2. Be Yourself: Build On Your Natural Strengths
When I see an eight or nine year old operating a smart phone,computer, iPod, or video game, I am often bewildered at their dexterity with hi-tech gadgets and gizmos. Even though, I am into gaming and live by the online and mobile world, I wish I was 20 years younger.
I also ask myself why is that each generation is considered smarter than its previous generation? Why is it that the future overrides the past and creates its own communications and social networking style?
The answer may perhaps lie in the Hindu ‘Theory of Reincarnation.’ As an example, he who died in December 2000 and was possibly reborn in January 2001 was already exposed to computers, internet, cell phones, video games, and the rapidly changing world in the year 2000. In the present incarnation, he would have carried forward from his previous birth his knowledge, attitude, temperament, beliefs and skills, which may delineate why a young kid takes so naturally to electronic gizmos, gadgets and technology. It also alludes to the importance of building on your natural strengths, talents or competence.
Observe a child who is outstanding with computer or video games. The child in his relentless pursuit, attempts to better his last score and set a higher bar to attain the next time around. The child is ‘preparing’ himself for greater heights in the world of gaming. During this process he or she gets completely involved, oblivious to the surroundings or the clamour around him or her.
The act of planning, strategizing, repetition, innovation and hard work, perhaps unknowingly fuse, to help the child attain a new personal record on the computer or video game. More importantly, the mental gumption and determination to succeed is phenomenally high. All this happens because the child is ‘naturally’ focused to excel at gaming thereby building on his or her innate strengths, talents or competence.
Even a child prodigy exudes certain ‘inherent’ characteristics or talent for a particular craft (music, entertainment, painting, sports, dancing, and writing) or vocation. These inborn traits were tapped early, which is why the child became a phenomenon. The actions of the past were understood and developed to create a child sensation.
As we age and face the compulsions of the material world, how many of us pursue as an occupation or career that we are naturally good at or inherently gifted with? We let our natural talents and strengths go untapped. We do not focus on what we can do best or what is the ‘right fit’ for us. We focus on what society determines is appropriate for us. We work hard and long hours, and yet find large number of people disengaged or frustrated with their workplaces.
If you do not have a natural affinity for numbers, and have yet acquired an accountancy degree or an MBA in Finance, you may do well, but are unlikely to be a great accountant or finance czar. If an individual is gifted with words, creativity, ideas, and selling skills, he or she would much rather pursue marketing, advertising, sales, media, public relations or a non mainstream profession as writing. Instead we find the same person languishing in production, operations, or analytics. We are attempting to be somebody else. We are forgoing the opportunity to contribute more. We are embracing short term success for long term greatness. We are allowing our true potential to remain dormant.
Today, animation and gaming has become a great career choice, but 10-15 years ago we would have mocked at somebody who adopted it as a career. Why? Because society’s rules, options and material demands bind us to follow what our peers pursue or chase careers unsuited or misfit for us. We build on our weaknesses and yet rejoice at our career choices because we have a cool looking car (on a car loan), a big house or apartment (home loan), big bucks (our money is not with us but in a bank, mutual fund, insurance company or stock market), and the latest electronic gadgets (3D, LCD or Plasma TV, smart phone, and an expensive laptop) ...but what differentiates you from the rest – your colleagues, friends, family, acquaintances and associates?
Try this today. Go to a beach, lake, ocean, sea, forest, garden, or a silent corner in your office or home. Rewind life, and ask yourself these questions - what were or are my strengths that I can build on naturally? Did or do I excel in writing, painting, music, photography, public speaking or some other craft? Was or am I the lord of numbers, analysis or gut feel? Do I enjoy playing safe or love adventures and risks? Did or do I have a special affinity for the underprivileged? Did or do I like to dream and build projects? Did or do I like to lead or follow? Have I ever successfully sold a product or service and did I enjoy the process? Am I passionate about a particular line of work and can I dedicate my life to it?
Once you become aware of your natural strengths, you can commence the pursuit of your true calling. Look around you, within your family, friends, relatives, colleagues, associates and acquaintances—you will find far too many people who have either spent a lifetime in the wrong profession or chasing somebody else’s dream. If you focus on your intrinsic strengths, competence or talents, and go after it fervently, you will never feel jaded, mismatched or disengaged. Life will then become more beautiful and meaningful.
Heidi Thompson works for Sojourners, a national faith-based advocacy organization in US. She is a wonderful person, compassionate, caring, generous, well read, intellectually curious, and an able leader. Heidi has an innate strength - predilection for writing and dedicated service to faith-based organizations through fund raising and marketing.
She identified her natural fondness for the written word, marketing and fund raising, and enrolled for the Masters degree in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. Heidi’s larger motive to go back to school after years of unswerving commitment with faithbased organizations was to bring cutting edge marketing,analytics and communications practices to their world and make a bigger difference.
Heidi knew the importance of ‘building on her natural strengths and competence’—writing, marketing and fund raising skills. She focused and worked hard to harness her strong points through her academic sojourn at Northwestern University. She underwent courses that would strengthen her skills encompassing marketing management, consumer behaviour, customer contact and database marketing, analytical techniques, public relations, marketing public relations,investor relations management and crisis communications, among other discerning courses that lead to the successful attainment of a Masters degree.
Upon graduation from Northwestern University, Heidi integrated her adroit writing skills, with advanced marketing, analytics and communications knowledge to get hired as a Director at Sojourners. Today, as Chief Marketing Officer at Sojourners, Heidi manages the organization’s brand and all earned-revenue activities, including an award-winning magazine, and an e-commerce site.
With 15 years of fundraising and marketing experience, her enthusiasm and positive energy radiates professional fulfilment. Change is a continual process for her, simply because she adopted newer learning with a focal point, and practiced hours, months and years to sharpen her natural strengths and skills.
The rule of building on your natural competence, talents or strengths is a prerequisite for changing with times. The possibility of embracing change is easier when you focus on developing your key competence or strengths for social change, personal elevation or material aggrandizement. We forget the story we heard as a child that in our professionalquest, the tortoise can beat the hare. Life is a long term contest and those who focus on their natural strengths; sethigh standards and then work feverishly to chase their bold dreams attain pre-eminence.