Destined to own and operate the family business, a local grocery store in small town USA, my father begrudgingly helped out after school. Stocking shelves one day, with curiosity my dad noticed a blind gentleman. The two struck up a conversation that focused on fascinating war stories shared by this injured Navy veteran. Swirling in my dad’s mind were images of brotherhood, commitment, exciting new places and the unfortunate submarine battery explosion during World War 2 that blinded his new friend. Much to the family’s dismay, my father joined the Navy and was selected, based on his strengths, to train in the electronics field. Listening to my father’s Navy stories over the years, he has shared that there were certain functions of maintaining electrical equipment that seemed difficult but reading diagrams wasn’t one of them. He quickly realized he could mentally visualize electrons flowing through those static diagrams! Those confusing squiggly lines with numbers, equations and current flows could make a normal grown man cry but to my father, they made perfect sense!
Years later, while working to enhance the Navy submarine sonar systems, my father used his unique talent to see those flowing electrons race through the electrical systems and implemented a substantial change to the already complex electronics. The Navy was impressed and excited with the upgrades as they tracked Soviet ships in the Atlantic Ocean unknown to the enemy. Of course, this was all very Top Secret but I think I can tell you this since it’s been 50 years (at least I hope I can!). My father was honored with a medal and many promotions during his U.S. Navy career.
As a decorated career Navy veteran, after retiring my father took a position in the Physics Department at Yale University to use his unique strengths and worked with Nobel Laureate physicists. He helped build electronic equipment that could only be imagined by these world-class physicists. Their imaginations became his reality in the laboratories and basement of Yale University.
During one of those quiet moments of conversation after a holiday family dinner, I asked my dad to explain how he made the changes to the sonar system. Up until that time, my father had never shared with anyone how he easily understood the electrical diagrams. He assumed that everyone visualized current flow in electrical diagrams! I was duly impressed but my dad remained humble and said, “It’s no big deal. It’s easy.”
I share this story with you to highlight the fact that we all have talents. God-given exceptional talents that we often discount because to us, they are easy. You might think that an exceptional talent can’t be exceptional if it’s easy, right? Not true. The truth is, for most of us, our talents often go undiscovered. We can do something exceptional but may never be exposed to a situation that creates our awareness to uncover the talent. In Step 3 of “The 7 Steps of Intentional Leadership,” we delve into self-assessment to make sure you uncover those innate strengths and competencies for your life. For instance, remember Dr. Emmett Brown, from the movie Back to the Future, building the flux capacitor for time travel? Like Dr. Brown and Marty McFly, without any idea of your strengths, you never know where you may end up.
Do you have a story of your strengths? How did your talents get recognized? Was it someone else who said to you, “WOW! (insert your name here) HOW SO YOU DO THAT?” And you responded with, “I don’t know. It’s easy. Why?”
Watch for these questions. They are insights into your great talents.
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” -John C. Maxwell, Leadership 101