A Tale of Two Talents: Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy

2952690034_05c05c1b37_bRobin Williams and Eddie Murphy had so much in common. Both had roots in the San Francisco standup comedy scene.  They were both known for creating memorable comedic characters, for having quick minds, and for a willingness to be outrageous and say anything that came into their heads. They both were successful voice actors who created memorable characters like Williams’ Genie in Aladdin and Murphy’s Donkey in Shrek.

If talent were only a set of skills and strengths, these two men could be seen as almost interchangeable parts. But we know that talent is much more than that. It is the full self-expression of an individual that employs all of one’s unique qualities, including the inner being.

With the untimely passing of Mr. Williams, there have been so many testimonials to his generous spirit. This generosity wasn’t a quality he had in addition to his talent. It was an integral part of his talent. And by generosity we don’t just mean the many stories of his charity work, his close friendships, and philanthropy. It also was in the way that he was willing to share every facet of his being–the light and the dark, the brilliance and the pain.

Where Williams invested himself in his characters, Mr. Murphy seemed to hide behind his characters. In several films, he played multiple characters with the aid of prosthetics, makeup, and costumes. The one notable exception was his performance in the movie Dream Girls, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.  The performance in a character loosely modeled on soul singer James Brown wasn’t always pretty, but it rang true. There seemed to be a lot less makeup and a lot more Eddie. Unfortunately, on Oscar night, when he didn’t win the award, he left abruptly and did not stay to support and celebrate his fellow cast mates.  We don’t mean to judge the man. We don’t know him personally. However, it begs the question: How do we get the best of Eddie Murphy? Is it just that he’s selfish and egotistical or is he giving us a public demonstration of how fear keeps us from full self-expression?

Robin Williams is gone, but for Eddie Murphy, and for the rest of us, we still have the opportunity to get beyond our talent-limiting fears and fully share with the world what we have to offer.

Knowing what we do now about Robin Williams’s emotional struggles, we offer this scene from “Good Will Hunting” as a demonstration of one human being fully sharing his talent—who he is as well as what he does.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM-gZintWDc

Photo by: Shameek

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Posted in Overcoming Obstacles

PB&J – Brain Food for Your Talent

To make the highest and best use of our talent, you need your brain to be working for you and not against you.

Some of the best brain food for talent is good old PB&J.  No, we’re not referring to Peanut Butter and Jelly; we’re talking about Pause, Breathe, and Jam.

P is for Pause. Take a moment to step outside of your automatic, reactive thinking. Get off your unconscious treadmill and create some space for fresh ideas and new perspectives. [See Jay’s poem below.]

B is for Breathe.  Take several deep breaths.  The parts of your brain that relate to your talent – your self-expression – need oxygen to do their best work.

J is for Jam.  Like musicians cutting loose in a jam session, give yourself permission to let go and enjoy your talent. Follow your instincts and your passions. Experiment, take some risks, and feel fully alive.

 

A Pause

 

A Pause

A pause is a possibility

It can inspire

It can open a window to the present moment

It can interrupt an old habit

It can prevent a violent word or a violent action

It can create anticipation

It allows thoughts to come… and to go

It can remind us of who we are and who that person is right in front of us

It can stop the action

It can allow everyone else to catch up

It can change the direction of a day and of a lifetime

It can restore sanity

A pause is a possibility

Jay Perry

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Is Professionalism Killing Your Talent?

2189413472_b1327364fa_mProfessionalism doesn’t mean you have to be staid. In fact, effective professionals find ways to be appropriately self-expressive. They stand out in authentic ways that attract interest and build rapport with others.

Some people confuse professionalism with a prescribed set of behaviors. Merriam – Webster defines professionalism as “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.” Although true professionalism is a great thing to strive for, nowhere in this definition is there an imperative for universal compliance or sameness. Then, why are there still customer service, sales people, attorneys, accountants, even business leaders who dress and act like “professionals” and yet don’t seem fully alive?

Is there any requirement for a professional to be a clone or robot? Of course not!

You can be a consummate professional and still be fully self-expressive.

Here are some examples of self-expression in action. A dentist plays his special self-mixed music in the office and sings along while he works. A public speaker is less polished but more vulnerable and authentic and communicates her message powerfully. A waitress does cartwheels as she moves from the outdoor tables to the kitchen and brightens patrons’ spirits. People at a conference table who are refreshingly honest as they look for creative solutions that are profitable and a fit for their values encourage others to do likewise.

Talent is self-expression and how completely you use your talent has a huge impact on your job performance as well as your personal fulfillment. To be the best you can be at your job, you need to access more than the appearance of being professional, you need to express your Self fully.

