What American Idol Doesn't Know About Talent

What American Idol Doesn't Know About Talent

Peter Weddle

Whatever the judges on American Idol may say, all people are created equal in terms of talent. That's right, every single one of us is a person of talent. We may celebrate the sounds of Taylor Hicks or Kelly Clarkson, but that doesn't mean they're talented and everyone else isn't. How can that be? Because talent isn't limited to the exceptional feats of exceptional people. Talent is the capacity for excellence, and that is an attribute common to all people.

Talent has two aspects. It's what a person loves to do – their passion, and what they do best – their area of expertise. As American Idol proves every season that a person can be passionate about singing or dancing, but not good enough to earn a living at it. They can also be very good at their work, but hate every minute they spend on the job. When a person is utilizing their talent, however, they should feel engaged and challenged by the tasks they perform, and even the obstacles they face. They're able to excel at those tasks, and feel proud and fulfilled by what they accomplish.

That said, while talent resides in each person, it must be activated in order to be used. And, that activation involves three distinct steps:

  1. Self-Discovery
  2. A person must figure out what it is they love to do, and do best.

  3. Self-Development
  4. They must pick a career where they can effectively use their talent, and then develop the necessary skill set to get a job in that field.

  5. Self Improvement
  6. They must continuously refine that skill set, so that they can consistently perform at high level.

Step one unlocks a person's capacity for excellence. The people who never make it past the tryouts on American Idol don't lack talent, they just don't know what talent they have. Simon Cowell can tell them what their talent is not, but only they can figure out what it is.

Sadly, many people never give their talent much thought. They spend years in a career, only to figure out that they've wasted their abilities. They bought into the silly notion of a work life balance – that work is something to be endured in order to enjoy the rest of life.

In fact, exactly the opposite is true. Work should be every bit as rewarding as the rest of life. And all people have to do to attain this is to ask themselves the following question: What kind of reward is my work giving me?

A person can be an expert at their job, but if they have to drag themselves out of bed each day to go to work, they aren't employing their talents properly. Satisfaction and fulfillment may sound like ephemeral rewards, but pursuing them will help guarantee the opportunity to have some of our best moments in the one-third of our lives we spend on-the-job.

So how do we make that opportunity come true? How do we figure out just what our talent is? Some people are lucky, and have a calling that leads them to their talent. For the rest of us, however, the discovery occurs only if we take the initiative. There are 2 ways to do this:

  1. Serial searching
  2. This is shifting from one occupation to another in an effort to find the kind of work that is satisfying and fulfilling. This process of elimination can be frustrating, but with perseverance it can bring a person's talent into clear relief.

  3. Self exploration
  4. This is investing time and effort to find that unique intersection of passion and practicality. This approach requires more candor and honesty than most people have, but if they put aside their inclination to be judgmental and really take an honest look at themselves, they can find the truth.

However it's done, it's imperative that employees around the globe begin finding their talents, and put that capacity for excellence to work. The judges on American Idol can't do this, but so-called "ordinary people" can.

<em>Formerly the Chairman and CEO of Job Bank USA, Peter Weddle is an HR consultant, recruiter, author and commentator with an international reputation. He has authored or edited more than two dozen books, including "Recognizing Richard Rabbit: A Fable About Being True to Yourself", "Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System" and "WEDDLE's 2009/10 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet". In addition, he oversees WEDDLE's, a print publisher specializing in the field of human resources. WEDDLE's annual Guides and Directory to job boards are recognized for their accuracy and helpfulness, leading the American Staffing Association to call Weddle the "Zagat of the online employment industry." Peter Weddle is also CEO of the International Association of Employment Websites.</em>

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