Last year, I saw one of those advertisements for hand-writing where it promises to make you a rock solid calligrapher if you just take some courses and maybe spend $1,000 and a bunch of hours practicing.
I practiced lettering and making all my letters look real nice. I bought some fine tipped pens. I spent a few hours each week really working on it.
I sincerely gave it the old college try.
For about a month.
Then nothing improved and I went back to being the lovable buffoon that laughs when people fall down and gets salsa on his shirt (EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.)
The truth is I’m not artistic. I’m creative. Just not artistic. I could spend 10,000 hours and maybe get a little better at hand lettering but it is not a gift I was born with.
My Top 5 Strengths per Strengths Finder are: Strategic; Empathy; Developer; Positivity and Communication.
I find much more value in applying what limited time I have to getting better at the skills I’m already good at. It just makes more sense.
And relating that to mentoring, I’m fascinated with the idea of identifying the areas where kids are already gifted and then spending as much time and energy as you have developing that skill. Which is basically the opposite of what we do in public education. You’re good at reading? Very well, let’s put you in some science classes. You’re obviously a gifted artist? That’s all okay with me but we want for you to be better at writing essays.
Because when we celebrate accomplishments for doing unbelievable things, it is almost never due to the fact that someone was well rounded.
“Ladies and gentleman, this is a perfect specimen of being exactly in the middle in every measurable facet!” (Actually that is the plot of Idiocracy)
The reality is, in most professions, the most gifted people are completely inept in other areas. The very best salespeople are generally terrible at details. They break the rules, they do the opposite of what everyone else is supposed to do. They come in late, they leave early, they skip meetings, they don’t turn in reports and paperwork. And none of it matters because they bring in checks which pay the bills, and the CEO will never fire the guy who makes it rain.
Imagine with me a world where we invest wisely in steering kids into rewarding professions that are completely suitable with how God made them. We let the artists be artists. We take the numbers dorks and give them as much accounting and finance classes as they can handle. We take the ones who just don’t care about any of it and teach them a trade where they get to be outside and work with their hands, which is what they’ve been telling us they want to do anyway.
Imagine it. Doesn’t it sound like a pretty terrific place?