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What am I exceptional at?

Sometimes we see someone doing something great – maybe performing a masterpiece on piano, or presenting on a topic in a profound way – grabbing everyone’s attention and keeping it. We wish we could be like that – have that “edge” that only that person seem to have. The first thing we want to do is to sign up for piano lessons or to attend a toastmasters course to improve our public speaking skills, hoping that we would also create that magic in front of an audience. In the face of it, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself in a certain area, but is that area where your talent lies?

So you spend months on learning the art of public speaking and somehow find that you still don’t have that edge – that magic that you saw the other person perform. Your audience is not laughing and clapping and gazing at you with expectation when you talk. Could it be that you have spent your time on improving a weakness rather than building on a strength? The problem is, you will never be amazing at your weaknesses, you will only grow them to be mediocre; to become “not so bad”. But they won’t be exceptional. Because they are not your talents. Your strengths are where your talents are.

But what if you spent your time on developing your strengths, those natural talents that you were born with? If you focus on growing your strengths you will become absolutely amazing in that area of your life – you will shine! Rather than spending your time and energy on the things that you aren’t that good at, focus massively on the things you ARE good at. By all means, DO spend time on bettering the areas that you are really crap at. If it’s something that you need but are not interested in, try to develop at least a working knowledge of it.  But don’t waste your precious time and energy on building it – it won’t be great if you don’t have a talent for it.

Your greatness is already there – its waiting for you to find it. Your greatness is found in your unique talents – the things that only you are good at. But you need to find it. Find your talents and build on them to make them better than great – make them exceptional! But remember, an undeveloped talent will never become exceptional – you need to put in the work first! But over time, your talent (if exercised and developed further) will become your trademark. It will be something exceptional that only you can bring to this world and that you will be remembered for.


A glass of borrowed water

Glass of water

I am given a glass of water in the morning. I drink my glass at once – not planning for later. Later in the day I get thirsty because I finished all my water in the morning. I decide to walk over to my neighbour and ask if I can have some of his glass of water that was also given to him in the morning. He says yes, but only if I promise to give it back tomorrow. I take a quarter of his glass of water and drink it to quench my thirst.

The next morning I am handed my daily glass of water again. I remember that I owe my neighbour a quarter of my glass and quickly give it back to him. I now have only three quarters of my glass of water for the day. I drink half of it and the other half later the day but remain thirsty because I didn’t have a full glass to start with. I decide to ask my neighbour again. He agrees to give me a quarter of his glass but wants half a glass in return – to make up for his discomfort for sharing with me. I agree and quickly drink the quarter glass of water he gave me. Now I’ve had my full glass for the day but owe half a glass already on tomorrow’s issue.

The next day I get my glass of water, give back half to my neighbour and am very thirsty by noon. You can see where this is going, right? The point is that we need to teach our children, very early in their lives, not to spend what we don’t have because it lands us in trouble. If we need more than what we have available, we need to be innovative and resourceful to channel more of what we need into our direction. We could become the neighbour who has more water available to those who ran out because he invested in a reservoir tank and collected rain water for later use. He planned ahead.

This simple analogy is the most basic form of financial management: Don’t spend what you don’t have because in time it spirals out of control. It comes in many forms in our day and age, but the worst enemy is consumer debt in the likes of credit cards, clothing accounts, revolving loans, car financing schemes (to make it affordable right now) and micro loans (when you’re really in dire straits). These things combined will gulp up three quarters of your daily glass of water, leaving you to slowly commit financial suicide. This evil of instant gratification – to want something right now even if you can’t afford it – is what ruins individuals, families, corporations and even countries in our day and age.

Leading from behind

When we think about leaders, most of us invariably think of a strong charismatic character walking in front – leading the way and showing the rest of the team where to go.  In my mind, this leader would possess certain traits or qualities such as wisdom, courage, honesty and integrity. A spot of intuition and a positive attitude would round it off nicely! People want to follow this guy (or girl) because they trust him and believes that he will know what is best for the group.

But what if the leader was to walk at the back of the group? From that vantage point he is able to keep an eye on his flock. Its sounds Biblical, doesn’t it? Intentionally so. In my mind, this is how a true leader feels about his people – family and colleagues alike! When you are leading from behind, you are able to assess the interaction of your flock with each other and with the outside world to understand their needs. This enables you to find ways of meeting those needs – creating an environment of growth and further development – a nurturing environment. Sometimes it will be physical needs – tools needed to get the job done. Sometimes it may be a spiritual need or an emotional need requiring a serious sit-down or just a leisurely discussion over a cup of coffee or a tall beer.  Needs can be intertwined sometimes, requiring wisdom and a deep understanding of the situation. The important thing is to know your people.  Really know them; their hopes, dreams and fears.

Sometimes a leader needs to move out of the way to let real growth happen.

Leading from behind is not about being subservient or submissive. It’s about spotting people’s talents, nurturing them and pushing them forward into the spotlight so they can shine. It’s about helping them reach their full potential. It’s about giving your flock the opportunity to test their wings and fly.  Yes, they may fall – they have to for them to fully master the art of flying.  You need to equip them, encourage them and be there to catch them if you see they’re going down – but you have to give them a chance to fall – at least for a while. Chances are they’ll turn out better at flying than you! And if they do, you have been the best leader of the kind that leads from behind!

“‘What if I fall?’ Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” - Erin Hanson

“‘What if I fall?’ Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson