Talent – Just what IS it?

Posted: February 17, 2010 in career

In my reading and musings over the years, I have learned of four key themes that every talent (skill, gift, aptitude, expertise, pick the synonym you wish) seems to have. Here they are.

1. You have an instinctive, top of the mind ability to use it. World class athletes don’t have to think about how to stroke a tennis forehand, counselors have an innate ability to hear emotions, engineers naturally gather data for decision-making, etc. You need not think about how to do it. It just happens.

2. You have a desire, a yearning to use it, EVEN IF YOU REALLY CANNOT DESCRIBE IT. I am constantly amazed by clients who clearly have an innate ability that they practice daily in their work and play, yet are unable to recognize the significance of this ability in planning their careers and their lives.

3. When you are called upon to acquire knowledge in this area, it comes easily and quickly. I still recall my struggle with learning geography (“Why bother?” – I asked myself. “That’s what maps and Google Earth are for!”), yet I was able to soak up information on computer technology like a sponge!

4. As you look back on the practice of this “talent,” you experience true satisfaction. “Flow” is the term used by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (read my reviews of a number of his books on my Linkedin profile) to describe what he calls the “psychology of optimal experience.” When you are in Flow, you lose track of time and space. When finished, you feel that you have accomplished something worthwhile, something of true value.

If your talent meets these four criteria, then what are you waiting for? Start to use it!


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