Finding your gift: what are you really good at?

My last 2 posts underscored some (certainly not all) reasons people hate their jobs and some reasons people stay at jobs they hate. One of the reasons people hate their jobs is that they are not doing what they are made to do. They are not exercising their gift. In considering what each of us is made to do, I am reminded of this quotation, usually credited to Albert Einstein: “Everybody 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 I mentioned in this post, I kept the books at CWNP for 13 years. I was not good at it at all, and I dreaded and procrastinated it to no end. But I got it done because it had to be done. It’s that dread, procrastination, and lack of ability that, in my opinion, leads people to hate their jobs. How do we fix that? It starts with figuring out what you are made to do.

“But he had a gift”

In his 2009 TED Talk, Simon Sinek referenced Martin Luther King, Jr., and his ability to inspire people during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Sinek explains that MLK was far from perfect, and that some of his ideas were bad, “but he had a gift”. That gift was MLK’s ability to deliver his message so eloquently that it inspired millions of people to follow his message of peaceful protesting of unjust laws. That’s what Martin Luther King, Jr. was made to do. That was his gift.

Similarly, there’s Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett…the list goes on and on of people who reached the very peak of their profession because that’s what they were made to do. But these are people are, mostly, the exception and not the rule. Tiger Woods’ dad knew he had something special in his son when Eldrick (yes, in case you didn’t know, that’s Tiger’s real name) was draining putts at age two. But did you know MJ was cut from his High School basketball team his sophomore year? He cried and almost quit, but then he grew 6 inches the next summer, and the rest is history.

Bezos started his career on Wall Street. He was the youngest VP ever at his Wall Street investment firm when he quit to do what he loved:

Buffett is rumored to have told his wife, “You cannot give away my money faster than I can increase it.” That’s Buffett’s gift. He was made to make money grow, and he loves doing it.

What are you good at?

What is your gift? I don’t know what yours is and you may not know either, but if you want to wake up every day excited to go do what you’re supposed to do that day, it will be very helpful to know what you’re good at. It will be very helpful to know your gifts (you may have more than one). If you don’t know what you’re naturally good at, and don’t pursue doing that thing, you will most likely end up in a job you hate because you hate what you’re doing. But how do you find your gift? How do you determine what you’re good at doing? There are many ways.

What do you LOVE to do?

One way is to simply take account of what you love doing. Now, I love taking naps on rainy Sunday afternoons after a big lunch after church. That’s not what I’m talking about. Far as I know, you can’t make a living or support a family doing that full time. Trust me. I’ve looked. No, I mean what do you love to do that would be of value to others? If you’re still in your teens, you might not be able to know this answer yet because you have not had enough experience to know what you really love to do. That’s why so very few people really find their groove in their early 20s. It takes time, because quite often you have to do a lot of things (and do many of them very badly) to discover what you’re actually good at.

Look at Your Path to Here

I had 4 great English teachers in High School. Each of them praised my work and encouraged and challenged me to do even better.I studied English in college. Consequently, I love to write. I’m no Gladwell or Follett, but I’m relatively good at it. After many, many years doing lots of other stuff, I realized I was making a living writing content for CWNP. I still had to keep the books, do payroll, taxes, pay rent, hire and manage people. But when I realized I was doing what I loved to do and earning a living for doing it, my outlook on work totally changed! I pounded through the crap I had to do in order to get to the stuff I loved to do.

This methodology of asking “what do I love to do” has to be balanced with “am I good at it?” And “good at it” must mean good enough to make a living at it. You cannot answer that question. Only the market can answer that question, but only you can ask it. You ask the question by trying it, whatever “it” is that you love doing.

Which one are you doing for a living?

Do you do what you love? Do you love what you do? Are you really good at what you do? Do you love it? If you answered “yes” to all of these, you shouldn’t have read this far. When answered honestly, these questions can reveal a lot about ourselves. If you are asking yourself these questions, chances are you don’t really love what you’re doing. You may be doing what you love, and not quite earning a living. That’s ok, since it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become “world class” at anything. Keep doing it, knowing that you may have to supplement your income with other stuff that’s not as much fun and at which you’re not as talented.

Or, you may be doing what you’re really good at and earning a great living, but you just don’t like it. Jason Bourne and Martin Blank come to mind, but then they were both trained professional assassins who realized they didn’t really like killing people for a living. This one is harder to work through, because money is a very strong motivator. Bourne and Blank may be extremes, but the movies illustrate how difficult it is to make a lot of money doing something you hate.

Find Your Gift(s)

Determining your gifts is very difficult. The Old & New Testaments of the Bible outline the spiritual gifts that everyone has. Those gifts are: Prophecy, Serving, Teaching , Exhortation, Giving, Leadership, and Mercy. In the next post, I’ll dig into those gifts as it pertains to working for a living and actually liking your job.

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