Every single person has a talent and/or a kind of intelligence. I have worked with all ages of children, who are the perfect testing ground for learning about human nature.

 

Recently, I began working at a school’s after care program. On the first day, I confirmed this belief about strengths. A first-grader spent the whole afternoon working with small amounts of clay. This boy made a lion, a dog and a chicken. They creations were quite authentic. A future sculptor perhaps? Or at the very least he may find a creative outlet doing work with his hands and his imagination.

 

Sometimes we need to help another person find their talent.

 

A co-worker of mine shared that after her son started college, he lost interest. She enrolled him in a carpentry school. She said he is amazing with putting anything together. This is an art, an intelligence, and the world need his skills. Sometimes it may take a second opinion to help nurture those interests.

 

I, on the other hand, am my own research subject. When I was small, I was intrigued with music. I took glasses and filled them with different amounts of water and would play the scale. My mother saw this and bought a broken player piano—most keys worked. Some keys were dead too. But I sat there for hours and years and figured out the major and minor scale. I could (and can) play anything by ear.

 

Another strength comes from feedback I take from others. They say I have always been intuitive and nurturing and this helps me in life at work and at play.

 

There are those people with some limitations but have other strengths. Some are phenomenal with numbers and have amazing memories. Parts of their brains seem over-charged. Many brilliant scientists and mathematicians are thought to have been on the autistic spectrum, like Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.

 

It is important to remember that we are all valuable, no matter what our “limitations” may be.

 

It is intriguing to watch America’s Got Talent. There are performers who can make their bodies do incredible things. I saw a 15-year-old girl with a pair of lungs who can belt out a song and do it beautifully. There is a comedian on the show who has Tourette’s Syndrome and uses this as part of his shtick. He is so, so funny.

 

When we raise our kids, we don’t want to build false self-esteem. So why not invest in the strength and interest of that child.  

 

My daughter, though intelligent, hated school. Her training started with her dad, who got her involved in watching the Yankees. Early on, she learned batting averages and all the statistics of baseball. It made her better at math. She ended up going into marketing in a sports-related network. She also has a superb memory. That helps her too. And she didn’t take after me, thankfully.

 

There is a study by psychologists Andreas Steimer and Andre Mata on strengths and weaknesses. They surmise that people work harder on their weaknesses. The research maintains that people say they know they can’t change what they can’t change.

 

But they still spend more time on them and less on their strengths. As with New Year’s resolutions, we try to fix what we think we need to about ourselves. Many do not reach these goals and then are disappointed. Some call this false hope syndrome.  

 

Spending time on our strengths makes us better at what we enjoy and competent too.  

 

You may have heard about the requisite 10,000 hours needed to perfect a skill. This article says, it’s more like 10 years. If you have are inclined to do something and enjoy it, it is always worth it to invest your time and energy.

 

There are programs to test for strengths. The are called “positive interventions.” They are used to reveal five character strengths. The results show that practicing strengths lessens depression and increases happiness.

 

Now, this does not mean we shouldn’t all be competent in life. Courses like balancing out a check book, cooking a meal, sewing on a button and fixing things are all extremely useful. Going with strengths does not preclude life skills.  

 

Lastly, there is much to be said about pooling our strengths. Quite often when we join forces the end result is so much better. Here is a wonderful quote by Michelle Obama that reminds us of collaboration over competition.

 

“Here in America, we don’t let our differences tear us apart. Not here. Because we know that our greatness comes from when we appreciate each other’s strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other, because in this country, it’s never been each person for themselves. No, we’re all in this together. We always have been. –Michelle Obama

 

How can you foster your strengths and talents while helping those around you find their own? I’d love to start a conversation!

 

Beth

Beth grew up in Camden, New Jersey and majored in Education and History at Rutgers University and later obtained a Masters in Family Therapy at Drexel University. She’s married to her husband of 41 years with two young adult children—a daughter and son—who both work in NYC. She loves movies, Netflix, books, history, linguistics and exploring the human condition. From her extensive background, she’s accumulated many stories and lessons and looks forward to shaping the conversation.