March 18, 2022

“At work, I have the opportunity to do what I love every single day.”

Think about this statement carefully and tell me if stands true for you. Do you truly have the opportunity to do things that you excel at? The Gallup organisation has published research that proves that people who answer this question with a no are not emotionally engaged with their work.

On the other hand, people who answer yes, people who have the opportunity to use their strengths are six times more likely to be emotionally engaged with their work and three times more likely to have an excellent quality of life.

As a child, my parents always told me that if I worked hard, I could be whatever I wanted to be. I embraced this thought and spent hours on the cricket pitch, practicing my bowling, batting, and fielding in the Delhi heat. However hard I worked, becoming a professional cricketer was just not in the cards for me. Five years of hard work & practice, and I didn’t even make it to the inter-school team.

I’m sure you experienced something similar as a child. Your parents or teachers or an influential adult told you that you can be anyone you wish to be and you believed it and I’m not saying you can’t. You can be anyone you wish to be but you will only excel at things that align with your natural strengths.

Furthermore, not everyone can be Sachin Tendulkar, but a Sachin Tendulkar can come from anywhere. Let me clarify this with an example.

Say, you’re in sales. You’re doing extremely well in the field and have figured out how to generate orders! Some time passes and you’re promoted to sales manager. Now, this is a role that requires a completely different skill set. You need to learn how to manage a team. Not only are you responsible for your own actions but also for the actions of your team. You read lots and lots of books, interview other managers to gain insights, study everything there is to about developing people and stay late at the office every night to get things done at the expense of family time and your health. A few years into the manager role you realise that while you were great at selling, you do not have the natural talent to develop people. Not only is this a massive waste of time but the chances are you could have increased your contribution had you stayed in the sales role, where you naturally excelled.

However, the trap of better pay, title, ‘moving up the corporate ladder’ and better social status lured you into a role that you are not naturally great at. So, what can you do? Obviously you want to grow and staying in the same sales role is not the solution. Do you think your talents would have been put to better use had you targeted a senior business development position without accumulating the baggage that came with the sales manager role? Being good at selling and being good at managing other people who sell are two entirely different skills.

Let me shift gears here and take you back to your school time. If you’re anything like me, you must have hated the parent teacher conferences when your parents came to school to get your report card. I hated it because parents and teachers always focused on the subjects I had scored low in. Instead of looking at the potential I showed in subjects like maths and economics, they would focus on my shortcomings in chemistry and computer programming. The chances of me becoming a computer programmer or accomplish something in chemistry were as low as they could be. The subjects simply weren’t my strength. Even Michael Jordan could only be the Michael Jordan of basketball, and when he relaunched himself into baseball and golf, he could never amount to much.

So, I have come to revise the statement “You can be anything you want if you just try hard enough.” A more accurate statement would be: You cannot be anything you want, but you can be a whole lot better if you just embrace who you really are.

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