A blogger who simply calls himself Alan, has written a great piece on 5 Mistakes Smart People Make in his Blog: Tough Guide to Work. His focus is work and work-based issues. Amongst the 5 mistakes he lists is one: ‘You are good at things you don’t enjoy’. in other words we can learn by practice how to do things that don’t instinctively inspire us, and there are strengths that we have, that can remain underdeveloped. Alan puts it rather neatly in the diagram below:
Many of us confuse our realised strengths and learned behaviours to the point of convinving ourselves that what we are good at, is what we like; and they are not necessariky the same thing at all. This is exactly the point that Ken Robinson is making in his book The Element. It is more important to get ‘in your element’ ie follow your passion, than pursue something because everyone tells you, you are good at it. The book is subtitled: how finding your passion changes everything.
The real question is how you can help someone find that passion; or even more difficult, suggest to someone that what they do, may not be what they should be doing. And there is a hard balance to achieve as an indivudual, between listening to what people tell you, and listening to what your head (and heart) are saying. We all put a huge premium on acclaim, and ignore those contradictory, internal voices. Being smart is learning fast and well, but being smarter is not being controlled by what we learn, and ignoring what really gives us energy.