Excellence is possible, even without talent

Of all the random things I do out of sheer curiosity, taking the Clifton Strengthsfinder 2.0 wasn’t. After rereading some of Gallup’s publications I simply got curious to know my natural talents. Who wouldn’t be after all, right? You’ll be surprised! More than 20 million people from across the globe have taken the Clifton Strengthsfinder (both the old and new version combined). (Of course, only a fraction of this population actually did anything after finding their natural talents.)

The results were quite revealing. My top 5 strengths are:

  1. Restorative
  2. Context
  3. Learner
  4. Individualization
  5. Significance

I wouldn’t go into details right now. And I know it’s hard for you to gauge what each of these strengths actually means (except, Learner, maybe). I hear you, but that’s not the point I wanted to share today.

Before taking the test I was pretty confident that communication would be high up in the list because I love to write, speak in public and actually have a meaningful conversation with ease (not with everyone though). Heck, even the folks around me would label communication as one of my key strengths.

Here’s the bummer — communication is at number 33 of the 34 strengths (or themes as Gallup calls it)! I was beyond shock and grief when I discovered it. Working with a Gallup certified coach helped me clarify what’s really going on with my themes. And now that I’m studying this indepth myself I know why it ranks at the rock bottom.

You see, someone with communication as natural talent is expressive regardless of the circumstances or situation at hand. They’re not picky when it comes to sending their message across to the destination they have in mind. It’s just natural. (I also get the feeling they don’t stop talking even when they’re asleep!)

Folks who’re communicators (and for whom the theme “communication” would rank in the top 5) would be talkative, conversationalists, great storytellers, and explainers. They can do all of that with ease because it comes to them naturally.

And if I bring myself to see from this filter, I realize that I might be effective with storytelling, presentations, public speaking, writing, entertaining or even expressive. But I’ve trained myself to learn those skills over decades at an advanced level that it had become second nature to me. Trust me, second nature and being natural are two different things.

No matter how evolved my skills are I can never be as good as Tony Robbins when it comes to communication. Because he’s natural at it. I’m not.

But the bigger perspective is this, while you cannot change who you are (no, if I were to take the test again… communication won’t show up in the top 5), you can irrespective of your natural talents develop your lesser talents to a level that can become second nature to you.

Believe me, that’s good enough for you to have all the successes you can have in life.

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