Stemming from last month’s article, “Talent vs. Tenacity” where we compared raw talent to tenacity, and tenacity won every time, this month we will clarify the difference between a talent and a strength.
By “strength” I do not mean physical power per say. I mean your singular strengths, what is genius inside you, what you have and are that nobody else has and is. Albert Einstein is attributed to have written, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
As a reminder, last month we defined “talent” as “natural gift or endowment. Eminent abilities; superior genius; skill.”
When you know the difference between a talent and a strength, you will discover the interesting fact – tenacity WINS over talent, because your talent isn’t necessarily your strength! Let me clarify this – you can be good at something (a talent), but not enjoy it (not a strength). It is simple yet profound.
“Does this mean we should quit doing things that aren’t easy/fun/enjoyable/pleasure for us?!” NO! One of the primary reasons for Rome’s fall was extreme pleasure seeking (interesting article about that here: http://realtruth.org/articles/070831-002-ssoafn.html ) I’m also reminded of that brilliant quote from Jenkin Lloyd Jones, “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal…” Look it up. You’ll be glad you did.
Humans were designed to conquer, struggle, overcome, and achieve! Not to sit around playing video games and eating junk food. So, must we just grit our teeth and “endure to the end”?! Man is that he might have joy. Finding & using & creating your STRENGTHS is one way we bring rich joy and meaning to life.
I am using a lot of quotes, because these people say it better than I can. I’m drawing on their strengths (which is another secret to success…for another article).
I learned this concept from a friend and mentor who introduced me to Marcus Buckingham, famous for his passion for helping people do just what I am advocating herein.
Marcus says that our strengths are not just things we are good at (talents) but things we enjoy. He identifies 3 key factors that make something an individual’s “strength”: (ask yourself, “What in my life and being fits these factors?”)
1) There is a yearning for it, I look forward to and anticipate it
2) I am naturally inquisitive about this, and I find it easy to focus on this even for long periods of time
3) This is restorative and sustaining to me, it “fills my bucket” so to speak
So, now that you know what makes a “strength,” what are yours? Identify them granularly, as Marcus says, and rock your world!
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs places Self-actualization at the peak of human being experience. Self-actualization is defined by Abraham Maslow himself, “What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization...It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.” Sounds like identifying and developing my strengths!
My friend and mentor Kristin Abbajay taught me we are not “human DO-ings” but “human BE-ings”. This is why a talent itself is incomplete. It is merely the DO-ing. But a strength is BE-ing.
I obviously cannot identify your strengths for you – but then again, if I know you, I can aid you in doing so. Marcus Buckingham points out that those close to us will likely be able to assist us in identifying our strengths.
How does all this apply to selling? Depends what your strengths are. Maybe you shouldn’t be selling. Maybe you are great at and enjoy selling to long-term customers you’ve developed a relationship with. On the other hand, maybe your strength is selling in a retail or day-to-day setting, quickly and efficiently and then moving on to the next deal. As you identify your strengths and play to them, you will know what aspects of selling you should focus on to excel, and which to phase out or share with others who have that strength.
Many people officially give up on sales, saying the cliché lines you’ve heard before, like, “I’m just not cut out for sales.” I believe sales is a core aspect of each of our life’s work, whether or not we’re officially in the “sales” field. I believe as we find our strengths we will find joy and fulfillment IN sales, pruning the weak or undesirable aspects of our behavior and cultivating our powerful passionate aspects.
3 final thoughts on the subject –
First, referencing last month’s article, are strengths, talents, and things we must be tenacious about 3 distinct things? No, in fact, you’ll find if you haven’t already, that some talents you have will become strengths through tenacity, and some things you are tenacious about will become strengths, even if not talents initially. They’re all part of the process.
Second, once identified, the choice is yours as to whether you will BE-come all you can through “playing to your strengths” (or however you wish to word the concept), or whether you will shrink. Author Marianne Williamson stated,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Third and lastly, a positive by-product of playing to your strengths is that you will actually inspire others, as Williamson duly noted. You know this, because others have inspired you when playing to their strengths. Although this relates again to another topic for another time, it is worth a brief mention. Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged, “The sight of an achievement was the greatest gift a human being could offer to others.” Even if you feel your strengths are small, your achievements will inspire those with open minds and hearts, those who allow space to create into their lives. “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” Napoleon Hill
May we all identify and develop and play to our strengths! Then we may become what L.P. Jacks wrote of in 1932, “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both.”
Dave Nilson is the Sales Director at Dark Twin Marketing.