We had a low key Thanksgiving this year.
Cory and I spent the day finishing up the beta test for Activate Your Genius! a seven steps program to help you find focus and make a real difference in 2017. We were so excited with the outcome that we had to start now! There was no patience to wait for 2017 to begin... We took brief intermissions from the whiteboard to eat and drink, because it was Thanksgiving, after all. But the focus definitely wasn’t on the food.
That is a rare departure for me. Because I love food. I love making food. I show my love with food. And I really enjoy eating food. I can be counted on to bring a dish to pass, bake (paleo) cookies for the office gathering, or throw a dinner party on the roof. Anything that might let me show off what I’ve got cookin’.
Because when I bring food to the table, I bring so much more. That dish is an expression of my admiration. My consideration. My respect. My love. My desire for everyone in my vicinity to feel noticed and cared-for. It is my art. My creativity. And proof that I anticipated this time together long before we occupied the same space.
Even without food in my hands, I bring that same enthusiastic regard with me wherever I go. It’s what I bring to the table. It’s (part of) my contribution to the quality of life and work around me.
I didn’t always understand it that way.
We often fail to notice the things that we do reflexively, automatically, without thinking. The things that we do because that’s what people do. Without realizing that most other people don’t actually do them. The things that we somehow just know how to do.
Our talents. Our gifts. Our magic. These are the areas, activities, traits that most benefit the people and organizations around us. They are our unique value proposition. The things we can do better than anyone else can do. And they also are the least likely to be recognized in ourselves. And they are the most difficult to measure (the latter contributes to the former).
At school and work we gain a sense of our skills. We understand if we’re good at math or writing or drawing. We learn quickly whether we can anticipate the boss’s requests or quickly respond. We become the go-to person for this task or another. And when we list out all of those things, not one of them (probably) gives us a sense of pride and wonder.
Skills are necessary. And sometimes impressive. And with the right mindset, training, and practice, skills can be developed, by anyone.
Your talent—your magic—however, is something different. It’s planted deep within you. And with care and nurturing, it can blossom into something truly remarkable. It probably already has, only you might not be able to see it, yet.
Because your talents aren’t easily listed or measured or rewarded at school or at work, they can sometimes be hard to describe. You can feel it: When you are working from a place of enthusiasm and energy and—at the same time—ease. When all eyes are on you. Or all eyes are looking to you for something that they need. And even though you may not be able to name them, you can be sure the people around you count on you to deliver.
Because they're what you bring to the table.
It is your unique contribution that makes the meal whole. It is the thing no-one has to ask you to bring—like Aunt Marilyn’s pumpkin bread—and no-one else would dare try to replicate. Because you do it so remarkably, and they have their own contribution to make.
So what is it?
It has taken me years to peel back the layers and find my unique seed. And even still I am surprised when I find out how others see me and what they count on me to bring.
What are those things for you? When do you feel most alive? When do you know you are making the most difference? What can you always be counted on to do? What seems so incredibly obvious and easy to you (but others seem to never think of it)? What actions or traits or ideas pull at you deep in your core?
That’s your contribution. That’s what you bring to the table.
If you’re having trouble thinking of anything, reach out. Ask your friends and colleagues. Call your sister (I did). Find out what they count on you to bring. Ask them what situations bring you to mind. See when they can tell by your energy and your enthusiasm that you are most alive.
You might be surprised. But I promise you won't be disappointed. You have a unique contribution to make. Name it! We're counting on you to bring it.
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The Desire Map (affiliate link): A Guide to Creating Goals With Soul by Danielle LaPorte
Mastery by Robert Greene
StandOut 2.0: Assess Your Strengths, Find Your Edge, Win at Work by Marcus Buckingham
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath