It was during a team-building exercise many years ago that I first discovered a talent I had no idea I possessed. The exercise itself was pretty run-of-the-mill -- name one special skill or talent for each person in the room. I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear anything life-changing, but I was taken aback when multiple people told me that I was very good at asking questions.
It was not really something that I had ever considered to be a personal talent. It was, and is, just something that has always come naturally to me -- something that I’ve never really had to think about. And that’s the thing. Your true talent isn’t something that you need to focus on to do it well, and it isn’t something that you will consider remarkable.
Rather, it is something that you should work on honing once you discover it, and it is definitely something that should be incorporated into your career. I’ve spent years working on turning my knack for asking good questions into a career and have helped thousands of other people do the same with their own talents.
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Asking good questions and translating the answers to help other people access great insights has become what I call my “language” -- the way that I communicate with the world. One key thing that I’ve found really successful entrepreneurs have in common is that they’ve built their businesses around their own languages. They’ve identified their own innate special talents and have worked to build careers based on their ability to do what they do best. No wonder they wound up so successful!
Once you identify your own talent, you’ll know your own language, and you’ll be one step closer to building a successful career. This is such a basic, foundational insight that I call it “The First Habit.”
Why do I refer to this as a habit instead of an insight? Because knowing your talent isn’t enough. Making your talent work for you is an ongoing process, requiring you to develop it, hone it and build it into a viable career. The obvious applications for your talent probably won’t jump out at you immediately, but don’t get discouraged. It may take a few nights -- or weeks -- of brainstorming to come up with a viable business idea that really takes advantage of your skill.
Here are four steps to making "The First Habit" work for you:
1. You need a plan.
Doing what you love doesn’t automatically lead to wealth, no matter what anyone tells you. The truth is, you need a clear, solid, long-term vision of what you want from life, and you need to make conscious decisions about how to get there. You only have so much time and attention, so you have to be careful about where you spend it. You also need to carefully weigh risks versus rewards, and make the critical decisions that will move you further along your path.
2. Zero in, double down.
Once you’ve figured out the things that you’re really, really good at, focus on doing those things for the highest compensation that you can, and cut out all of the distractions that pull you away. Make a short list of your strengths, identify career paths that involve those skills and then make a list of the things that you don’t do well. That last list? Those are the things that you need to do less of to reach your goals.
3. Create your exceptional engine.
I use the acronym LEAP -- Learn, Earn, Assistance, Persistence -- as a way to describe the four things you need to do to make the switch from salaried labor for someone else to working for yourself. Learn more about money-making opportunities that allow you to use your language. Earn some cash using your language, as this will help you hone your skills. Get assistance from people in your informal network. And exercise persistence. Success requires making mistakes and learning from those experiences, so you need to take those risks. And that leads me to my last point.
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4. Failure makes perfect.
No matter what your talent or plan, it’s important to stay focused on getting an equity stake in whatever you do. Keep that in mind any time you are picking projects or negotiating terms. A ladder of money exists whenever goods and services are exchanged, and your goal should be to position yourself at the top of that ladder. Map out your future income path, and figure out how to work your way up.