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#TL03H: HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR TALENTS AND DEVELOP THEM INTO STRENGTHS

Compiled and edited by Frederick Mann

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Contents
Introduction
How to Discover Your Talents and Strengths
The Buckingham-Clifton StrengthsFinder Profile
Steps to Confront, Handle, and Overcome Personal Disadvantages
Idenics

Introduction
You could waste a great deal of your life struggling to succeed with things that aren't congruent or in harmony with your natural talents and strengths.

You could also waste a great deal of your life struggling to overcome weaknesses related to areas where you simply don't have the natural talents to do so.

If you know what your natural talents are, you can focus on developing them into strengths. And you can devote your life to work that is congruent or in harmony with your natural talents and strengths. Most likely, this will be a much better use of your time and generally make you happier, more effective, and more successful.

How to Discover Your Talents and Strengths
First, I recommend the book 'Career Tests: 25 Revealing Self-Tests to Help You Find and Succeed at the Perfect Career' by Louis Janda, Ph.D. Completing the tests will tell you about your talents and strengths (and much more besides). Also a great way to do some important self-discovery.

Second, you could discover your talents and strengths through personality and psychological tests. There are many you can do online:

"Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer." -- Peter Drucker

Third, I highly recommend the book 'Now, Discover Your Strengths' by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. The authors work for The Gallup Organization, which has interviewed more than 2,000,000 people. Based on their conclusions from this extensive research, they propose two basic assumptions:

"1. Each person's talents are enduring and unique.
2. Each person's greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength."

They also say, "The real tragedy of life is not that each of us doesn't have enough strengths, it's that we fail to use the ones we have. Benjamin Franklin called wasted strengths "sundials in the shade." ... Look inside yourself, try to identify your strongest threads [natural talents], reinforce them with practice and learning, and then either find or, as he [Warren Buffett] did, carve out a role that draws on these strengths every day. When you do, you will be more productive, more fulfilled, and more successful."

Most people believe that their greatest improvement will come from overcoming their weaknesses. Buckingham and Clifton say, NO! Your greatest improvement will come from identifying your natural talents and strengthening them. They provide three "revolutionary tools" for doing this:

"1...[U]nderstanding how to distinguish your natural talents from things you can learn...
2...[A] system to identify your dominant talents...
3...[A] common language to describe your talents."

To develop your natural talents (once you've identified them) into strengths requires knowledge and skills. Buckingham and Clifton provide these definitions:

"* Talents are your naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior. Your various themes of talent are what the StrengthsFinder Profile actually measures.
* Knowledge consists of the facts and lessons learned.
* Skills are the steps of an activity."

Buckingham and Clifton have identified 34 natural talents. Buying their book 'Now, Discover Your Strengths' entitles you to do the Buckingham-Clifton StrengthsFinder Profile online and receive the results, indicating your five most dominant natural talents. For the details of my personal StrengthsFinder Profile, see The Buckingham-Clifton StrengthsFinder Profile. I suggest that you make your own personal self-assessment as I have done, to supplement the results of your StrengthsFinder Profile.

It's important to realize that the Buckigham-Clifton model is their personal "map" of the "territory" of human talents and strengths. "The map is not the territory," as Alfred Korszybski said. Other maps can be drawn of the territory. The authors may not have identified all the important natural talents. They also don't say very much about how you develop each of your dominant natural talents into strengths. I suspect they also underestimate the importance of overcoming weaknesses. I suggest that there are certain "general weaknesses" (disadvantages) that may prevent you from developing your dominant natural talents. People typically deny or underestimate these disadvantages -- see #TL03E: The Many Forms of Denial.

A very important aspect of the Buckingham-Clifton model is that for practical purposes your natural talents are fixed. You can't develp new natural talents. In my own case, my natural talents related to "people skills" (Communication, Connectedness, Empathy, Fairness, Harmony, Inclusiveness, Individualization, Relator, and Woo) are mostly very poor. To attempt to develop them into strengths would be a futile waste of time. I'm much better off focusing on further improving my strengths. Buckingham and Clifton provide some useful guidance for "damage control" relating to your worst weaknesses and "managing around" them.

Also very important about the Buckingham-Clifton model is that it may suggest an answer to: "There is so much I need to improve about myself to become really successful, that the task seems overwhelming, and I don't know where to start."

Well, once you've identified your dominant natural talents, and assessed to what extent you've developed them into strengths, you can ask yourself:

  1. What do I want to achieve with my life?
  2. What are my purpose and goals?
  3. Which are my most important natural talents I want to develop further?
  4. Which of my natural talents can contribute most to achieving my purpose and goals?
  5. What do I have to do to develop these talents into strengths?
  6. What knowledge do I need to learn to develop these talents?
  7. What skills do I need to acquire or improve to develop these talents?
  8. What weaknesses do I need to overcome to develop these talents?

