The Great Deception
Ironically, our familiarity with these talents is actually the problem. They are so familiar to us that we don’t think anything of them. We have had them from birth and have used them every day because they are the places of greatest strength in us. The places of most natural ability. Of course it makes sense to be familiar with these gifts because we use them every day but there is deception in this familiarity. We all know the phrase: familiarity breeds contempt.
Our familiarity with our talents actually causes us to downplay their value. We downplay it because it is familiar and because it feels so ordinary. These talents in action only feel ordinary because we have been using them all our lives, not because they are common. We mistake familiarity for commonness. A subtle difference to us, but a huge difference when we look at the implications because the result is that we dismiss our strongest talents because they feel familiar, ordinary, common.
In the 1950’s a reading experiment was performed at a school to determine how fast the students read while maintaining at least 80% reading comprehension. After the first test most students were reading and retaining about 90 words/minute. However a small group emerged from the class that read at 350 words/minute which equates to about one page from an average book per minute. After evaluating the results, the test controllers put random selections from both groups of readers through 6 weeks of speed-reading courses and then tested them again with the same speed and comprehension reading test. The new results were fascinating!
The students that were reading at 90 words/minute increased about 60% to around 140 words/minute. The students that were reading at 350 words/minute increased their reading and comprehension to almost 3000 words/minute!
At that pace those students are reading almost 10 pages in an average book per minute! That is no longer a talent but after being intentionally trained and improved, that talent is now clearly a strength. I think there are two lessons to be learned here:
The first lesson is that doing something to improve or better the talent you have, really seems to produce better results than trying to improve an average ability. In the reading example 90 words/minute (average) improves to 140 words/minute – still average. 350 words/minute (talent) goes to almost 3000 words/minute – phenomenal Strength.
The second lesson to be considered here is that without the tool of the reading speed test, the students would never have discovered that they already had a talent to read and as a result would probably have never done anything about it.
Strength Assessment Tools
In the world we live in today, it seems more and more difficult to know what we have ability in or what we are good at. The reading assessment example above clearly shows the value of having an external, objective assessment show you where you have talent. The purpose of these assessments is not to create some description of you to which you are expected to conform or be considered broken. The purpose is simply to help you see who you are so that you can ask the important question: To what end? What do I have these abilities for? How should they best be used?
There are many such assessments that help us see more about ourselves e.g Myers Briggs, DISC and my personal favorite StrengthsFinder. They are all designed to help you see more about yourself. They are simply mirrors. If you lie to them, they will lie back to you about who you are. If you are honest with your answers, you might just discover some strength within yourself that you never saw before.
The Greatest Tragedy
At 350 words/minute those readers have talent and are performing above average. If they chose to never do anything about their ability it would remain at 350 words/minute and they would always have above average ability. We might not even fault them for not wanting to improve their ability because it is already above average, but the greatest tragedy is not that they can read at 350words/minute but that they have an ability to read at almost 3000 words/minute and they are dismissing it because it feels familiar to them.
The hidden reality about that example is that every single one of us has talent given to us by God. It is intended for impressive performance and created by the Maker of the universe and installed in each of us, uniquely – no two alike. Furthermore that talent is at a 350 level and will remain there for the rest of our lives, whether we do anything to improve it or not. The great tragedy in our lives is that every one of us have the ability to make a 3000 words/minute kind of contribution to the world and many of us don’t, simply because we don’t know where we have talent. We simply don’t know where we are strong!
Don’t waste another minute of your life trying to improve an average ability. Find your Strengths, those things that God has gifted you with. Find them by any means. Use assessments, ask your friends, go on a soul searching escape – but discover where God made you strong, because with it comes the phenomenal ability to make a uniquely powerful contribution to the world the likes of which have yet to be seen.
Next we will look at the spiritual endowments God has blessed us with simply because we have said YES to His presence in our lives. Here’s a hint: they make you capable of doing things you could never have done before you met Him.
Till next time remember, your Identity reveals your Destiny.
Two questions then:
- What method will you use to discover your character talent?
- How would life be different if you began making a world class contribution every day?