“There was no rain. The cemetery was quiet. The graves were overgrown with tangles of thick grass, as if these tufts of pale green now owned the tombstones. Dry flowers wilted in there empty vases. A cool wind passed between the graves, sending crippled, bone-dry rose leaves scraping across the dusty marble. No one had visited these graves in decades. No one came to this side of the cemetery. This was the place of the forgotten. The place of forgotten strengths and weaknesses.
This is what awaits me, thought Rachel, if I follow average advice. Study a profession that pays well, find a job, settle down, start a family, work for 50 years and retire. If I do that, I’ll be dead long before they put me in the ground.”
I don’t want to be the harbinger of bad news, but we’re all going to die. That’s not negotiable. But how we live while we’re alive is up to us. To live we need to embrace the inevitability of death. That way, with fear set aside, we can see the world for the place of uncommon opportunities it is.
The world is fascinated with averages and often draws our attention to them. Schools are especially proud of averages and getting kids just above this imaginary average.
If children are below the average, it’s cause for concern. If they’re above the average, then everything is fine. The problem with this approach is that in the real world, there’s so much competition when it comes to being average that it’s difficult to make a living being average. Worse yet, artificial intelligence and automation will replace many of today’s average jobs. This is bad news for the average person…and great news for the person searching for something more than the average. Read on for details.
More than that though, there’s no vitality in living an average life. Spending our lives doing the things we do averagely is a dangerous place to live. However, there are times where being average is useful.
There are many things in life where it serves us well to be average.
Being an average driver allows you to move and travel.
Being an average sleeper helps keep our minds fresh.
Being an average friend will help us avoid loneliness.
Being an average cook will keep us fed.
Being an average player in an average game will let you play.
But is there any passion in the average? Is there a burning desire to be more and achieve more? I don’t believe there is. As useful as it is to be average, no one was ever inspired by an average performance of anything. If an average performance ever did inspire people, it was more out of outrage for the neglect and disrespect of the action.
There are no awards for the average.
There are no prizes for mediocrity.
So why are we so obsessed with averages? If our children are above average, we feel proud. If they’re below the average, we feel concerned and anxious.
Since when did we come to explore the average as a way of life?
In his book “The Notebook” Nicholas Sparks’ main character, Noah, says these words. The first time I heard them in the film adaptation of his book, they pierced me with their beauty.
“I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.”
This is beautiful.
Have you ever met someone who was great at doing something? I have.
My best friend, Daniel de Wet, is a jazz musician. He plays the piano the way the Greek philosophers explored ideas. He’s always looking for the next level, always searching for the next breakthrough with his music. He owns every single note that his fingers play. The University of the Witwatersrand recently awarded him his Masters in Rhythmic Improvisation. Does he flaunt it? No, because he’s after something far deeper and every day he searches for this something with a relentless discipline. People pay him to move them with his music. People pay him to teach them the essence of rhythm. It’s his strength.
My friend Darren Ellis is a photographer. In a single year, he’s managed to leap frog other professional photographers in ability and experience. He creates magic out of an ordinary setting. He always has his camera with him. He’s always looking for the next shot that is going to redefine the way he films and photographs. People pay him to capture moments. It’s his strength.
I’m a teacher. I love teaching. Every day I wake up knowing that I have a new chance to experiment with ways to bring out the best in the children and teens that I teach. I screw up every day. I make mistakes. Each mistake I make creates a new learning that I can carry with me. I love it. Each day is better than the last. I want to travel back in time and apologise to the children I once taught because I’m improving every day and have learnt so much since I taught them. People pay me to awaken the brilliance in their children. It’s my strength.
My fiancé is an event logistics specialist. People pay her to run their personal development events. She’s so good at what she does that the head of a global entrepreneurial organisation has asked her to take over all events in Europe and Africa. Running events is her strength.
None of the people mentioned above have a limited earning potential. In fact, the more they practice their strengths, the more valuable their work becomes. Better yet, every day they work, they live.
Think about the people that you have met who are great at doing something. Do they seem uninspired and bored? 9 times out of 10, they’re not. Mostly, they’re the sort of people you enjoy seeing. It’s as if they’ve tapped into something that you didn’t know existed. These people are the artists of the world and for them; every day is a place where they can explore their art, their strength.
In our world, inflation deflates our money’s potential every year. In some countries, inflation is even higher than the interest rate you’ll receive in a bank. With this in mind, do you want your children to be employed in a job so that they can survive? On the other hand, do you want them to have the flexibility and vitality that comes with building a strength and leveraging it to create an income?
Having an art doesn’t always mean you’ll be paid for it right away. Look at Vincent van Gogh. His paycheck was about a hundred years late. But when you follow your strengths and pursue the things you’re passionate about, you create something the world has never seen before. You bring your uniqueness to the table. Your strength becomes your legacy.
In his book “The Inner Game of Success”, Four-time Olympian Ruben Gonzalez explains how he succeeded. “I focused on my strengths. I wanted to compete at the highest level. I knew that I didn’t have the necessary build to be a jockey or a sumo wrestler. My strength was perseverance. I knew that when other people would quit, I would continue. All I needed to do was find a sport that most people would quit and I was in with a chance.”
He found the ideal sport: luge. Ruben put his perseverance into practice, sticking it out when other people were quitting. Luge is a dangerous sport and injuries occur constantly. Eventually he qualified to compete in four Olympic Games.
