There’s this myth about success—that if you just put in enough work at any task, you’ll automatically develop your skills and be successful. So, we’ve created a society of really hard workers and branded “hustle culture” as a badge of honor.
But what if that’s not the only way? What if it’s not even the most effective way?
Study any successful person, and you’ll notice one thing very quickly: Contrary to popular belief, successful people aren’t necessarily the most skilled or talented in their field.
They don’t have any innate ability to guarantee their success. In many cases, they may even hire experts more skilled than them in their field.
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Figuring Out Your Innate Abilities
Instead of trying to adapt themselves to the situation, successful people have an uncanny ability to choose and adapt situations to suit them. In short, they know what they can do better than anyone in the world—and they lean on it.
For some, it’s getting so excited and animated during a sales pitch that the audience just can’t help but get swept up by your passion. For others, it’s looking at their employees deeply in the eyes while talking to them and being unafraid to show their emotion.
In fact, every single one of us has a unique way we already lean on in our successful moments. It’s a strategy we’ve subconsciously learned to do over and over again because it works and feels natural.
All we have to do is figure out what that is.
Are You Just a Fish Trying to Climb a Tree?
The truth is most of us are actively working against our innate abilities.
You may have grown up in a house where you were “too much” and taught to tone it down. You may have been trained out of your innate abilities by schools. Or you may be in a job that just doesn’t know how to leverage them.
Take this quote often (dubiously) attributed to Albert Einstein:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Someone who’s really playful and free is going to struggle in a very structured corporate environment. Just as much as someone who’s really methodical is going to hate a ruleless, creative atmosphere.
The key to success is not to be the best at everything. The key to success is to know exactly what your innate abilities are and position yourself in opportunities that highlight them.
If you know what your innate abilities are, you know your personal formula for success.
How Do I Unlock My Own Abilities?
Before understanding what your innate abilities are, we have to figure out where innate abilities come from—and how it intersects with this vague idea called “purpose.”
Because of the work that I do, people love to come up to me and say, “I’ve finally figured out my purpose. I’m meant to be a life coach or writer or entrepreneur.” And that’s fantastic.
But here’s the thing—if you can achieve a purpose, that means you can also fail it. And that doesn’t make much sense. How can you fail a purpose?
Furthermore, if you can achieve a purpose, that means you didn’t have it at a certain point. So, did you just not have a purpose as a baby? That doesn’t make much sense either.
Of course, you had a purpose as a baby. But you didn’t have achievements. You didn’t even have skills or abilities yet.
You just had one thing: sensitivities.
What Are Sensitivities?
Every single baby in the world is sensitive to certain things, and it’s different for every single baby.
Some babies are sensitive to connection, and they love looking their moms in the eyes. These are the babies who need to be held a little more. As they grow up, because they’re sensitive to connection, these people tend to be extra sensitive to being rejected or left out.
They often make amazing networkers and hosts because they’re sensitive to what it feels like to be left out and because they’ve spent their lifetimes honing the skills of what they’re sensitive to.
When these people give lots of eye contact, share personal details of their life, and make people feel close to them, they tend to be naturally more successful in every aspect of their lives.
But what about other babies? Some babies are sensitive to feeling thrilled. These are the babies who love peek-a-boo surprises and being lightly tossed in the air. As they grow up, they tend to get bored easily and search for the next adventure or rollercoaster.
They often make captivating speakers and bring lots of energy to their interactions. And they’re the type who do well taking big risks—because they’ve spent a lifetime honing the skills of the thrill.
Then there are the babies sensitive to freedom and vulnerability, safety and understanding, and just about anything you can imagine.
Having a purpose isn’t that you are meant to be a life coach. It’s why life coaching feels so purposeful to you, and that’s because you’re sensitive to it.
Innate abilities come from what we’re most sensitive to. If you’ve sensed it more—seen, tasted, touched, smelled, heard it more than anyone else—you’re going to have more natural abilities in that area.
Map what you’re most sensitive to, and it’ll be abundantly clear what you subconsciously do every time you’re successful—what your innate abilities are and how to unlock them for success.
How Do I Map What I’m Sensitive To?
Figuring out your innate abilities can sound tricky and requires you to take those long leadership style tests or send out surveys to friends and family.
But since you sense things in every moment, figuring out what you’re most sensitive to is easy. It’s simply what you feel deepest at any moment.
Try this super quick exercise to understand what you’re sensitive to, and then we’ll dive into how to unlock your innate abilities for success.
Grab a piece of paper and answer the following prompts. This exercise should only take 5 to 10 minutes.
List out three jobs you’ve had in your life and three things you made people feel in each of these jobs.
For example: Let’s say you were a school teacher, and you made students feel empowered, safe to learn, and engaged with the material.
Think of one of the most challenging moments of your life. List out three things you felt in that moment and three things you wish you felt.
For example: Let’s say it was the day your grandmother died, and you felt heartbroken, alone, and unsupported. You wanted to feel connected, loved, and supported.
Think of one of the happiest moments of your life. List out three things you felt in that moment.
For example: Let’s say it was the day you got married, and you felt intimate, playful, and successful.
Once you’ve answered these quick prompts, look for any repeated words or very similar words. For example, “heard” and “understood” might be getting to the same idea. Or, “connected” and “intimate” might feel close to you.
Our sensitivities are revealed in the patterns we feel most, even in this short, simple exercise. See if you can get at least four or five clear sensitivities from repeated patterns.
Now, here’s where the fun can happen. Once you know what you’re sensitive to, I want you to take a moment to think of a time when you were really successful.
Did you exhibit those sensitivities in that moment without even thinking about it?
Let’s pretend some of the sensitivities you wrote down are “understood” and “playful.” When you think of that successful moment, did you help someone feel really understood, but you also made the entire experience fun and playful?
Chances are, you did.
It works because it’s an innate ability. Any time you don’t feel understood or playful or make others feel that way, you’re more likely to fail at a project because it doesn’t play to your strengths.
So, here are some tips for success.
- Ask clarifying questions before you start any project.
- Make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Invest in fun and team-building exercises.
- Bring music or dance in to shake things up when you’re stuck.
- Turn brainstorms into games.
The more that you can build an environment—in work or personal life—that makes you feel those sensitivities, the more successful you will become.
If something isn’t working out, it can become very obvious why it isn’t working out. You can simply go through your list of sensitivities to figure out which innate ability you’re not showcasing and then build a strategy to tweak the situation to highlight that.
Make It Feel Like Coffee With a Best Friend
I’ve helped thousands of people to discover their innate abilities over the last decade, and I can tell you even this simple version here can be absolutely life-changing because it explains why something did or didn’t work out for you and what you can do about it.
If you can consistently choose opportunities and collaborators that help you to feel those sensitivities and continuously focus on making people feel them over anything else, your odds of success increase astronomically.
What we really want is for everything to feel like coffee with a best friend—that feeling when we’re just sitting there chatting and hours fly by, genius spills out of us, and we forget to try.
What’s that thing you naturally do when you’re confident? What’s that thing you subconsciously do when you’re successful?
What if speaking engagements could feel like that? Or sales pitches? Or team meetings? Or even hard conversations with a friend or partner?
If you know what you’re sensitive to, you know what you experience deeper than anyone else and, therefore, what your innate abilities are.
Then, you know if “connecting” over coffee or “thrilling” people with a riveting story would work better. You know if running a “creative” brainstorming session or building a “structured” meeting would work better.
You adapt the situation to fit your greatest strengths, not the other way around. When you know your innate abilities, you know your personal best and easiest path to success.
Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com
|||^||USA Today: Fact Check — No, Albert Einstein did not say the famous quote about fish climbing trees|