It’s Time to Harness the Power of Your Individuality

Back in 2014 I wrote an article where I talked about the fact that it takes more than passion to succeed. Cal Newport, Ph.D., a 30 something year-old and assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University says “Follow your passion is an appealing command because it’s both simple and daring. It tells you that you have a calling, and if you can discover it and muster the courage to follow it, your working life will be fantastic. A big, bold move that changes everything: this is a powerful storyline. The problem is that we don’t have much evidence that this is how passion works. “Follow your passion” assumes: a) you have a preexisting passion; and b) if you match this passion to your job then you’ll enjoy that job. When I studied the issue, it was more complex. Most people don’t have preexisting passions. And research on workplace satisfaction tells that people like their jobs for more nuanced reason than simply it matches some innate interest.”

There is also this phrase that is equally discomforting: Do what you love and the money will follow.

This leaves many of us feeling out of the “luck” loop. We don’t have a passion nor can we identify any activity that we love.

In an Amazon book review about Todd Rose’s new book The End of Average, here are a couple thought provoking questions:

  • Are you above average?
  • Is your child an A student?
  • Is your employee an introvert or an extrovert?

Every day we are measured against the yardstick of averages, judged according to how closely we come to it or how far we deviate from it. The assumption that metrics comparing us to an average—like GPAs, personality test results, and performance review ratings—reveal something meaningful about our potential is so ingrained in our consciousness that we don’t even question it.

According to Harvard’s Todd Rose, “this is spectacularly—and scientifically—wrong. No one is average. Not you. Not your kids. Not your employees. And while we know people learn and develop in distinctive ways, these unique patterns of behaviors are lost in our schools and businesses which have been designed around the mythical “average person.” This average-size-fits-all model ignores our differences and fails at recognizing talent. It’s time to change it.”

you dr seussWhat makes you YOU? Do you know?

So little time is spent really understanding who we are; at best we are all operating with an incomplete picture of our giftedness and true worth.

We all “do life” in a very unique way…we possess what I like to call our own unique operating pattern.

Nowadays we find out about ourselves by going on-line and finding any number of tests, inventories and other assessments aimed at telling us who you are. These tests are appealing because most of them can be completed in less than 20 minutes. A computer scores your results and sends a report down the pipeline that supposedly describes you.

Somewhere in our psyches we kind of know that this is not totally who we are. We see parts of ourselves but we are still not completely satisfied. Yet despite our doubts we plod on, basing KEY life decisions on these summaries only to experience less than satisfactory results.

Do you understand why the career you chose may not be enjoyable for you? That position you fought so hard for is now a daily pained effort? The car that you bought that you thought would complete you now feels “wrong”? Becoming an entrepreneur seemed sexy at the time but it doesn’t seem right for you?

In a summary of Todd’s book by Ingrid Urgolites she says “When we use and accept a type such as “extrovert,” “micro-manager,” “neurotic type,” “Type-A personality,” or any of the endless descriptions we can attach, we lose a little of ourselves. No one fits any type exactly, partially because we change our behavior to fit our circumstances. Categorizing evaluates a few characteristics measured from many individuals that may not have anything in common with any single person. Believing we should or do match a standardized description is accepting an imaginary ideal that waters down our individuality. It causes us to focus on a few characteristics we have in certain circumstances instead of embracing our whole being.”

In his Monday Morning Memo, successful entrepreneur Alan Weiss says this about labels: “Once I label you, all communication ceases, all understanding is lost, all empathy is abandoned.”

If I were to ask you if you would be willing to spend about 8 hours on an exercise that would help you to discover what your unique operating pattern was – would it seem like a lot of time to you? Perhaps too much time?

I think that your life is well worth even more than an 8 hour exercise. Don’t you?

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