My Unique Ability?


More than a year ago, I received an email from a friend and professional colleague I’ve known and worked with for many years asking me to help him identify his “Unique Ability.” He sent a similar email to a handful of other people who knew him professionally and personally.

Unique Ability is a self-discovery tool promoted by Strategic Coach, a consulting organization geared toward business entrepreneurs. Their website uses this language to describe Unique Ability:

At the core of your being are characteristics and values entirely unique to you. Connect to your deepest self, and find your purpose in life through the Unique Ability® Discovery Process.

This journey will inspire you to trust your intuition and encourage you to build a bespoke life around doing what you love to do and do best.

The email I received from my colleague read something like this (it’s mostly template copy the Strategic Coach website offers):

I’m currently exploring a concept called Unique Ability. This concept is based on the idea that everyone possesses a combination of talents, interests, and capabilities unique to that individual.

I’d really appreciate it if you would help me find my own Unique Ability by considering the following question and sending me back an answer: “What do you see as my Unique Ability?” My Unique Ability includes my talents and abilities, characteristics that describe me, what I’m good at, how I do things, what you count on me for, and any other distinguishing features you see about who I am.

My first reaction when I received this email: I was honored to be asked my thoughts by someone I hold in high esteem on such an important matter.

Next reaction: this wasn’t going to be easy. I kind of didn’t want to do it. I’d have to think long and carefully about what’s so special about this guy and put it into words. What if I wrote something stupid or obvious (always a writer’s fear)? I wanted to be helpful. I wanted to be honest.

I thought about my experiences and relationship with this person, wrote down notes, and composed an answer to the question. Later we talked and he said he gathered a number of responses, and several of them carried a consistent theme about what he did well, including what I shared—about how he made people feel valued and brought out the best in them. He said the feedback helped him better connect to his deeper self and understand his purpose—as the exercise is intended to do.

He suggested that I also engage in the Unique Ability Discovery Process, and I said that’s a great idea. But I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to impose on anyone; the exercise seemed too self-helpy and touchy-feely for my persona. Plus, who would I even ask such a question to?

But eventually, I decided to go on this discovery tour. Maybe it was the marketing copy from the website that lured me: “build a bespoke life around doing what you love to do and do best.” I’d love to build a bespoke life. Bespoke is a daring word choice (I’m talking to you, copywriters). It means custom-made, tailor-fit. Bespoke makes you think of luxury, expense, and prestige (and maybe the British or American Bluebloods): the bespoke suit perfectly tailored to my measurements. A dazzling life that’s a perfect fit for me. The inspiration to trust my intuition. Sounds good to me.

It wasn’t easy, but I came up with a list of eight people who I believed knew me well enough and might be willing to answer a question about my Unique Ability. But I hesitated to send the email. It felt like such an imposition on others, even if I knew they’d do this favor for me. And it felt like I was fishing for compliments, which made me a little ashamed. No one was going to write negative comments about me if they were trying to articulate my Unique Ability.

I heard back from most people I asked, but not all. I was surprised not to get responses from some, but I don’t blame anyone for not participating—I mostly blamed myself for putting others in this position.

The results were interesting. One word appeared in several responses: Empathy—I have some of that. Someone else thinks I’m honest and direct and a critical thinker. I’m also wise and insightful. I have the ability to focus on what’s important in any situation.

Wow—this fishing for compliments stuff was paying off! I was strutting around feeling pretty good about myself. And while I couldn’t distill all the feedback into a single Unique Ability, it was helpful and enlightening to know what others think I do best.

But I doubt I’d do anything like this again, unless I ask people to name my Unique Inability. How am I weak and incompetent? Where do I struggle and fail? I’m sure the responses would flow in—and my balance would be restored.

P.S. Want to try the Unique Ability Discovery Process? Here’s a link.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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