Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Unique Ability

People I work with know that, to the extent possible, I try to keep my mind fresh by reading and listening to audio presentations on ground-breaking ideas.

Several weeks ago I was listening to an interview on the concept of "Unique Ability" which says, more or less: every person is able to do something that is uniquely and wonderfully theirs. The speakers suggested that we would all not only be happier, but we would achieve far more and contribute more to the people around us if we would concentrate our efforts as much as possible on our unique abilities rather than exerting ourselves in those areas where we are weak, mediocre, competent, or even "merely" excellent!

"Focus your efforts on those things where you are not only outstandingly excellent, but where you have a passion." --It’s similar to the old idea, I’m sure you’ve heard, that you should "do what you love, and the money will follow."

But I was particularly struck by the source of this "Unique Ability" concept.

Dan Sullivan, founder of a Toronto-based company called Strategic Coach, came up with the idea when he was working with whatever portion of the Canadian government is dedicated to serving handicappers. He said he had begun to notice that some handicappers were bright, cheerful, achievement-oriented people who "even" made lots of money. Others seemed doomed never to rise from the gutter in which they lived. They were depressed, lacking in motivation, unable, it seemed, to do much of anything for themselves much less anyone else. No one would pay them a salary because they had nothing to offer.

What was the difference?

Dan realized that one of the key differences had to do not only with a general mental attitude. It had even more to do with where these two groups of people concentrated their mental, emotional, and physical energies. The one group more or less ignored their limitations; they acquired equipment or hired people to do for them what they could not do for themselves. They focused all their energies on those things they could do. And they became uniquely good at them.

The people who floundered in the gutter, as it were, never had time to think about what they could do because all their energies were spent thinking about and mourning over what they realized they would never be able to do on their own.

Clearly, the situation Dan faced as he worked with these handicappers was somewhat different from what most of us face in our own lives: the handicappers had some things they really and truly, despite all efforts, would absolutely never be able to do. Most of us believe--even if our natural inclinations are in other areas . . . --Most of us believe that, if we would only try harder and spend more time, we really could learn how to play the violin, dance in the ballet, change the oil in our cars without stripping the oil pan plug, etc., etc.

But what Dan and his cohorts have begun to say is this: "If you spend your time really strengthening what you’re not good at, at the end of your life, all you’re going to have is some really strong weaknesses. . . . And what good is that? Why not, rather, devote yourself to those things in which you can become exceptional?"

I will confess that I, myself, have been aware of the "Unique Ability" concept for a little over three years. I have been taking baby steps toward implementing the concept in my own life. I have a long way to go.

I have acquired a copy of a helpful book on the subject: Unique Ability: Creating The Life You Want. It helps you understand what "Unique Ability" is really all about; it helps you discover your personal "Unique Ability"; it helps teach you how to apply your "Unique Ability" to produce extraordinary results; and it seeks to help you use your "Unique Ability" to maximize your impact on the world around you.

It’s a bit expensive, but if you apply what you learn, it can truly revolutionize your life (and the lives of those you know--like your kids and spouse!).

Check it out at
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