How do we identify what we have the potential to be the best in the world at? A piece of research by the Gallup organisation and based on interviews with 198,000 people, (Now, Discover Your Strengths: How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage, by Buckingham and Clifton, Simon & Schuster, 2001) points the direction:
- those who perform the very best do so by developing their strengths as far as they can whilst finding ways to manage their weaknesses. (This may seem obvious but generally we assume that our greatest room for growth is in our area of our greatest weakness. In fact the opposite is true. Our greatest room for growth is in the area of our greatest strength.)
- a strength (ie, consistent, near perfect performance in an activity) requires certain underlying talents relevant to that strength as well as appropriate skills and knowledge. (We can of course get better at something we don't have a talent for but we won't reach consistent, near perfect performance in this activity through practice alone
- we must have the underlying talents.)
Strengths are made up of skills, knowledge and our natural talents - all of these are important but the most important is talent. Talents are recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behaviour which can be productively applied. They are innate and are what we do naturally. Examples include being competitive, curious, charming or persistent. Without underlying talent, learning a skill is a survival technique, not a path to glory.
Thus, the key to building a bona fide strength is to identify our dominant talents and refine them with knowledge and skills. You can find out your dominant talents by buying Now, Discover Your Strengths: How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage, typing the code from the book into the StrengthFinder website, and completing the online questionnaire.