We all have innate talents and abilities, most of us have educations, and we also have our life experiences. All of these things contribute to what type of person we are or will become. All of them combine to form what we know, what we’ve learned, or who we are at any moment in time.
An innate talent is something unique to each person. It might be something silly, like curling your tongue or touching them to the tips of our noses, or maybe we’re good with numbers, or maybe we’re just really tall which helps if we want to be a professional basketball player.
Our education, however, gives us a basic framework of knowledge, and our interests and advanced education give us specialization. Hopefully we continue learning throughout our entire lives.
Among the experiences life hands us might be something like being asked to take on a role at our job that we simply haven’t prepared for in our education or training. That could include becoming a manager of people because our job thrust us into that role. Another example might be that we were forced to learn money management to stay afloat financially even though we’re not very good at balancing budgets and don’t really enjoy doing that…
So, the question is, when we decide to develop ourselves further which skills should we focus on – life experiences that have helped us grow, our innate talents, or should we focus on skills in which we are weak?
This article in Forbes says that we should not only focus on our strengths but after 30 we should pick only one or two strengths to build upon. It says, “Focus instead on what you are already naturally talented at go from good to great.” It sounds like they’re telling us to improve our innate talents.
However, the opposite can be true as well. For example, in the world of sports like MMA, watch enough fights or the reality series, “The Ultimate Fighter,” and you’ll probably hear them talking about improving a combatant by strengthening his or her weaknesses. The announcer in a fight might say something along the lines of, “He’s worked on his ground-game since his last fight, and he’s become more well-rounded.”
But what about our life experiences? If we mastered of a piece of software to a level few in our industry achieve, or we became great at mentoring others, or we became a very effective manager of people, should we focus on those skills and get formal training to develop them further? How do we decide where to focus?
One of the biggest decisions we have to make as adults is where we want to be in five, ten, twenty years. What skills will we need to get there?
When we know where we want to go and we learn some skills to help get us there, we shouldn’t forget that life will change unexpectedly so we must be prepared to change with it. We must learn to adapt and evolve with the situation as we work toward the goal we’ve set for ourselves.
Adaptability is the most important skill to have in the workforce of today. If we can’t change course effectively when a curve ball comes at us then we will not be able to remain in the game very long.
How do we develop adaptability? Simple. Keep an open mind. To adapt is to survive life’s unexpected challenges, and survival can be messy and uncomfortable. We might have to learn something to survive that forces us to rethink everything we know and believe. If we can survive those moments/days/weeks (be resilient!), then we can succeed at whatever we put our minds to.
After all, survival is just being practical about what life is visiting upon us. Adapt, survive, evolve.