I believe everyone is great at something. Every person on this planet has a talent that they are the best in the world at performing—even if that talent is being Kara McCartney, at twenty-seven years old, typing on a laptop in a coffee shop.
If you are anything like I was five years ago—God, what a prick—then perhaps you think you’re an expert on just about everything. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never opened National Geographic, you are a wizard when it come to oceanography and studying hieroglyphs. You had to Google how to spell hieroglyphs, but no matter. You’ll get there.
I’m not trying to question your obviously long list of talents. I’m just trying to open your eyes to the slight possibility that there are people who are experienced, wise, and have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal.
It is in your best interest to leverage these people.
Find the people in your life who are smarter, faster, more creative, and more organized than you and ask them how they do it. Ask them how their desk stays clean, how they manage to have zero scratches on their front bumper, how they manage to smile when their boss is screaming in their face, or how they carved those sexy calf muscles at the gym. How do you do that? You just walk up and ask. They’ll be flattered, ready, and willing to share their special talent with you.
I recently did this with my friend Stephanie at work. Steph is, by all definitions, the single most organized, straight-lined woman you ever did meet. Her desk is spotless. She never works late, but always gets her work done. Her filing system is impeccable. She blocks her time like she’s building the Hoover dam. Obviously, Steph and I share very little in common. And I am completely mesmerized by her.
Toward the end of 2016, I was working a lot of hours. We’re talking, an unhealthy amount of hours. Determined to make 2017 different (and failing miserably my first two weeks), I asked Steph out for coffee.
I was not fucking around. Had you walked by us in that coffee shop, you might think I never heard of color-coding or alphabetization before. I wanted to know precisely how she managed her day—from the number of times she checked her email, to how many categories she set in Outlook, to her pro-con list on Excel versus digital project plans. I drilled her for ninety minutes on her ability to execute her day like boss, and left only when we had covered every last, minute detail.
The smartest person in the room isn’t always the one who can advance your career.
Steph’s greatest strength is project planning, something I want to get better at specifically for my professional career. Sometimes, the smartest person in the world is not the person with the ability to advance your career. Sometimes, the wisest, most fascinating people are the ones who know how to stay calm under pressure, stay positive, always see the best in people, forgive people who don’t deserve it, and live each day to the fullest. Find someone who has these traits, and ask them how they do it.
I ask my friend Marla how she stays so freaking happy. I ask my former boss, Gary, how he maintains a work-life balance. I ask the most successful person I know, my grandfather, how to work hard enough to make an impact, but not so hard that you miss out on life.
I cannot express how valuable these people are. Learn to use them to your advance. Seek out their guidance in the areas you struggle with. Learn their secrets, ask for tips, and learn to see things from an entirely new perspective.