Updated: Feb 27
When it comes to food, the less processed the better.
When it comes to your talents, not so much.
Your talent “in the raw” is uninformed and inexperienced. Your talents automatically kick in when you’re operating in the world. If you haven’t invested in your talents – knowledge, skills, & practice – then when you use your talent(s), you’re not going to be very productive. Yes, you’ll still probably be better than someone who doesn’t have that talent, but you’re not going to nail your performance.
Think about a superhero when they first discover their powers. It’s usually through some accident that they discover their new Strengths. As they start experimenting, it quickly becomes apparent that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Depending on the superhero, that can mean spiderwebs everywhere, accidentally knocking down a building, unpleasant falls, or any number of supersized disasters. In a movie, that’s where they start the montage where they practice, screw up, and hone their talents until they become experts.
Once the superhero successfully masters their talents, you move on to the more exciting scenes of the movie where they save the world, subdue the bad guy, and rescue any unfortunate victims. That’s what’s known as mature talent. Mature talent is well-informed, practiced, and productive. All the mistakes the hero made at the beginning of the movie have been replaced with amazing maneuvers and feats of strength. When you invest in your talents, your talents become Strengths. They become your superpowers.
What does investing in your talents look like? It’s supporting your talents by learning new skills, knowledge, and intentionally practicing using them in productive ways. The first step for everyone is to simply become aware of how you’re using your talents every day. Everyone has good and bad habits attached to their talents, but until you start paying attention to how you use them you can’t separate what’s working and what’s getting in your way. How do your talents help you with your different roles or tasks? How do your talents hinder you? Thinking about how you use your talents seems strange at first and requires a commitment to make time each day – even just a few minutes. Once you do, you will start to see patterns you can use to improve your performance. From there, your investment choices will be based on your unique set of talents and how you use them.
For example, one of my talents is Input. Basically, I collect information that I think will be useful for me or people I know. You know that friend who keeps sending you articles and videos they think you’ll like but you never even click the links? That’s me. If I’m working on a new project, my Input can be incredibly helpful. I’ve probably already collected information that might be useful and am quick to go look for more. Where it can get in my way is because I enjoy the search so much, I can spend too much time researching instead of doing. Since I know that about myself, I can create safety nets like setting deadlines by scheduling group meetings (so I have to have things done by then) or asking a friend to check in on me to make sure I haven’t gone down an Input rabbit hole. Ways for me to invest in my Input, include: getting information on maximizing search engines and other information services; learning what websites and publications have the best information on the topics I’m focusing on; and finding ways to better organize the information I collect.
One of my friends has Activator as a talent. She can easily put thoughts into action. You know that person who wants people to stop talking about it and do it already? That’s her. Her Activator is great when things need to happen quickly or to keep people like me from taking too much time for things like Input. She also has more work to do than other people because she often decides to just take over a project or task because no one else is moving things forward fast enough for her taste. When we worked together, if whatever we were discussing was something that I didn’t really want to do I’d just wait and more often than not she’d volunteer to do it. Lol. (People can also figure out when you’re not using your talents productively and use them against you.) Ways for her to invest in her Activator: learning better time management skills so she can better track what’s already on her plate and not over book herself; and learning the systems and processes involved in her work to make sure projects can move along as quickly as possible.
In a superhero movie – and your life – the practicing, learning, and skill-building often seem tedious. It’s definitely not the most exciting and applauded part of the movie. That’s why there’s the montage with inspirational music to fast forward to the good stuff. In reality, the most important part of the process is the training and preparation. Yes, you have talents and they give you incredible potential. But until you understand and start to master them, you’re not going to use your talents consistently in ways that maximize your performance and life. You reach your potential when you invest in your talents and turn them into Strengths.