I think it's a weakness of the Buckingham-Clifton model that they emphasize adding knowledge and skills to talents in order to develop them into strengths, while they don't say enough about weaknesses that may get in the way. In my opinion, most people need to confront, handle, and overcome the weaknesses (possibly many) that have prevented them from developing their natural talents into strengths. The "Disadvantage Factors" in #TL03E: The Many Forms of Denial illuminate this further. Buckingham and Clifton define weakness as "anything that gets in the way of excellent performance." The "Inner Game" books demonstrate why it's so important to reduce negative interference from your Self 1. (In his "Inner Game" books, W. Timothy Gallwey makes a distinction between "Self 1" and "Self 2." Self 1 can be regarded as related to involuntary thoughts -- often negative -- that automatically enter your mind. See #TL04C: The Ultimate Success Secret.)

"It is far more important to know how to deal with the negative than to be "positive"." -- Martin Seligman ('Learned Optimism')

The Buckingham-Clifton StrengthsFinder Profile
Buying the book 'Now, Discover Your Strengths' by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton entitles you to do the Buckingham-Clifton StrengthsFinder Profile online and receive the results, indicating your five most dominant natural talents. Mine are:

  1. S T R A T E G I C - People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
  2. D E L I B E R A T I V E - People strong in the Deliberative theme are best described by the serious care they take in making decisions or choices. They anticipate the obstacles.
  3. S I G N I F I C A N C E - People strong in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.
  4. C O M M A N D - People strong in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.
  5. S E L F - A S S U R A N C E - People strong in the Self-assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.

Buckingham and Clifton have identified 34 natural talents. I list them below, with my own assessment of the basic dominance of my natural talents, and the extent to which I have or haven't developed each talent into a strength. Note that natural talent + knowledge + skills = strength. Natural talents need to be developed by the addition of knowledge and skills to become strengths. Besides the StrengthsFinder Profile, there are three additional ways to identify your natural talents: yearnings, rapid learning, and satisfactions. From doing the StrengthsFinder Profile and self-observation (particularly regarding yearnings, rapid learning, and satisfactions), I have generated my personal assessment for each natural talent.

Abbreviations
NT = Natural Talent
DS = Developed Strength
VD = Very Dominant
MD = Moderately Dominant
AD = Average Dominance
MP = Moderately Poor
VP = Very Poor
VS = Very Strong
MS = Moderately Strong
AS = Average Strength
MW = Moderately Weak
VW = Very Weak

Personal Talent/Strength Assessment

  1. Achiever - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  2. Activator - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  3. Adaptability - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  4. Analytical - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  5. Arranger - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  6. Belief - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  7. Command - #4 NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  8. Communication - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  9. Competition - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  10. Connectedness - NT (VP) - DS (VW)
  11. Context - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  12. Deliberative - #2 NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  13. Developer - NT (AD) - DS (AS)
  14. Discipline - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  15. Empathy - NT (VP) - DS (VW)
  16. Fairness - NT (VP) - DS (VW)
  17. Focus - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  18. Futuristic - NT (AD) - DS (AS)
  19. Harmony - NT (MP) - DS (MW)
  20. Ideation - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  21. Inclusiveness - NT (VP) - DS (VW)
  22. Individualization - NT (MP) - DS (MW)
  23. Input - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  24. Intellection - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  25. Learner - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  26. Maximizer - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  27. Positivity - NT (AD) - DS (AS)
  28. Relator - NT (VP) - DS (VW)
  29. Responsibility - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  30. Restorative - NT (MD) - DS (MS)
  31. Self-Assurance - #5 NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  32. Significance - #3 NT (VD) - DS (MS)
  33. Strategic - #1 NT (VD) - DS (VS)
  34. Woo (winning others over) - NT (VP) - DS (VW)

In addition to the five dominant natural talents identified by the StrengthsFinder Profile, I feel that I also have seven more dominant natural talents:

Analytical - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
Focus - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
Ideation - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
Input - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
Intellection - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
Learner - NT (VD) - DS (VS)
Restorative - NT (VD) - DS (MS)

I also feel that I have developed all my dominant talents into strengths, except for "Restorative" -- my problem-solving strength isn't as strong as my natural talent for problem solving is dominant. Of course, I will further develop my strengths through more knowledge, improved skills, and overcoming disadvantages.

Steps to Confront, Handle, and Overcome Personal Disadvantages
It's very difficult (if at all impossible) for anyone else to tell you where you can best start with your work on handling your personal disadvantages. You are by far the best one to determine that. The best I can do is to offer a list of possible steps. It's up to you to select your steps and the sequence in which you want to tackle them.

* Before you attempt anything else, it may be necessary to wake up your desire to learn, grow, and succeed -- see #TL03C: How to Wake Up Your Desire to Learn, Grow & Succeed.