If this idea hits home, here are some possible mantras you can adopt as your own.

Professionals have skill, good judgment, polite behavior and can be funny.

Professionals have skill, good judgment, polite behavior and can be passionate.

Professionals have skill, good judgment, polite behavior and can be creative.

Professionals have skill, good judgment, polite behavior and can be honest.

Don’t let the idea of professionalism kill your talent. A true professional never leaves his or her uniqueness on the sidelines.

 Photo by: StephenMitchell

 

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Posted in Talent in the Workplace

It’s the Singer, Not the Song

5856995845_388051a51a_b

Why is it that we are attracted to a particular singer’s version of a popular song? Two different people can sing the same words and melody; even follow the same beat – and yet they don’t affect us in the same way. Often, it has something to do with the Inner Qualities of the singers–how they are being when they sing the song.

The same phenomenon applies to any of us who seek to use our talent to make an impact in our work environment.

Here’s an example. A client, we’ll call him Ken,  recently was using the Take Charge of Your Talent program to boost his effectiveness in attracting support for a critical business issue. Ken didn’t have the power to make a key policy change himself. He needed to influence the key decision makers and faced some opposition. Previously, he had focused all of his efforts on what needed to be done.  Ken determined what he wanted to say and had detailed booklets of facts and figures to back his point of view. He was ready to make his case.

When asked how he’d need to be in order to win the support of others, Ken quickly responded, “I need to be clear and persuasive.”

“So you have determined that clarity and persuasiveness are the key Inner Qualities you need to get the support you want,” the Talent Catalyst reflected.

When Ken heard his own words come back to him, he realized that something was off. An aggressive lawyer-like approach wouldn’t get him anywhere with the strong-willed, independent people he faced. Instead, he needed to change his approach. He needed to be patient, humble, and engaging of the decision makers. Interestingly, Ken actually preferred these inner qualities but thought he needed to be someone different. When Ken shifted how he was being, others joined in and he found support for his cause.

Ken didn’t need to change his song. He just needed to approach it as a different singer.

How are you singing your song? Maybe it’s time to tune up your inner qualities to enjoy more successful results.

Want to learn more about how Inner Qualities will enhance your effectiveness? Read “Develop Your Inner Qualities – IQs You Can Boost” and complete the Inner Qualities Checklist on pages 82-87 of Take Charge of Your Talent.

 Photo by: Marcos Fernandez

 

 

 

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Posted in Personal Stories

Succeeding as an Introvert in a Noisy World of Extroverts

9002759287_c7904c055e_nUnless people know something about you and how you work, introversion can be read as lack of interest or even lack of ability. Introverts can take charge of their talent and convey their value in powerful ways. Here’s how.

1. Be a breath of fresh air with a clear brand that differentiates you. Articulate a concrete promise that sets you apart from others (especially the extroverts). Let people know what’s special about you and your approach. For example, “In the midst of chaos, I quietly deliver superior results that fulfill key objectives.”

2. Provide proof points that demonstrate your value. Develop tangible assets that support your promise. For example, “After a long and contentious team meeting, I offered to take the ideas presented and outline a path forward. I developed a template that everyone could use and a sample of how it works. Now, instead of arguing how to do these projects, we all have a tool that works.”

3. Inoculate your boss and others so that they don’t get infected by how others work and leave you in the dust. Tell people about your intentions and how you work so that they don’t make inaccurate assumptions. You need to ask for the conditions that will enable you to succeed. Interestingly, these conditions will also improve even the extroverts’ thinking and result in fewer people shooting from the hip and missing the target. For example, “I want to contribute to the team’s success. What enables me to contribute most effectively is an opportunity to reflect on ideas and offer my suggestions. When we plan to meet about something, would you please share the topics and questions beforehand? And, where appropriate, may I request an opportunity to sit with the suggestions and come back in a timely way with some responses?”

Introverts have much to offer. Don’t wait for others to ask you. You can take charge to create the conditions in which you will thrive.

Photo by: rs snaps

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Posted in Overcoming Obstacles

How Far Can You Stretch?

292969085_ab379b72f4_zIn “Take Charge of Your Talent,” we advocate making healthy stretches as an approach to getting the most from our talent.  A healthy stretch can be exhilarating and leave us feeling as though anything is possible.

Unfortunately, few of us make healthy stretches on a daily or even weekly basis. Most of us have some kind of fixed idea of how far we can stretch before we will encounter resistance or pain (psychological or physical). Thus, we make a good effort and then stop. We opt for the comfort of what we know, rather than explore what else is possible.

