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Finding Your Niche – Part Two
In the first of nine messages on how to position yourself in the marketplace, I wrote about the importance of understanding and applying the concept of spiritual gifts. As mentioned in the introduction to this short series, I have listed nine aspects of a person’s life that contribute to that person’s position. They are nine aspects:
- Spiritual gifts
- Natural talent
- Gained knowledge
- Experiential knowledge
- Observational knowledge
This particular article will look at the importance of natural talent. Every aspect of your life is influenced by a combination of factors that fall along the nurture/nature spectrum. The nurture spectrum relates to the environment in which you were raised and the nature spectrum relates to your inherent personality. These two dynamics are a constant presence in our lives and shape the parameters of our niche.
Natural talent is an area of activity where you naturally excel in a worldly sense. Where spiritual gifts are how you are equipped on a spiritual level, your natural talents are how you are equipped on a physical level. You don’t need extra training to achieve high success in a field where you have natural talent. If you are good at analysis, you can solve strategic problems in your niche. You may find that having a natural tendency to break down complex problems into understandable chunks fits well into the world of scientific research or computer science. Someone else who excels in English or grammar might find his niche as a speaker, writer, or teacher. No one of the nine aspects will completely define your niche. The process of discovering and understanding how these aspects fit together helps bring into focus where you will have the most impact. Your niche leans towards areas of your life where you have natural talents. As you do these things effortlessly, you will tend to shift towards your natural talents. Natural talent can be described as your strength. Every person experiences four dynamics while moving through life. Each person has strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. One tool to discover your natural talents is to complete a SWOT analysis.
SWOT analysis is a business tool used to understand the environment in which corporations operate. It is an important tool for identifying the value a corporation brings to the market. The goal of conducting a personal SWOT analysis is to maximize your strengths, minimize the impact of your weaknesses, capitalize on your opportunities, and mitigate your anticipated threats. You will discover your natural talents only in recognizing your strengths. Natural talent is a certain ability that requires little or no effort on your part, yet, on almost every occasion, you will achieve what you set out to achieve. However, you should be careful, because being a natural talent can cause you to focus too much on the broadest use of your talent in a limited market and thus fail to identify your niche. When you focus too much on big talent and fail to use that talent to identify your niche, you fall into the talent trap. The Talent Trap believes that your talent can only be expressed through an act or an arena that finds itself in a wider market. This trap is often seen in athletics. There are many instances where a player who has excelled in a particular sport he trained his whole life for, gets injured or is not given the opportunity to realize his full potential and struggles to find a place to fit in.
A recent example of the talent trap can be seen in the life of Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow was a first round draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He is the winner of two NCAA National Football Championships at Florida and the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. He won the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s best college quarterback, the James E. Sullivan Award and is a two-time Maxwell Award winner as the nation’s top college football player. His natural talent as an athlete on the football field is without question. However, that manifestation of talent, playing the quarterback position, did not transfer very well to the NFL. Tim found himself struggling to meet the demands of the quarterback position. My wife and I often discussed Tim’s promise and wondered if he would be a good tight end. Looking back at his career in the NFL, one has to wonder if quarterback was the only position where Tim could have excelled. Could he have found his niche as a tight end? His natural talent made him an athlete, and Florida capitalized on that talent by playing him at quarterback. A very powerful, running quarterback. He certainly excelled as a quarterback while at Florida, but his quarterback ability in the NFL has been questioned. His mechanics didn’t quite fit the mold. Analysts and coaches questioned his ability to succeed. As much as Tim Tebow wanted to be an NFL quarterback, his niche may not have been quarterback. This is a talent trap. Sometimes a person has natural talent and excels in a particular field. However, the person believes that he can only excel in that field. A talent trap can cause your thinking to be unimaginative about your niche. Therefore, you must be willing to consider opportunities outside your comfort zone. Natural talent is an intangible quality that can be applied across a spectrum of potential niches within a larger industry.
A solid way to avoid the talent trap is to gather enough information about your strengths so that you can make broad use of your natural talents until your niche is clear. There are two ways to identify the areas in which you naturally excel. First, ask a large number of people who know you through family relationships, work, and social situations to list for you the areas where they think you are naturally strong. A simple question “What do you see as my three greatest strengths?” The work will be done. Second, you can go online and find a free strength test that will ask you questions about your preferences. Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” If you operate outside of your natural talents (strengths), you will be forever searching to find your place among the thorns and thistles of life. You need to move into good soil where you can grow and nurture. Your gifts and natural talents are the pillars of your niche. These are aspects of your life that are given to you. They are not genetic, they are not something you acquire as an adult, they derive from a source that is not innate to your being.
As you take inventory of your life, you will see that these nine aspects begin to layer upon each other to create a beautiful tapestry, uniquely woven to create your niche. At this point we should look broadly at the landscape of shrinking possibilities. When you recognize and understand the abilities you naturally possess, you will be better equipped to focus your energy towards your niche. Every person has at least one skill that he or she can do without any effort. This would be his natural talent. I suggest you take the necessary time to identify this talent. You want to avoid climbing the business building ladder only to learn when you reach the top that you leaned the ladder against the wrong wall. Be patient with yourself as you develop in your given environment and begin to learn where you excel without trying. You will find that your spiritual gifts and your natural talents align. If so, each aspect of your life will reinforce the other. When this happens, you are on the right track. For example, a person who is gifted in teaching, discernment, and words of wisdom, and has a natural talent for analyzing and solving complex problems, is a good fit to be a strategic consultant or personal development coach.
As you continue to put the puzzle pieces together, the focus will narrow and your niche will become clearer. Introspection is necessary to identify your position. You want to be your own student. Recognize your spiritual gifts. Complete a SWOT analysis and focus on identifying, understanding and applying your strengths. This is the first step in putting the puzzle together. The next three aspects of your life will create the structure that will begin to create the greatness of your influence. There are three levels of knowledge that will narrow your focus in the broader market. In the next three articles I will cover these three types of knowledge (acquired knowledge, experiential knowledge and observational knowledge) in detail.
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