* The best place to start may be to identify your natural talents and strengths, before you try anything else.

* For some people, the best place to start is better utilization of your time. Because we only have 24 hours a day, it's important that we invest our time wisely. See #TL03F: How to Manage Your Time.

* If you suffer from poor health, or you live a lifestyle that subjects you to a high risk of "health breakdown" or sudden death, then this may be the best place for you to start -- see Health Freedom & Life Extension.

* Improving money-mastery is a good place for some to start. If you have to spend so much time on earning your survival money, that you have little time for anything else, then you may want to start with #TL03D: Scarcity to Abundance; Poverty to Prosperity; Limited to Unlimited Thinking.

* It may be necessary to realize that we live in a world in which some people play "high-level advantage/disadvantage games." Particularly politicians, bureaucrats, business and religious leaders, journalists, bankers, lawyers, other "professionals," etc. use all kinds of political, legal, economic, and religious "tricks" to gain advantages for themselves and to inflict disadvantages on their victims. To appreciate the nature and extent of these "high-level advantage/disadvantage games," see:

(Note that the above references don't imply endorsement of Neo-Tech writings in general.)

* If you are stuck in some "unwanted condition" or "psychological disadvantage" that prevents or slows down your progress, Idenics may be a good place to start.

* An important consideration is that you may want to achieve "maximum advance" per unit of time invested. Some of the above steps may help to accelerate your progress. Improving your focus and concentration may play a major role in speeding up your progress. See Focus and Concentration

"Laserlike focus is perhaps the most common trademark of the supersuccessful... If you aspire to play in the big leagues, you must be prepared to play every point as though it were match point. In other words, you have to be consistently focused. Dabblers are rarely, if ever, successful. It's when you focus totally, intensely, and consistently on one project -- a project that has the potential to yield a worthwhile payoff -- that you have the greatest chance of success." -- Robert J. Ringer ('Million Dollar Habits')

* Where to start and what to do next requires making decisions. So you may want to improve your ability to make great decisions and follow through with their implementation. See #TL03G: How to Make Great Decisions.

* You may want to study and apply the book 'Software for Your Brain' by Dr. Michael Hewitt Gleeson (available free, online). Among other pearls of wisdom, it includes two powerful formulas you may be able to apply to improve your general ability to overcome your disadvantages: "CVS to BVS" and "BVS = CVS * 10." See also "Become a 10X Performing Person!"

* Some people suffer from a great deal of negative "Self 1 interference." In his "Inner Game" books, W. Timothy Gallwey makes a distinction between "Self 1" and "Self 2." Self 1 can be regarded as related to involuntary thoughts -- often negative -- that automatically enter your mind. See #TL04C: The Ultimate Success Secret.

* Study and apply the book 'The Path of Least Resistance' by Robert Fritz to become the creative force in your life. See also my article on "The Path of Least Resistance."

* Study and apply the book 'Simple Steps to Impossible Dreams' by Steven K. Scott. For details of why this book is so powerful, see #TL04C: The Ultimate Success Secret.

* In reality you may be much more disadvantaged in several areas of your life than you may have suspected. (You may not have noticed because those around you are similarly disadvantaged.) See "Disadvantage Factors" in #TL03E: The Many Forms of Denial.

* It may be worth making a list of all the areas of your life where you may be disadvantaged. Practically everyone (are there any exceptions at all?) suffer from some disadvantages in at least some areas of their lives. Admitting that you suffer from personal disadvantages does not condemn you to being a "special case"; or a "freak." Everyone has personal disadvantages and so do you. Like everyone who wants more success, you want to confront the disadvantages unique to you and overcome them.

* A follow-up step is to identify some specific disadvantages you suffer from. Use the Disadvantage Factors as a guideline, if necessary. The above references to "Economic Rape" and "Neo-Tech" may also be useful in this respect. The Breakthrough Questions and other elements of The Ultimate Success Secret, may also help you identify specific disadvantages.

An important aspect of overcoming your disadvantages is recognizing a disadvantage or becoming aware of a particular disadvantage. If you're not aware of a disadvantage, how do you even begin to replace it with an advantage? Someone could sit down and make a list of what he/she thinks are his/her personal disadvantages, but what if his/her most debilitating or crippling disadvantages are those that he/she is unaware of? Carefully sudying the above list of Disadvantage Factors and following up on the links, may help you recognize hidden personal disadvantages.

Another possibility is to employ the help of a partner or buddy. Someone you could hold a dialogue with, who can ask you questions that may help shed light on your disadvantages. Maybe you could ask people who know you well to tactfully indicate to you what they think may be your disadvantages. But don't become defensive and attack them if they say something you don't like or something that "hurts your self-esteem!" (Typically, your Self 1 would make you self-defensive and/or make you feel hurt.)

An option is to utilize our "Upgrade Your Life" email discussion list.

