I’ll never forget the first time I had the opportunity to speak in a public setting.
I was 19 years old and I was an assistant coach for the high school basketball team. They asked me to speak at the awards banquet. I’d always heard people talk about hating public speaking, that it was their greatest fear, but I didn’t feel afraid. I felt energized. I was excited to give the boys the recognition they deserved, and I felt completely comfortable in front of the crowd. My speech went over very well.
I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Since that spring day nearly 20 years ago, I’ve given many more public speeches in many different settings. Each time I come away from the experience with renewed energy and excitement. Each time my audience appreciates what I do. The whole process just feels natural.
Singing, on the other hand? No, I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I am deathly afraid of singing in public. Even karaoke is too far outside my comfort zone. I’ve tried to over-come my fear, but each time I attempt to take the stage to sing even the simplest of tunes, my knees go weak and I start sweating like no other. I can’t explain it. I’ve had this fear since I was a little kid.
I share these two experiences because I believe that we all have our own unique strengths (and weaknesses). Maybe you can’t speak in public like I can, but you can sing—or do something else. You have your own area where you can be one of the best. One of the best in your community, your state, or even the nation. These talents come naturally, like breathing. Sure, you might have to work hard to develop your potential. But the raw talent itself is just a gift. You don’t know where it came from and you didn’t have to work for it. It was just there, part of you, from the beginning.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a career that really draws on your talent. Those who do so often become the leaders and innovators of their fields. They are the disrupters and the agents of change, whether or not the world ever recognizes them as such, and society as a whole benefits from their work.
So how do you know if you’ve found your talent yet? How do you know if you’re really drawing on your unique talent at work? Honestly, you’ll probably just know, but if you’re not sure, ask yourself just two questions:
1. Do you enjoy thinking about your work, even when you don’t have to?
2. On Sunday night, are you excited to go back to work?
I’ve written about these two questions, and about the flow state that comes from work that draws on your deepest talents, before. I recommend reading that article for a slightly different take on the same topic. In the meantime, the more you can align your time and energies with your talents and unique abilities, the more good you will do for your clients, your coworkers and society as a whole.