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Home > Blog > The Forum: What Do You Think You Do Best?
Out of Our Minds
Monday, May 10, 2004 8:00 PM
The Forum: What Do You Think You Do Best?
Anita Sharpe on Passionate Work

That was a question posed to me by two prospective investors in Worthwhile magazine.

I was prepared for a lot of questions, but that wasn't one of them. So like a Rorsharch test-taker, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: 'I'm good at seeing patterns.'

Immediately, the cartoon bubble over my head flashed: 'I can't believe I said that. What a jerk. At best, I sound pretentious; at worst, like I spend my days lying in a hammock.' Truth be told, 'seeing patterns' is probably not the answer I would have given had I had a chance to reflect and consider choices.

Yet, in fact, it's what I consider to be what I do best. And the things that enhance that perhaps-dubious talent -- talking to people, reading, observing and putting it all through a mental blender -- are what have always come naturally to me. It's also what I like.

How many of us downplay or are even embarrassed by what we do best? How many of us fail to consider that what we do naturally is what we should do with our lives?

(Incidentally, they invested.)


fouroboros - 5/19/2004 8:36:57 AM
Bob, can you arrange to come to our office and just sit for 2 hours every Tuesday 5-7? Sure would make partner meetings less kinetic. A tranquilizer gun is the only other option and that dings the feedback loop too much. Please say yes, I'll pay.
Bob Watkins - 5/13/2004 8:19:32 AM
Can you discover what you do best simply by listening to what others tell you? I have repeatedly heard from both clients and friends that I exert a calming influence whereever I am - ironic, because often I am turbulent inside! But it's a pattern I hear often enough that I can't ignore it.
Curt Rosengren - 5/13/2004 3:40:20 AM
What a great topic for discussion!

Chris, as far as transcendent and sexy, there's nothing more transcendent or sexier than someone who is tapped into the things that really light their fire. The energy difference between that person and someone who is simply plugging along (even if they excel at what they do) is incredible. There's something about someone who really loves what they do - regardless of how sexy it is on the surface - that is contagious.

Marcia - kudos for embracing who you are! That's a great example of how we feel like we 'should' be something we're not. Sounds like you realized that 90 miles an hour actually gives you energy. Everybody has their own balance. Just keep asking yourself, 'Does this work for me? Am I happy with my whole life?' It's only when the answer veers off towards, 'No,' that running full tilt becomes an issue. Stay aware, and you'll be able to head anything like that off at the pass.

Elizabeth, building on that awareness is GREAT! Once people get a picture of what really makes them tick, I always encourage them to continually scan the horizon for opportunity, even within the job they have. There's a lot more possibility to sculpt our roles than many of us realize.

And I second what Sean says about Now, Discover Your Strengths. Some great insights to be had there.

Lee - I too have near superhuman prowess in the caffeinated beverage consumption arena. Wow.

And abak, if moving towards doing something with animals is what really lights you up, it's never too late. You might not be able to make a big plunge and make a drastic change right now, but how about starting to take a dual track? Figure out where you'd like to go and take a longer term approach to get there. Maybe it will take five years (or more) of getting experience on the side, and putting money aside, and building the network you'll ultimately need. That way you can move in a direction that is what you'd really love, without giving up the immediate security of what pays the bills, right here, right now.

The payoff is so incredibly worth it.
abak - 5/12/2004 11:57:52 AM
I have a huge capacity to love and care for animals. That's what I do best. Of course that 'skill' wasn't even on the radar screen when selecting a career in college so long ago. And now, though I realize what I love to do, it's 'too late.' Over the years I've become good at computer coding and web site production - and, bottom line, that pays the bills.
How wonderful the world would be if we could (or would) all do for a living what we do best.
lee wilder - 5/11/2004 8:05:07 PM
My talents?

I drink coffee very, very well.

I am a darn good sleeper.

I read well.

Don't want to overwhelm the bloggers with a longer list of talents.
Sean Wheeler - 5/11/2004 12:45:29 PM
There is nothing wrong with having a talent for seeing patterns (this is one of my talents as well). In fact this is one of the 34 talent themes (Analytical) described in the book 'Now, Discover Your Strengths' by Buckingham and Clifton. The whole thesis of this book is about your last question. We shoudl be spend most of our time and energy executing and enhancing our talents and avoid our weaknesses.

After reading this book and taking the StrengthsFinder survey, I was able to see how my talents had affected the arc of my career. Inherently, I knew what myh talents were but this book gave me the framework and vocabulary to articulate them in a way that was meaningful to me and, most importantly, to my management.
Elizabeth Albrycht - 5/11/2004 9:47:14 AM
When I was growing up I always wanted to have a great talent. I was smart, but not the smartest. I played the flute, but wasn't first chair. I couldn't dance or act well enough to be a performer, although I loved Drama Club. I was no athlete.

Later, as I entered the workforce I still questioned my talents. I had studied communications and I was a generalist. In a world where specialists are extolled, generalists seem to have little place or praise. Plus, I went into a business that is widely denegrated (PR).

Now, I have a better sense of what my talent is. As Anita said above, I can see patterns. I have never heard anyone else claim that and I laughed with delight when I read her post. Actually, I usually describe it as the ability to synthesize extremely large amounts of information and make practical recommendations based on it. I like 'Pattern Master' better, but I think it would get too many snickers, even though I am still tempted to put it on my business card.

When I get the chance to really do what I love, based on this talent, I am in love with my job. Unfortunately, I can't spend most of my time doing this, although I have made progress in redefining my role towards this goal.
Marcia Hansen - 5/11/2004 12:51:09 AM
Chris, I think one of the purposes of Worthwhile is to help us transform, reframe, or re-imagine our so-called mundane talents and make them sexy or find work that we feel passionate about. You never know, you may unknowingly touch someone's life incredibly by expressing an idea or recommendation so very clearly! I peeked at your blog and from what I read very quickly was, you've got a talent for consulting and people come to you for advice. That's cool!

I have always had the impression that I needed to slow-down in order to be true to myself and honor my ideal work/life balance. However, what I am learning after much investigation is that I function best when I can fly at 90 mph. I also have a natural enthusiasm for learning new things and given enough freedom, I can create brilliant solutions. (ok, I have to admit, I hesitated and it was hard to use such a strong adjective as brilliant in the above sentence!)
Chris Yeh - 5/10/2004 11:34:42 PM
Unfortunately, few of us have a transcendent and sexy talent. 'Write music of surpassing beauty' is one thing, 'Sit in meetings and write clear and concise memos' is quite different.

I would like to be a creative and innovative thinker; instead, I'm an organized and systematic thinker that is good at exploring different incremental options and expressing a clear recommendation. Useful for the business world, but unlikely to bring me immortality!


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