Another method is to do personality and psychological tests -- see How to Discover Your Talents and Strengths.

* DECIDE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE ON THE BASIS OF RECOGNIZING AND ACKNOWLEDGING YOUR DISADVANTAGES, OVERCOMING THEM, AND REPLACING THEM WITH ADVANTAGES! See #TL04C: The Ultimate Success Secret.

* Decide to live your life out of the question: HOW CAN I GAIN ADVANTAGES, INCREASE THOSE ADVANTAGES, AND EXPLOIT THEM TO THE FULLEST -- WHILE BENEFITING OTHERS? See #TL04C: The Ultimate Success Secret.

* Choose a specific disadvantage and start working on improving that area of your life. I suspect that for many people this could be helplessness -- see #TL10B: Escape from Helplessness and Move up to Power. For some, a good starting point is to tackle the phenomenon of denial itself -- see #TL03E: The Many Forms of Denial.

* Another approach is to ask, WHAT CAN I DO TO IMPROVE MY GENERAL ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE MY DISADVANTAGES AND OVERCOME THEM? Obviously, it would be a great advantage if you could recognize and acknowledge your disadvantages, and quickly overcome them!

* You may want to ask yourself, "WHAT BARRIERS PREVENT ME FROM RECOGNIZING MY DISADVANTAGES?"

A friend indicated to me that when he was in his early teens, he had an image of how he wanted to be in social situations. He was also aware that this was not how he was in reality. When he thought about how socially deficient he was in certain ways, he experienced psychological discomfort. He preferred the pleasure he experienced when he thought about himself as he was in his image/fantasy. But even at that age he realized that he needed to think about and confront his deficiencies and disadvantages in order to overcome them and transform himself in reality.

* I've-Got-My-Shit-Together Theory -- The term "I've-got-my-shit-together" is from 'Looking Out for #1,' by Robert Ringer. See #FFP01: Robert Ringer's 'Million Dollar Habits.' Someone who tells himself that "he's got his shit together" and that he's all OK, may be reluctant to recognize, acknowledge, or address his personal disadvantages.

* false pride and arrogance.

* There are certain qualities that distinguish "solutions" from "nonsolutions." If you're looking for a solution to overcome one of your disadvantages, your attempted solution may be a nonsolution. What I mean by this is that solutions that work have certain characteristics. The nature of some attempted solutions is that they have no chance of working; they are nonsolutions. It's a big advantage to understand the nature of solutions that work. See What Constitutes a Solution?

Idenics
I've made a special arrangement for my contacts to receive a FREE Idenics telephone session. To schedule, call Mike Goldstein toll-free at 1-800-IDENICS (1-800-433-6427) and tell him Frederick Mann sent you. For those outside Mike's calling area who can't reach him on the toll-free number, you're welcome to call him at 1-303-695-4940. Through the application of Idenics you may quickly improve your general ability to recognize and overcome disadvantages. Here are some recent testimonials:

"Last year I was fortunate enough to learn about IDENICS from Frederick Mann. I decided to invest some effort in myself instead of just my problems. I called the number and heard this kind and gentle voice answer. It was Mike Goldstein. He gave a simple description of what IDENICS is, and offered to let me give it a try. I made a telephone appointment for my first session.

After three sessions I discovered what it is like to live without constant guilt. Only the contrast this freedom offered can display its circumscribing effects. I did not know how it feels to be this free. I spent six months living this way, and the progress I made in those three sessions has been permanent. I also began to experience other emotions that it was not possible to feel while under the influence of guilt. Then I had a series of real challenges that left me paralyzed again. I called Mike and we did one session, which removed intense frustration from my daily life. Within 48 hours my entire life did a 180 degree turn and I KNOW it is permanent." -- D.G.

"I took the free Idenics trial with Mike Goldstein in June of 2002. I had been stuck in a kind of bad place for 4 years, probably longer then I have been looking to get unstuck. I found Idenics to be a remarkable experience. Mike absolutely refused to manipulate me in any way. I had gone to a traditional therapist for a while before this session with no or negative affect. If anything, my Idenics session reversed the minor damage done! I was able to verbalize what I wanted to talk about without fear and feel some of the very negative feelings involved... and Mike helped me to identify the thoughts underneath the feelings.

At no time did he try to put his own thoughts in place of mine. He simply allowed me to focus on what I wanted to focus on. I felt more "solid" after the session ended. But the proof is in what happens in real life. After my session I went camping and made decisions. When I got home I applied to school and also prequalified myself for a mortgage." -- M.K.

For more information on how Idenics works, see "IDENTITIES & UNWANTED CONDITIONS" in #TL03D: Scarcity to Abundance; Poverty to Prosperity; Limited to Unlimited Thinking and "ADDITIVES: LESS IS BETTER" in WBM#98 - Boost Your Performance 10x And Earn More!

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