We all possess some ability that makes us “US”. We don’t even recognize it because we go to it so easily. It’s so natural that it’s almost invisible. In fact, when we’re answering questions about ourselves we usually blow past it and bust our brains trying to come up with something that “sounds good”. We’ve come to hate the phrase “finding your purpose” because we don’t know what ours is and frankly, couldn’t be bothered. We’ve decided quietly that “finding purpose” is for those people with tangible skills – those of us who can act, sing, dance, talk on stage in front of millions, design, create or can invent or do something world changing; the Oprah’s, the Malala’s, the Elon Musk’s, those of us with “in your face talent” like Richard Branson, Usain Bolt, or Machel Montano – not for simpletons.
So we settle. We settle, in the words of Henry Thoreau, for lives of “quiet desperation”. Yes – DESPERATION! We choose our careers based on the financial reward. This isn’t wrong or bad unless of course the job itself is making you sick. In fact the ONLY great thing about the job is your salary yet have you thought that lately, you’re NOT enjoying it that much?
When I left my job back in the 90s I was not happy. I had a salary and earned a commission based on how my team performed on top of that, so on some level I controlled my final income figure. I was having uncomfortable run-ins with my boss and definitely wasn’t pleased with how I was being treated as a woman and junior manager. The men who worked alongside me seemed to get the perks – the overseas training trips, a “voice” at meetings, and more autonomy. I was being challenged because I was always feeding back to my two person senior management team about employee concerns – what employees were feeling, how perhaps we could make things better. I wasn’t just doing this for my team. I listened to those in other departments too. The conclusion was that I wasn’t siding with management and so because I wouldn’t just go along to get along, I was ostracized from the boy’s club.
Why I’m sharing this is not to rant publicly and not because I’ve been toting these feelings against my former employer for all these years! It’s to illustrate my point regarding superpower. At that time, mine wasn’t visible to me. I was in a job that required me to focus on sales figures and marketing strategies and my performance was measured accordingly.
My superpower has always involved how I relate to people. I literally see everyone. I am able to listen, discern, understand and guide effortlessly especially when it comes to maximizing potential. I see other people’s superpowers when they sometimes don’t see it in themselves.
Self-awareness is ALWAYS the first step, and if I knew what I know now, about myself, I could have helped my team a lot better. Instead of just pushing for better performance and meeting quotas, I would have looked at each person’s natural abilities and helped them to leverage that. Perhaps in hindsight, some of those on my team were a completely wrong fit for the job. Their natural go-to behaviours would never align with the fundamental behaviours required for the job.
As you know with Superman, we also always have our kryptonite – that something that as bestselling author Regina Brett describes, is confining – something that robs us of our strengths, drains us of our powers, weakens us in an instant. “Usually our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses are cousins”, she says.
Even though I am gifted with seeing others’ superpowers my kryptonite is not feeling worthy enough to claim it and speak up and out about it to others. “Who am I and where did I get this authority” is one of my “hold back” thoughts.
My dear friend Michael Katz who runs a successful Marketing Communications firm in Boston, helping professional service firms and solos talk/write about their work in a way that is clear and compelling, says that the goal for every professional, as Bruce Springsteen sings in his song “Ain’t Got You” is “to be paid a king’s ransom for doing what comes naturally.”
Mike says “your super power isn’t your skill set. (That’s just the price of admission.) Rather, it’s what you do naturally (and often better than anyone else) and that wraps AROUND your skill set. It’s what sets you apart. For his tech guy – it’s the simple, clear, patient way he explains complicated technology options when asked a question. For an expert recruiter – it’s the way she can tell the difference almost instantly between who’s for real and who’s blowing smoke. For his friend, it’s the way she can take a spare piece of wood, a rusty can she found on the beach and some paint, and turn it into a centrepiece on her dining room table that makes it look like Martha Stewart just left the building.
If you don’t know what your superpower is, it’s worth finding out because it’s what clients are REALLY buying. It’s why the ones who love you LOVE YOU which means that if you’re not emphasizing it, you’re working WAY TOO HARD and not taking advantage of the thing or things that make YOU most special in the eyes of other people!