Do You Know How Great You Really Are? (Part II)

“A man asked his friend, ‘Who do you think you are?’ His friend replied, ‘I wish I knew.’”  -Unknown

A few months back, I posted a blog titled “Do You Know How Great You Really Are?

In that post, I noted a curious fact that I have discovered. Throughout the course of my life, whenever I have invested the time to really get to know someone, I have inevitably discovered some variety of “greatness” within that person—without exception.

I went on to suggest, that if every human being possesses greatness within them—which they do–there are some important questions each of us ought to explore. Those questions are:

  1. Do I believe that I have greatness within me?
  2. Am I willing to do the work to discover what my greatness is?
  3. Am I willing to accept my greatness once discovered?
  4. Am I willing to develop my greatness to its highest potential?
  5. Am I committed to sharing my greatness with the world?

I spent the remainder of that post addressing the first of those five questions, “Do I believe that I have greatness within me?”

In this post, I would like to address the second of the five questions.

  1. Am I willing to do the work to discover what my greatness is?

You might be thinking, “OK, Mark, I’m willing to consider the possibility that I have greatness within me, but how do I go about discovering it?”

That is a fair question. The good news is that there are a number of ways people can discover their greatness. Let’s explore some of them.

Consider modifying your formula

In my work as a career coach, I often work with people who have adopted a flawed formula for finding a satisfying career. The formula goes like this:

Factor one: Can I do this thing?

+ (Plus)

Factor two: How much money does it pay?

= (Equals) A good career choice…

Although that may be a start, as an effective formula for finding compelling work, it falls painfully short. One of the key factors it ignores is “Do I enjoy this kind of work?” I am amazed by the number of people who never even consider that question when looking at their career choices. It is a proven fact that people who enjoy what they are doing do a better job. Why would anybody choose work that they do not enjoy when they have a choice?

I have discovered that one of the most helpful tools you can use to discover your greatness is to inventory your “joyous” experiences. Simply review your life and identify those things you did that brought you the most joy—regardless of whether it was something that made you money or not.

Obtain a small note book or journal and carry it with you for a few days. When you have a few minutes here or there, simply create a list of all the things that have brought joy to you throughout your life—regardless if you’ve ever been paid to do them. After a few days, you will be amazed at the length of the list you have created. (A side benefit of this exercise is reminiscing on all your joyful experiences!)

After completing the above list, turn the page and start a new one.  This will be a list of things you are good at doing—whether or not you enjoy doing them. Again, you don’t have to have ever made money doing these things. This is simply a list of your skills or competencies. As with the first list, keep working on it for a few days. Don’t compare this new list with the first one you did—create it in isolation. Again, after a few days, you should have a long list of skills you have developed during your life.

Now, put the two lists side by side, and identify the items that appear on both lists (things you enjoy doing that you are also good at). You might discover that what brings you the most joy is something you also happen to be very good at doing. This is the key!

I have found this exercise to be a wonderful tool for discovering personal greatness. It is incredibly rewarding to see the “light” turn on in someone’s eyes when they first discover their personal greatness!

One client I worked with had spent most of his professional life in sales. He had been moderately successful selling a number of products and services. But when he finally paired his sales skills with his love of art, he took his personal success to a whole new level. He went on to run a successful art gallery, where he represented artists whose work he was passionate about. He knew the stories behind each and every painting in his gallery, and he delighted in sharing them with his patrons. If someone wasn’t quite sure about a painting, he’d invite them to take it home with them, hang it on a wall, and “live with it” for a week or two before making a buying decision. This man was passionate about art, and good at selling. He found his greatness by bringing his passion and skill together!

“I’m good at what I do because I love what I do.”  -Unknown

Get a liberal education

When I went to school (back in the Cretaceous Period-ha!) we were provided with a “liberal education.” No, this wasn’t political conditioning, but a broad-based education that included classes on numerous subjects. I was able to take classes on basically anything that interested me from drafting and wood shop, to choir and geometry. We were encouraged to take classes in those subjects that interested us. It was fun to watch those I knew gravitate more and more towards those subjects that they enjoyed most. For example:

My friend Randy loved music. He participated in all the different bands, went on to study music in college, became a session player, and eventually founded a major recording studio.

My friend Kevin, who was in the science club with me, gravitated towards science and math. He has enjoyed a distinguished career as a physician.

My friend Paul was always drawing. I can remember him drawing “better than an adult” in second grade. He took every art course that was offered and excelled in all of them. He is now a famous artist.

When human beings are exposed to a broad array of subject material, and when they are given choices, they naturally gravitate towards those things that bring them joy! So, what subjects are you drawn to?

“Education is the movement from darkness to light.”  –Allan Bloom

Take sincere complements seriously

Oftentimes, people naturally gravitate towards—and develop—their greatness, but they fail to see that greatness. This is one reason it is so important to listen to sincere compliments. Sometimes, those around us can see our greatness when we fail to see it ourselves!

It was the growing number of compliments I received on my presentations early in my career that led me to become a professional speaker and workshop facilitator. I will never forget one such compliment.

I had just finished what I considered a routine presentation. One of the participants approached me, looked me in the eyes, and asked, “Do you have any idea how good you really are?” I blushed and tried to brush the compliment off. This man would have none of it. He got in my face and continued, “You are amazing! You’re the best speaker I have ever heard!” That got my attention.

“Mark is the best trainer I’ve seen in 20+ years of adult learning and training management.”
-R.S., Manager, Microsoft Corporation

People don’t have to give compliments, so most people don’t unless they are well deserved. Listen to those compliments. They may give you the courage to believe in and embrace your greatness!

“It is in men as it is in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.”
-Jonathan Swift

This post has detailed three ways you can discover your personal greatness—I’m confident there are many more. I challenge all of us to do the work necessary to discover our personal greatness—all of it! When you are doing things you enjoy doing, and you’re good at doing them, that’s really living!

“There is nothing as special as watching greatness.”  –Sean Astin

-Mark Swain