With a Little Help from Your Friends

Do you have a dream? Is there a business that you’re dying to launch, a story in your head demanding to be told, or an idea you’re frantic to see made a reality?

If you’re like most people, the answer is “yes.” Or, more likely, “yes, but…” Just about everyone has a crazy dream they’d love to pursue – but they just don’t know how.

What you need is a little expert advice, someone with brains and know-how to explain what you need to do and, more importantly, how to do it. The TV line-up is chock-full of shows that promise just that – a worthy but for whatever reason incapable person is selected, a team of experts descends on their life, and bit by bit they’re shown how to make their dreams come true. Trading Spaces, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The Big Idea, American Idol, and dozens of other shows are based on some variation of this theme.

But you don’t have to wait for your friends and loved ones to conspire to remake you, in order to tap into a wealth of expert advice. Chances are, you’re already surrounded by people who can give you the knowledge you need to get moving towards your dreams. You can be forgiven for not recognizing it; chances are, they don’t realize it themselves.

Here’s the thing: everyone develops a body of unique skills and talents in the course of living, almost all of which can be applied more widely than we imagine. It can often take a creative eye to see these hidden potentials for what they are: a lifetime of expertise masquerading as everyday life.

Who are these unwitting experts I’m talking about? Your friends, family, and colleagues, of course. How many people do you know who excel at something so much that it’s become a defining part of their character? Instead of just admiring them for it, why not pay them the greater compliment of learning from them, of letting them set an example for you in the pursuit of your dreams?

What kind of understanding might you find hidden in the strengths of your friends and loved ones? Consider:

  • The natural storyteller: how to weave compelling, “sticky” narratives; how to grab and hold onto people’s attention; how to set people at east.
  • The slacker: how to relax; how to roll with the punches; how to accept criticism without letting it define you.
  • The social butterfly: how to connect with strangers; how to present yourself professionally; how to avoid being defined by your weaknesses; how to listen.
  • The entrepreneur: how to face adversity; how to understand financial data; how to plan for the unknown.
  • The organizer: how to rally people to your cause; how to balance contradictory demands; how to stay cool under pressure.

These are just a few examples of different types of people that almost everyone knows. Look around you at the people closest to you and try to identify their hidden strengths. Don’t dismiss people’s talents just because their accomplishments are small – even the simplest achievement might be the outcome of an encyclopedic knowledge of the task.

For example, maybe you know someone who runs the church bake sale every year. Maybe it’s a parent, or someone on your block, or a friend. Think about what they do every year: they plan the bake sale, they promote it by making announcements at services and posting signs, they round up the best bakers in the congregation and persuade them to contribute their time and money in baking goods for the sale, and they encourage everyone involved to put in their best effort in the service of a goal bigger than their own personal gains. Now, doesn’t that sound like someone who might have a thing or two to teach you in the pursuit of your dreams?

Pay attention to the people around you and see what you can learn from them. Better yet, tell them what you see as their strengths and ask them a simple question: “How do you do it?”

You might be surprised what you learn. And, just as important, they might be surprised at what you learn. You won’t be just milking them for whatever they’re worth to you – you’ll be opening their eyes, maybe for the first time, to their own hidden talents.

And what could be a better gift than that?

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