Successful People and Their Struggles
Richard Branson, the Virgin brand mogul, gets bored easily. He channels this "problem" into a positive by "getting himself into numerous businesses that he can spread himself around in."
Charles Schwab was dyslexic and almost flunked out of Stanford, having failed English twice. In business, he overcame this reading problem by speaking from the heart (nixing the need for reading and writing long memos and speeches).
Cisco CEO John Chambers was also dyslexic, so he relies on memorized speeches and interacting personally with people as much as possible.
Each of these people found a way to succeed in the face of some weakness.
Strengths from Weakness and Natural Talent
I'd like to propose that you and I look at our lives in light of those two gifts. And they are both gifts, although the first one may be difficult to see at first.
Strengths from Weakness
This isn't happy talk or psycho-babble.
Each of us is faced with some struggle around which we have to make a choice. Either we succumb to the struggle or we see it through. What we label as "overcoming" is really the molding of our character through adversity. In that process, we discover and develop strengths that serve our natural talents and purpose in life. All of the examples above reflect that.
If you choose to acknowledge your struggle and see it through, you'll end up leading and mentoring others who are struggling with similar challenges.
You'll possess knowledge, wisdom, and empathy about the issue that others cannot gain from classroom study. It will become an area of passion and personal meaning. You'll become known for your insight and strength.
What You "Can't Not Do"
Your Natural Talent(s)
If you're reading this, you are probably committed to personal and professional development. So at some point, you ask yourself "What are my real talents?"
I do a lot of mid-career counseling with executives who also wrestle with that question. Every one has read about Following Your Bliss, Pursuing Your Passion, and Discovering Your Strengths. They get the idea. But they find it difficult to separate skills that they've developed from the talents they possess.
During one session--in the midst of my own frustration--I blurted out, "What can't you not do?"
That proved to be a breakthrough question and has turned into a cornerstone of the career counseling part of my practice.
Look at your life. What can't you not do? No matter what your job title or job description, what do you find it impossible not to get involved with? What are you always getting in trouble for because you're not supposed to be doing it--or doing it that way?
Start paying attention to that and you'll start to identify your natural talent(s). And when you're using those talents, you won't even feel as if you are working. That's one of the reasons they can be hard to identify. We're so good at them, we don't recognize them for what they are. And we tend to place a low value on them because they don't "seem like work." Yet they are the part of you that makes you a star.
What to take away
1. When faced with a struggle, recognize that seeing it all the way through will present you with a new strength. You don't yet know what that is.
2. When you make that choice, it will become an area of your life where you will help, guide, and mentor others. Your burden will become one of your gifts.
3. If you are an HR person or manager who is interviewing candidates: Ask the candidate to describe a struggle that has led to a new talent, and how they use it. Pay attention to this. It will be a powerful part of their career potential
4. What can't you not do?
Stop not doing it.
If what "you can't not do" leads you toward a solo gig, here is some fresh data about "independent workers." MBO Partners has just released survey results showing a trend toward a more independent workforce. Tip of the hat to Rachel Urman for ensuring that the info go to us.
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