What can I be great at?

A theme I have been thinking through the other day is “what can I be great at?” This is a challenging question for me to tackle, as I have always struggled to clearly and simply define my greatest strengths. On a tangential note, I can very clearly tell you all about my many many weaknesses.

Luckily, in 2018, I find there are so many accessible resources at my disposal. So many things I *could* go ahead and explore. I imagine that 100 years ago, this was not the case. A kid born in Arizona could not think about building a company in SF or work on problems in Nigeria or study abroad in HK. We live in a time of amazing horizontal and vertical mobility – somewhat restricted to the wealthy of society, but hopefully over time this will be democratized to everyone.

Nonetheless, the challenge is answering the question: What can I be great at? Better, more optimistically put, what do I want to be great at?

There are so many things I *could* go about prioritizing and learning…what are the things that I am uniquely suited and potentially apt to really become one of the best at?

Say, for instance, I have 1000 hours ahead of me. How do I allocate in such a way to maximize my return? What is the type of return I am even optimizing for?

It is those questions, the nuanced ones, the really drive my decisions over the long period.

In unpacking “what will I be great at – legendary at – the best at” I think to myself…how can I combine my unique background to do something magical. It is not about beating others. It is not about winning the competition of life. It is about being the best version of myself, the highest ceiling, the most legendary journey.

An epic story to leave on this earth.

What can I be great at? Not eh. Not mediocre. Not just okay.

Noteworthy. Special. Memorable. Different.

Do you have this conversation with your brain? Is this an important thing to really think about and prioritize? How concerted an effort should this type of thinking really be? When should we be asking these questions and really how often?

I think I can become a great catalyst – someone who brings the best out of other people. 

I think I can become a great filter – someone who can focus on what is important. 

I can become a good engineer. A good designer. A good salesperson. A good organizer. A good writer.

But what cluster of skills do I want to make me great? What combination of items do I want in my portfolio?

For now, my working answer is this:

I am great at empathizing with both internal and external stakeholders. Tangibly, I think I am really good at understanding complicated people and complex problems. I think this is my core competency. I am generally good at asking the right questions to get to:

  • prioritization
  • understanding incentives
  • explaining problems
  • choosing what is important

Perhaps this will be my super-power long term. Perhaps not, though.

I think it is far easier to describe very “hard skills” as things you are great at. You can be a great data scientist, a great artist, a great salesperson, etc and tell people and they will just get it.

But to be this expert “empathizer” you have to show it. You have to have your actions demonstrate it. And that is hard. It takes time. You do not get the same validation as others.

Also published on Medium.