The following exercise gives a physical expression of what we mean by a healthy stretch of your talent.

  1.  From a set standing position, extend your right arm straight out parallel to the ground and point your index finger forward.
  2. Next, rotate your body to the right as far as is comfortable.  (If you use your left arm and finger, rotate to the left) Your pointing finger will be describing an arc of a circle.  When you stop turning, notice what you are pointing at.
  3. Return to your starting position and repeat the process.  Notice if you are making a longer arc and find yourself pointing at something just a bit farther behind you.
  4. Try this several times until you are no longer pointing at something new.

Did you notice how you could comfortably reach further and further as you made additional tries?

Sometimes the only thing preventing us from stretching a bit farther is the limit of our own thinking.

So let’s move from the physical exercise to one that focuses on you and your hopes for your talent.

  1.  What action can you take to day that would move you closer to realizing your hopes?
  2. If you were to stretch a bit further in that direction, what would it look like?
  3. If you were to stretch even further in that direction, what would it look like?
  4. If you were to go beyond even that, what would it look like?

As in the physical practice, making successive tries will lengthen your stretch and expand what you discover is possible.

Photo by: Gianluca Carnicella

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Posted in Talent Exercises

“Talent Wanted: Dead … or Alive!”

Kevin was taught to create a detailed plan for his team and then work the plan. However, what looked good on a spreadsheet – a team that ran like a finely tuned Swiss watch — quickly began to break down. Now, Kevin was a smart manager. When productivity was sluggish, he greased the wheels with fresh incentives.  When a consultant made recommendations for new efficiencies, he tightened the reins. But when he began to lose valuable team members who sought more fluid, dynamic, and creative opportunities elsewhere, Kevin knew he needed a new approach.

4948070255_338e65de13_bThere are many managers caught in the same trap as Kevin. You probably know some who approach their organizational design mechanistically. They think of people in their firms like boxes in an organization chart. They want to align all of the parts and drive results from the top down. With such an inert view, is it any wonder that Gallup polls report employee engagement scores in the U.S. hover around a miserable 30 percent? There’s a lot that doesn’t fit in a box.

You can see the problem. Talent is not dead. It is not inanimate. It does not thrive in a mechanical environment.

Kevin needed to embrace his team as an organism. After all, the words organism and organization share the same root. When Kevin was able to see his team as a living, breathing, learning, adapting, growing organism, he started to manage differently. He saw problems not as breakdowns, but as opportunities to grow, to encourage people to take charge of their talent, and find ways to embrace and engage the diversity of skills, interests, and passions in his team.  He let go of the need to funnel people and projects through his design. Instead, he worked with them to gain shared understandings of what they hoped to accomplish and together they laid out clear objectives and opportunities for team members to bring their hopes and talent to the endeavor. Now, Kevin sleeps better, his team members enjoy pulling together, and the business grows profitably.

Kevin was able to make a shift in his mindset, and he, his team, and his firm benefitted. He moved from a mechanistic mindset to an organic one. He no longer wants talent “Dead or Alive.” Now he engages it to be fully and dynamically alive.

Take some time to listen to how you and others in your firm talk. Observe the way you and others approach problem solving. Try to feel the pulse of the team. Are you stuck in a dead mechanism or is your firm a live organism? Make the shift and enjoy the results.

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Posted in Resolutions

How Bold Are You Willing to Be to Get What You Want?

don and jay question blog*** If you’ve ever wanted something and didn’t know how to get it, you need to read this blog. ***

In Take Charge of Your Talent we underscore the importance of being able to make effective requests if we are going to make the most of our resources. 

We suggest a basic four-step request template:

Express your intention.  State clearly what you hope to accomplish and why it is of value.

Provide a clarifying observation.  Describe what you see that sets up the context for your request.

Make a request.  Make a simple, concrete, direct statement of what you want. 

Close with a confirmation. Restate and confirm whatever you have agreed upon.

 Making a request at any level can activate new opportunities.  But here’s a question for you to entertain:  How bold are you willing to be with your requests?

 The hero in our true-life story (we’ll call him Phillip) showed up to a Talent Catalyst Conversation with a victim story full of reasons why he wasn’t able to fully use his talent.  He was passionate as he expressed his hope to contribute in a meaningful way to a group of his peers in recovery.  He had so much going for him: a full range of self-expression, his personal experience, a deep understanding of his audience, and a tremendous resource of people who were ready to support him.  What he discovered was missing was a request that would activate those resources.

