Broken Talent

Have you ever come across people who teach you something every time you interact with them? It is rare to find such gems, but it requires a keen mind to find them, especially if they are not well known and don’t have the regular social achievements under their belt.

More often than not, I have come across such people who are underappreciated by the folks who are a part of their team, their family and very often, by their management. Not to say that every one of these folks are ignored, or everyone who is ignored is somehow in the category of exuding brilliance. Yet, I personally know many (had to mentally go through their faces), and possibly more if I put my mind to it. It pains me every time I think how much more they could achieve, give back to the society and how much further they could be in life than where I am.

These are individuals, capable of so much more, but untapped because they have not been given a focus, not given some feedback,  words of encouragement or some appreciation. This isn’t just a case of bad management, bad parenting, bad friendship, bad mentoring or even bad relationships. This is often because most people look at what shines. It takes extra effort to carve out a diamond, than to polish one. As it stands, there is only so much effort and energy to go around.

The effort is simple. Look for strengths, and look hard. Due to the complexity of the human brain, everyone has a set of unique strengths. Due to the simplistic (and extremely limited) understanding of the same human brain, we don’t naturally see the strengths play out in the limited ways that we have evolved to interact. Furthermore, even the vocabulary to express strengths of what individuals can do is limited.

Unfortunately, only those who are strong in the expression and limited interactions, are able to succeed in playing to their other strengths. To provide an analogy, let’s say that the general public can count up to three numbers: 1, 2 and 3. And they can count well. One person, is somehow good at counting from 15 to 20, but they stumble at going from 2 to 3. This person is now unable to interact with society, because there is a starter problem. Truth is that they are sharper and have extraordinary capabilities, just not in the initiation protocol. Finding such capabilities, when it takes an enormous effort to go from one to three, and with the possibility that they don’t even exist, is what keeps this talent untapped, these individuals unsuccessful and all of society behind.

There are many examples of accidental discovery of talent, the most fascinating one being that of Gillian Lynne (credits to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk). She was 7 when her mother thought that something was wrong with her, when the doctor said, “Your daughter isn’t sick, she is a dancer.”

I doubt that anyone reading this will make  efforts for strangers or colleagues, but I hope they will at least strive to do so for their kids, and loved ones. If only we wouldn’t break talent at 1, 2 and 3.