Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash
Sometimes we fall victim to this idea that we are good at absolutely nothing. Even if our friends and family tell us we are good at something, we default to the idea that:
“They just say that because they are feeling sorry for me”.
The sheer thought that we are good at anything seems fairly far fetched. However, whether you want to find it out or not, there is something on this planet that you have a genetic predisposition to be good at.
It’s just science.
Wherever you are in your life, regardless of your age, there will be something you have a natural talent for. Not the best at, you won’t be world-class right out of the gate but you will have a natural ability for something.
That might be a foreign concept to you, you may have just read that sentence and said ‘no I don’t, I’m not very good at anything’ or you may have read that sentence and said ‘Yeah, I’m the dog’s bollocks at cooking’. Whichever reaction — you will be good at something, if you are the latter you can cross modest off your list.
Why It’s a Good Thing
Knowing what you are good at is really helpful in the workplace and life. If nothing else it gives you something to get confidence from. It gives you something to fall back on when you’re having a bad day. An inspiring chap I met recently told me the ‘secret’ to his success. He said it was all about honing his competence for his niche area of expertise. People would naturally come to him for advice around his niche subject but then people just got used to asking his advice about other things.
He got confidence from talking about his area of expertise and then spoke confidently about other things.
So whether it’s public speaking, excel spreadsheets, writing, creating… whatever it is, you need to remember that you are great at that and that’s your superpower.
Use that as your anchor to build confidence from.
#1 Your Stories — Analyse Them
The reality is that we are all made up of a series of experiences, we all have stories that got us to where we are. I have a story of why I started writing this article and you have a story of how you came about reading it. And since we are together with each other now, I’m asking you to trust me that you will be absolutely excellent at some stuff.
The great news is, that people make great lives out of being great at just a handful of things. The bad news is, that people also made horrible lives out of doing all of the stuff they are horrible at.
So let’s try and focus on the good stuff.
I will presume that you are struggling to find out what you are good at. I say that not because I think you have zero self-confidence… I don’t even know you at this point so who am I to judge. But I say it because most people hate saying they are good at stuff. I don’t know what it is about the society we live in but somehow saying:
‘I think I’m good at talking to people.’
All of a sudden makes the person you are talking to feel like they are not. Then you end up feeling guilty about the fact you said that to them, your mind ticks over and you start to worry that they think you’re a horrible person and now you just feel awkward.
Saying you are good at something just means you are reflective and you can see your own strengths — which is brilliant. Saying you are good at something is not telling someone else they are bad at it.
Lastly, just because you are good at something doesn’t automatically mean everyone else isn’t. Strengths are not a finite resource that everyone has to share. You could be good at the same things as your colleagues. That doesn’t mean you’re less good at it — it just means you have the same strengths.
So what story do you tell yourself? What is the one thing you lean into and think:
“Actually that time at that meeting I was really quite good at articulating my point, I am quite good at that.”
#2 Lean Into Your Experiences
Our experiences shape who we are. You might not feel it at the time but they do. Every time you experience pain you understand your body moves, every time you experience joy you feel your brain light up.
Our experiences make us.
No matter where you are now, if you feel like you don’t have any experience in life I bet that that’s not the case. I guarantee you’ve been a customer right? In some way, shape or form. You’ve bought something or experienced some sort of business to customer relationship. A business at its very core is people giving something to other people in exchange for something (usually money).
You’ve got an experience of being on the receiving end of a business. Equally, you may have been involved in some sort of team / society / group working. That will give you experience in working with people — which all workplaces have. Also, you have been a human up until this point so communication, interaction, ‘people stuff’ should be concepts you are fairly familiar with.
And let’s be honest, work is practically just that right.. It’s just talking to people… mostly.
You can use your experiences to figure out what you are naturally quite good at. Look into your experiences and figure out where in life you have spent most of your time. Look at your job history, is there a theme there? Look at how you’ve ended up spending your down-time over the years?
Even if you’ve spent all your down-time up until this point watching Netflix, look at the stories that take your interest.
#3 The Circle Test — Write It Down Figure Out What You’re Good At
Take stock of what you’ve got — write it down. The practice of putting pen to paper and brain dumping everything down should help you. If you are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of white space on the page, another way to do this is to write out every word you can think of to do with work:
Skills That Are Involved in Most Jobs:
Presenting, talking to people, articulating my ideas, analysing data, spotting trends, listening, understanding what people are getting at, making things happen, organising, thinking problems through, finding efficiencies, managing people’s expectations.
1. Keep writing until you run out of things to write. Once you’ve got a list of 20–30 things, go over them and review the list. Think through if there is any else to add, if not find a different colour pen.
2. Circle the ones you think you’re 5/10 on. I say 5/10 because you’re probably being unfair to yourself, your 5/10 is probably most people’s 7/10. If you’ve ended up with a list of about 10–15, move onto step 3. If you’ve got a list of 5–10, got straight to step 4.
Image of an example of The Circle Test created for www.millennialcareerhealth.com
3. Take another colour pen and go back over the circles you’ve just made but this time only re-circle if you think you are 7/10 on them. You should ideally have about 5–10 circles.
4. Think of examples that prove you are good at that circle. For example, if you’ve just circled that you are good at presenting, you need to be able to think of an example where you presented competently and confidently. Don’t be too harsh on yourself at this stage but if you can’t think of a half-decent example, cross the circle off.
5. Hopefully now, you’ll have 3–5 skills that you are, evidentially, good at.
Now you feel a little more confident about the fact that there are somethings in life you are, obviously, good at.
#4 Frame Your Weaknesses as Something You Are Good At
We are, weirdly, very good at pointing out what we are bad at. Ask most people what they are good at and they’ll struggle to name 3 things, ask them what they are bad at and they’ll have a list as long as their arm.
I’m not sure what it is about us humans that we are so happy to talk badly about ourselves but when it comes to naming our strengths we shudder.
However, because we are naturally more okay with telling everyone how rubbish we are at life, we can use those negatives to our advantage.
For example, if you are convinced that you aren’t very good at talking to people and getting your ideas across we can flip that. So the opposite of talking is listening, are you good at listening? What about reading people’s emotions? Or the opposite to communicating in general is not communicating, being on your own, silently working. Are you good at working by yourself? Do you have a strength in creating focus and concentrating on one single thing?
For every weakness there is an associate strength:-
Bad with words vs. good with numbers
A poor organiser vs. creative and adaptable
Poor time management vs. passionate and totally fixation on a problem
They might not be direct opposites but the point is that they spark the idea that weaknesses have a counterpart. A strength. So if you are good at reeling off all the things you are totally rubbish at try writing those down and thinking of their counterparts.
There are, whether we like it or not, some things in life that we are good at. There is nothing wrong with saying that you have strengths. The first step in capitalising on your strengths is to outline what they are. You should be unapologetic about having strengths, we all do. Hopefully this has done something to help you find yours.