What to Do, What to Do

When I was quite young, I had the usual answers to that common question, “What are you going to be when you grow up.” Since my mother and father were physicians, I would often as not answer “Doctor” rather than “Fireman” or “Policeman”. It was with relief that I would realize I had gotten away again as, with satisfied smiles, people would say, “That will make your father and mother so proud!”

My first stated career path was “mad scientist,” as I planned with my best friend down the street how to create a laboratory complete with sparking Van de Graaff generators and bubbling Erlenmeyer flasks. However, I had little idea of the “mad scientist” job description beyond those images. It just sounded like a lot of fun, and as a bonus, it created surprise and discomfort in the inquiring adults.

The truth is, I had no idea what I wanted to be, and I have discovered over the years that I was not alone in my ignorance. The number of people who have no real idea of how they ended up doing what they do to earn a living or whose current job has very little relationship to what they studied in school is vast.

It amazes me how many children graduate from high school and even college with little idea of what they want to do with their lives and often even less of an idea about the things at which they are naturally skilled, talented, or gifted.

I got lucky. In my junior year in high school, I discovered psychology through the then booming human potentials movement (this was the late 60s and early 70s) and found my passion. I set my goal to obtain a doctorate in psychology and, with determination, achieved it.

In retrospect, I am not sure it was psychology, per se, that fueled my passion. Yes, I was driven by a desire to understand myself and others and use that understanding to live and help others live a more satisfying and meaningful life. But the passion was driven by the natural skills I possess to assess, problem-solve, troubleshoot, take apart and put back together, organize in unique and idiosyncratic ways, see connections in apparently unrelated things, and understand complex systems.

Practicing as a psychologist is just one of many things I do that use these natural skills. I have used these skills in many areas beyond the practice of psychology throughout my life. I have taught school, tutored others, bred reptiles, earned a 5th-degree black belt in Shaolin Kenpo, earned my Series 6 and life insurance licenses, managed and invested money for myself and other members of my family (including preparing their income tax returns), been seriously involved in a nutritional MLM business, been the caretaker for my father, mother, and sister as they died, and built a 1500 square foot home including electrical wiring, plumbing, and gas lines.

When people look at the list of things of significance that I have done throughout my life, they often cannot see the connection between them. This is because they are looking for similarity in tasks involved rather than for skills that are common across them all.

This focus on the skills the person brings to the job rather than the tasks that the job requires is the focus of Your Talent Advantage and reflects a shift made by The US Department of Labor in the late 1990s when they moved from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

From the task-based approach, the question asked is: “Can I perform the tasks the job requires?” From a skills perspective, the question is: “Do I have the natural skills that match the skills the job requires?”

This may seem like a small difference, but it is not. There are many things I can do for which I do not have the natural skills potential. Doing them necessitates that I learn a set of acquired skills that will drain me emotionally, psychologically, and physically over time.

If I am aware of my Talent Advantage – the set of skills potentials that are innate to me because of my Perceptual Style –I can easily assess whether they match the skills required for a particular job.

The difference between doing a job based on acquired skills versus natural skills is the difference between not just disliking but hating my job, as 75% to 95% of people consistently report, and earning a living doing something meaningful, significant, and satisfying.

Your Talent Advantage is not a job description; it is a map of your inner innate talent potential, a discovery of part of who you fundamentally are. The focus of Your Talent Advantage is to help you discover your natural skills and talents. Without that knowledge, it is easy to get caught in a life built on acquired skills, both in your career and personal life, that feels rote and empty.

Chances are that you don’t like doing what you do to earn your living. This is not just because the statistics support that statement, but because most of us grew up using the task-based approach, searching for the best paying job that we could learn to do. That’s the way it was done historically in the United States.

Even though the job market has shifted from an industrial-based economy to an information and service-based economy, the task-based approach to figuring out “What to do?” is still deeply ingrained in our culture, schools, and personal expectations for ourselves and our children.

The skill-based approach is at the core of Your Talent Advantage and is the foundation of the services and products we have created to help people discover and use their natural talents. It is what we mean when we say, “Discover what you do well and do more of it.”

In writing about, speaking about, and practicing this approach over the years, I have come across many quotes that support it. I was surprised to discover that the most popular, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”, was not uttered by some pop psychology guru in the early 1970s, but by Confucius about 2,500 years ago. Wow! The idea has been around for a long time.

Maybe its time for you to discover Your Talent Advantage!

About Gary M. Jordan Ph.D.

Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D. is a premier authority on behavioral theories and assessment construction. He has over 32 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. Gary earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley, and spent 18 years in private practice where he specialized in helping angry adolescents, couples in conflict, and individuals searching for more meaning and satisfaction in life.
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