 So we spoke about the request he wanted to make.  His initial responses were positive and fairly modest.  He wanted to ask a leader in the recovery world for his support.  We spoke about what it might sound like if he made a bold request: the things he truly wanted without any consideration about whether it would be accepted or not.  He decided he wanted to ask for a two-year contract to work with this leader’sorganization to develop innovative approaches in the field.  He also decided he wanted to be paid 6 figures a year.

 Phillip called me the next day and asked, “Are you sitting down?  I went into the meeting and told this leader that my intention was to impact several million people in recovery by creating unique tools that the audience could use anywhere and anytime. Then I observed that this could make a significant contribution to his mission and his bottom line.  Finally I made a bold request.  But I didn’t just ask for that financial figure we spoke about yesterday.  I asked for three times that much.  And you know what he said…‘Do you want to be paid weekly or monthly?’” 

 “And did you confirm what the agreement was?”

 “Yes indeed.  The first check is due on the first of the month.”

 So what about you?  Is the only thing standing between you and the realization of your deepest hopes a bold request?

 Photo by: Stefan Baudy

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Your Talent and Mindfulness

4574918002_7fe107a8bf_mWhat does mindfulness have to do with your talent?

Mindfulness is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days.  It’s often associated with Buddhist practices and meditation: activities that are designed to develop our abilities to be present and in the moment.

Ellen Langer, Harvard professor of Social Psychology has a much more direct approach to mindfulness.  She describes it as the “simple act of actively noticing things.”

The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness.  We are mindless when, instead of actively noticing things, we rely solely on our learning, associations, and assumptions from the past.

We are often mindless with our talent.  We “know” what we’re good at and what we’re not good at.  We’ve found our strengths; know our DISC profile, and our enneagram number.  At one time these distinctions were fresh and perhaps opened up new possibilities for our talent, but quickly they fade into labels that we and, what’s worse, others use to label us – to contain our talent, not to free it.

At its best a Talent Catalyst Conversation is an exercise in mindfulness.  When a Talent Catalyst actively notices the language and emotions of a Talent Hero, that recognition can spark new possibilities.  When a Talent Hero creates a fresh story by actively noticing what answers occur to questions like “What are your hopes,” new life chapters begin to be written.

Labels can be useful ways to categorize past behaviors and tendencies, but to Take Charge of Your Talent – your self-expression – a little mindfulness goes a long way.

To learn more about Ellen Langer and her approach to mindfulness see: http://www.ellenlanger.com/books/3/mindfulness

Photo by: clogsilk

 

 

 

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Posted in Talent Exercises

Graduates — It’s your time to take charge!

4608963722_7c88e503f8_bCongratulations to the millions of Americans graduating from high schools, technical institutes, community colleges, universities, and graduate schools! This is your moment to shine and take pride in your achievements.

This also may be a time when you have a rush of mixed emotions — exhilaration, eagerness, uneasiness, and perhaps worry. All of these feelings come with taking the next steps in your career.

We want you to enjoy your career journey. Indeed, if you think of your career as a story, you will be writing many chapters. We’re committed to helping you be the hero of your talent story. So, we’ve provided some special resources and support just for you.

First, here’s a selection of blog posts that will stimulate your thinking and help you pursue your next steps with greater confidence.

Why Should an Employer Choose You? Many job applicants make a big mistake in their interviews. They make the job interview about themselves rather than about the job.

Make Yourself the Hero of Your Talent Story The hero story can belong to all of us, not just a chosen few. It doesn’t matter what your story is or what your circumstances are.

What makes you come alive? Start making the most of your talent by identifying what makes you come alive. Trying to fit into someone else’s mold won’t work.

Your Brain is a Ferrari The best race car drivers, driving Ferraris, couldn’t go very fast if they were to find themselves stuck on the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour on Friday afternoon. The same principle applies to you.

The World Belongs to the Talented and That Means You Talent isn’t hierarchical. Everyone has talent and anyone, anytime, anywhere can use proven keys to unlock his or her talent and the talent of others regardless of their position.

Small Actions; Big Results The Daily Action Pack is a group of small actions that you take each day (at least 5 days per week) that, over time: give you a near certainty of realizing your hope.
Second, if you add a comment to this post or any of the blog posts listed above by June 30, 2014, we’ll enter you into a drawing for one of two Talent Catalyst Conversations that we will provide free of charge. As described in the book, “Take Charge of Your Talent,” a Talent Catalyst Conversation is a great way in less than hour to articulate your hopes, identify resources and opportunities to fulfill them, and sketch out actions you can take to get started. This will become the start of your hero’s story.

Enjoy!

Don and Jay

Photo by: John Walker

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