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Home > Blog > Bliss is great, but great talent may be better
Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, July 07, 2004 5:07 PM
Bliss is great, but great talent may be better
Anita Sharpe on Passionate Work

What do you do if your passion is music and you're good enough to play with bands like the Beach Boys -- but you're not good enough to ever be more than a backing guitarist?

For many people, getting on a national stage would be more than enough validation for pursuing their passion. But Patrick M. Kelly decided that while he would never be more than a very good guitarist, he could be a great lawyer. Validation came in the form of a senior partnership with an international firm and president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, among other distinctions.

Kelly, who tells his story in the new book, Masters of Success by Ivan Misner and Don Morgan, believes that following your strengths is more important than following your bliss. How to identify your strongest talents? Kelly suggests looking for patterns -- possibly even obscure or unconventional threads -- as you ask yourself three questions:

* What three accomplishments am I proudest of in my life?
* What three things have other people praised me for doing?
* What specific abilities allowed me to do all of these things?

For Kelly, bliss didn't have to take too much of a backseat: 'I followed my strengths -- and I still get to sit in with the Beach Boys.'


lee - 7/12/2004 6:06:29 PM
ps perhaps his passion is not so much music as performing. In that case, he is following his passion with public-speaking and advocacy work!
lee - 7/12/2004 6:05:15 PM
I agree -- it is not a trade-off between talent and bliss. If Kelly could only get a miserable job in a hog slaughterhouse but got front row seats to a Beach Boys concert through a friend on the road crew...... just don't think the lad would be happy. Plus the guy gets to write a book and crow about his fabulous insight.

Don't all of us, though perhaps not so explicitly, go through the exercise of trying to identify our strengths and successes? it is an ongoing process in a world of ongoing change.
anita - 7/8/2004 8:49:51 AM

He does like practicing law, largely because it allows him a vehicle for his other passions/talents: public speaking and advocacy. My takeawy from this was that many people often don't look hard enough for passions that best use their strongest talents.
Curt Rosengren - 7/8/2004 12:06:39 AM
I haven't read the book, but I suspect there is something about the practice of law that Kelly really enjoys, not just that he's good at.

Following strengths simply because you're good at them, without regard for whether you enjoy putting them to use, is a recipe for unhappiness. If, on the other hand, you identify strengths that you also really enjoy putting to use, then it's the best of both worlds.

He's on the right track with those questions as a way to identify one's talents. Occasionally I do a whiteboarding exercise with clients aimed it getting a deeper picture of their talents than the standard what-are-my-strengths checklist.

I have them start by listing their big picture job responsibilities. Then, for each of those, I have them list the tasks they need to accomplish in order to fulfill those responsibilities. For each of those tasks, they then explore what skills they have that allow them to successfully accomplish it. The whole process is peeling back the layers of the onion.

The benefit of this is that it gives you a picture not only of your skills, but how they relate to the big picture as well.

Interestingly, the process seems to hone in primarily on the skills they really enjoy putting to use.


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