Ruben’s example is simple because early on he discovered his strengths…and his weaknesses. Then he found a place where his strengths would be useful.
When it comes to your child, you may not pick up their strengths right away. There are so many things that they may excel at.
Some strengths are linked to character traits. If you start looking for your child’s character traits, they will begin to point you in the direction of something they could succeed it. This will eventually point you to their strengths.
Some questions to ask yourself questions about your child’s character strengths are:
If you’d like a list of character traits to start with, click here. It’s a great blog post with qualities that can help you define your child’s character traits. Find a few that stick out. Give your child a rating out of five on each of them. This isn’t a perfect science, but it will help to point you in a direction. Sometimes a child has far more consistency of character when we know what we’re looking for.
Music, performance, artistry, analytics, numbers, words…the world is filled with an endless list of avenues where every child can explore their strengths and weaknesses. Which place does your child show promise? Which place does your child shine? How willing is she/he to put in the work to improving at this?
Dr. John Demartini is nuts about values. And for good reason, too. He believes that the voids in our life create our values. For example, if you grew up in a disconnected family, and you realised this void, one of your highest values may be connection with others. This value will continue until you fill this void. Then another void and value will appear.
The Demartini Values Determining Process is a great way of figuring out what your child’s highest values are. It’s a 14 question process that covers different areas of life. I would suggest doing most of the work yourself, because some of it can be a little abstract. However, it helps to give direction as to where your child’s values lie.
Another way of discovering your child’s strengths is to observe them in moments of tension or high pressure. Problems create an opportunity to see how people respond to different challenges and which ways they naturally turn in order to solve them.
Try giving your child different problems and real world examples. Opportunities to do this fill abound each day, so see the simple things as possible problem-solving opportunities:
You have tons of juicy problems just waiting to be solved. The real issue is that most parents end up solving these problems themselves, instead of giving their children a chance to learn how to solve them. If you’re one of these parents, why not try this instead:
Each of these questions point to a strength that they can grow.
Look at each question they ask as an internal search for the strength within themselves.
When you find a weakness, don’t judge it. Be curious about it. Apply the same thing to your child’s strengths. Be curious about them. Don’t label them as things that your child is “good” at. In her book, “Mindset” Carol Dweck explains how harmful a label based on identity can be. Statements like, “You’re such a clever girl,” and, “you’re intelligent,” draw your child’s focus to seeing themselves as a certain type of person…not someone in a state of becoming through action and effort. Instead, she encourages people to compliment the effort that went into achieving something. “You worked so hard at this,” and, “You’ve spent hours creating this work, I’m so proud of the time you put into this project.” This way, the focus is on the process, not the end-goal.
See everything your child does as an opportunity to learn more about them. Don’t compare them to others at this point.
Ikigai is a Japanese idea that has been around for almost a thousand years. It means, “Your reason for being”. It’s your life, your hopes and your dreams, but more importantly, it realistically considers the world in its reckoning.
The Ikigai’s four questions, force you to look into your strengths, but also the usefulness of your strengths in the context of the world around you. Here it is:
To me, the Ikigai is everything that the brilliance quotient stands for.
It’s the thing that you love doing.
It’s the thing you’re good at. It’s your strength.
It’s the thing the world needs.
And finally, it’s the thing you can be paid for doing.
Every single one of us has an Ikigai. Every one of us has something that ignites our brilliance. Ask your children each one of these questions. Ask them every day, if you have to. Replace questions like, “did you do your homework?” and “what do you want for dinner?” with the Ikigai’s four questions.
There’s nothing more urgent than this.
There’s nothing more that the world needs.
Unleash their potential.
Unleash the power within them early, so that they can nurture this strength into something that will reshape the world in the years to come.
“Somewhere in the world, there’s a kid who’s training twice as hard as you. When you’re sitting in front of the tv, congratulating yourself for your hard work, he’s busy training. And the day that he meets you in a competition, he’s going to beat you.”
I’m paraphrasing here, but these words come from Taekwondo Master, Mack Newton. And I believe he’s right.
When you find your child’s strengths, then you can begin to measure them up against other children in the same field. This is the point where you can begin to place them in terms of their skill. If they’re interested in this area and if they want to grow, it’s a good time to show them that competition is a real thing.
I think healthy competition is great. It forces us all to work a little bit harder and improve our abilities. Competition is the reason why we’ve progressed as a civilisation. It’s the reason why Roger Bannister broke the unbreakable 4-minute mile in 1956…and then a slew of other runners cracked the four minute mile after him.
Competition allows us to see new levels of achievement we did not know were possible. And within our strengths, we can compete to help others reach new heights.
Going back to Mack Newton’s phrase, allow me add to add a bit of hope to it:
“Yes, he’ll beat you. and you’ll cry about it. But the next day you’re going to be training twice as hard as you were. The next week you’re going to hit new levels that you didn’t know existed. And in the next couple of months your development will be unrecognisable. Then the next time you meet him in a competition, you’ll beat him. And together, you’ll inspire each other to be the best the world has ever seen.”
Doesn’t that sound like something worthwhile to invest in? Our children can all do it when they embrace and work on their strengths.
I leave you with one of the greatest rivalries of our time: the competition between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both great players who wouldn’t have realised their strengths without pressure from the other.
Until next week, remember…
You will fit into the world with your weaknesses, but the world will beg for your strengths
© The Brilliance Quotient 2018