I ran across an intriguing title today in the news entitled, “How to be Great: Rising Above the Talent Myth.” The you-can-be-anything citations are pervasive. They create an economy of self-help seminars, books, academies, and certainly generate a lot of revenue in leadership coaching arenas.
It confirmed that I’ve adopted a different point of view, based on conversations with coaching colleagues. Consider the talent myth not as a myth but as a capacity FACT. This quote illustrates the problem and myth: “…what’s great about these findings is that we can apply them to all areas of our life. Almost any skill is improvable. Giving presentations. Sports. Negotiating. Whatever it is that you do with a passion, you can improve and become truly great — if you are willing to put in the work, that is.” From Litemind: The Talent Myth
…the you-can-be-anything viewpoint, is a recipe for frustration and unhappiness.
As a counterpoint, as I DON’T agree with the talent myth article, I have adopted the view that Blank Slate, the you-can-be-anything viewpoint, is a recipe for frustration and unhappiness. This belief interferes with making smart choices for engaging your strength for happiness and success.
When you work outside your strengths, are you able to FLOW? This is not “go with the flow,” rather it is the aspect of being transformed as in “in the zone, on fire, in tune, centered, or singularly focused,” as described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, using a positive psychology term, FLOW.
It’s about being so absorbed in your work that you may forget to eat, drink or use the restroom until you body can take it no more and cries out to you. Though I don’t recommend this as a typical state, it IS an indicator that you are making good use of your natural strengths. It’s feedback to inform your choices and path in life.
Regarding the Talent Myth, it seems what the author intended was about success, perhaps monetary, but not necessarily happiness AND success. The two together are more likely to happen with a focus on our natural capacity and talents ~ nature over nuture.
Your strengths are as individualized as your fingerprints.
The Talent Myths: Most people just do not have the arm to be professional baseball pitchers, no matter how long they practice. Most people do not have the pipes to be world-famous operatic stars. The first citation is from a personal and professional blog post by Manya Arond Thomas, a Harvard trained physician and healer as well as a leadership coach:
Even if we’re pretty good at a lot of things, we will never get the same result, or bang for the buck, if we aren’t naturally wired for that strength, that is, if it isn’t coded into our DNA. The truth is that everything about who we are and what our potential is, is in our blueprint. Source: Manya’s full blog post here.
Regarding the Charlie Parker example in the Talent Myth article, perhaps Charlie was a late bloomer. He certainly had the desire.
“Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.”
~ Henry Ford
“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently,” was said by Henry Ford. Guided by desire and data, including multiple setbacks, Ford found success in the auto industry.
His prowess of innovation, inventing the middle class with his decision to give a major salary increase to his workers to combat turnover goes with his quote, “Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.”
These types of findings are fairly pervasive. They create an economy of self-help seminars, books, academies, and generate a lot of revenue in leadership coaching arenas.
Another citation that supports innate talent and finding a good match is from the controversial work of Elliot Jacques as written by Herb Koplowitz. In a nutshell, it is about understanding and assigning people to places in organizations where they can best succeed based on their capacity, including the capacity for planning into the future. The reference is here based on a strata framework.
Working toward capacity and strengths, vs. the blank slate approach – will show results in better work life effectiveness as well as being joyful, energizing, and just plain fun!
When you flow within your strengths, do you amaze yourself at what you can accomplish? Have you experienced FLOW and presence within yourself?
For more about Presence, see our overview of Theory U.
As always, thanks for visiting!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.