individuals accomplished what they did by themselves, then you need to go and read their stories properly. It was always the assistance of others that helped to draw out and to complement their own gifts and talents in order to pursue an admirable goal.
What You Should Do
Don’t underrate your own gifts and talents – those of yourself, or of your people. You can do more and should try to do more than you think – both personally and organisationally.
© 2014 Peter J. McLean
To better utilise your gifts and talents and those of your people, contact me. You can also visit one of our websites at www.lamplighter.com.au or www.authenticspeaking.com.au for resources and articles. Or subscribe to my video seminars to help you become a better leader, a better communicator and to achieve your aspirations and goals.