Discovering Your Natural Talents and Turning Them into Strengths

Some people struggle their entire lives to discover their true talents and/or to turn those talents into strengths. When talents are undiscovered, they lie dormant and unfulfilled. Not only is a person’s potential wasted, but these people often live with a sense of frustration as they are invariably focused on areas of less talent and potential, with marginal results.

When I was in the 4th grade, my classmates and I were given a choice between spending an hour twice a week in our classroom with the music teacher, learning to read music while playing a recorder, or leaving the classroom during this time to learn a musical instrument in the band room. For me, the choice was an obvious one and I strolled down the hall to the band room to pick out an instrument.

That day, I brought home a school-issued cornet, a brass instrument similar to a trumpet. Within a couple of weeks, the band teacher and my parents commented on my natural talent for this instrument. Soon after this, I began private lessons on my very own brand new cornet. From that point on, my horn-playing skills outpaced my peers by a significant margin.

When I entered middle school, I was immediately placed in the senior orchestra. When I moved up to high school, the band director berated me to for not signing up for band. I had discovered another talent – hockey.

I had played hockey since I was a little kid and loved everything about the sport, while practicing my horn had become a dreaded chore. Giving up my music career at the age of 15 was a no-brainer at the time. I went on to be the captain and MVP of my high school hockey team.

Looking back on this as an adult, I sometimes begin to regret my decision. At the same time, I have to admit that I’m still playing hockey and I haven’t played my horn in years. As it turned out, I made the right choice after all. My hockey skills were put to good use for many decades to come.

I count myself as lucky to have been able to discover some hidden talent and then to be able to develop those latent talents into strengths. I did so without much guidance or support. In fact, my parents were less than happy with my decision to stop playing my horn and never attended a single hockey game.

I recall one particular kid in band who wanted so badly to be proficient but he didn’t have much natural talent. He struggled to keep up and it was painful for him and everyone around him. One day, he came to school and his instrument as a mangled mess. He had enough and decided to smash his instrument into a tree or something. This kid must have had a talent but this wasn’t it.

I also recall the kids who tried out for the hockey team but had no business being on the ice or me trying out for the golf team when I should have been practicing slap shots. We all have been given unique talents. It’s up to us to discover what these talents are and to make something meaningful out of them.

For those of you who are parents, you probably recognize that your children have natural talents. However, many people struggle to see natural talent in themselves. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective. We have seen excellent results with several assessment tools designed to uncover talents and provide assistance with the development of talent into strength. For me, these assessment tools have provided significant insight. For others, the experience has been life-changing.

Consider yourself and your organization separately. What are you doing to understand and/or leverage your natural talents? This just may be the most important question you will answer today.

Now go forth.

Phil Harwood is a Managing Partner with Pro-Motion Consulting (http://www.mypmcteam.com/). He is a green industry veteran with over 30 years of managerial experience. He graduated with honors from the Executive MBA Program at Michigan State University and was recently nominated “Alumnus of the Decade” by his peers.

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    What, specifically, are the most important assessment tools you’ve found.

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