Hidden Talent – by Barbara Babcock

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There is a new programme on Channel 4, Tuesday night at 9pm, called ‘Hidden Talent’. The idea of the programme is ‘helping people to unlock their previously hidden talents and skills’. It opens with the presenter saying, ‘Finding your hidden talent and see where it can take you… It’s never too late to find out… People we wouldn’t have thought…’ There is an assumption that we all have a talent, we may just not know what it is yet. And that is very affirming.

The programme offers people the opportunity to find out if they could have a talent in a range of skills from rock climbing, lie detection, spotting fake artwork, free diving, learning languages to opera singing and navigation. People taking part must not have any previous experience or training in these areas. They take a battery of tests so the experts can identify the one person thought to have an innate ability in the skill being tested. That person is then trained by experts for a period of weeks or months and is set a final challenge to demonstrate whether or not they have the innate ability.

In the three programmes shown so far, a common theme mentioned by several participants is the amount of effort they have to put in to develop their talent. One of the free diving instructors said something along the lines of, ‘We give them the tools and then the athlete has to run by itself.’ The participants also mentioned the difficulties they experienced. In regards to competing against professionals who have trained in the sport for much longer, the free diver said, ‘I feel like a baby in a really adult world.’ The linguist, who had a fallout with his mother and moved out of the family home, talked about ‘proving his true potential to his family and friends’ and old demons coming to the fore when the stress was mounting. Who of us has felt something similar in our own endeavours?

As the participants develop and after the final challenge, they have said things like, ‘I feel super human, really.’ ‘I can do anything.’ ‘It’s enough to know I have the talent.’ ‘I did it on instinct and the rules we discussed.’ The last comment draws on the effort required to develop the talent. The others point to the participants’ growing self-belief in themselves and their abilities, not only in relation to the new talent they have discovered, but to their lives generally.

The themes in the public’s comments on the episodes are also interesting:

• How do I go about finding my hidden talent?

• ‘Wanting nothing more than to be given the change of a lifetime to test myself…but don’t get the opportunity to do so…I’ve tried…’

• ‘It supports the idea of being able to see an opportunity, but then taking the risk to grab it, which is where most of us fall by the wayside.’

• Not liking one of the expert’s feedback to the linguist after he did not do well in a challenge. They felt the linguist was bullied for his mistakes and not encouraged or praised for what he did manage to do.

• Using your talents increases your self-esteem and self-belief.

The participants’ experiences and public’s comments are good reminders on a number of levels.

No one can do your self-belief for you

• Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you. Take the initiative to find your hidden talent. Taking that first step, that risk, is a way of looking after yourself.

We all have a talent. It’s never too late to discover and develop it

• Here are some questions to start you on your journey of finding your hidden talents and skills:

– What do you know you are good at? It doesn’t matter how small, trivial or unreliable, you think it may be. Write it down.

– What have others told you are good at? For now, don’t worry if you don’t value it or don’t recognise it in yourself.

– What abilities do you admire in others? Someone once told me, ‘If you spot it, you’ve got it.’ So if you admire someone’s ability to stay the course when the going gets tough, it means you’ve got that ability too. It may just be a seedling that requires nurturing. It’s a starting point.

– Ask family, friends, and colleagues what you are good at. Add these to your list.

– Which talents, when you wrote them down, you felt really good. And possibly started day dreaming of what you will be doing in the future with it? Circle them.

– What themes and patterns are you noticing?

You have to put the effort in to develop and hone your talent

• Set specific, achievable, and time bound goals that will get you to where you want to be. It is taking one small step after another; pace yourself.

• Celebrate each step you take. Write down what you have achieved to remind yourself of your progress and successes.

• Surround yourself with a supportive network of family, friends and colleagues.

Become aware of your demons and when they are triggered

• When you get stressed and feel like it’s not worth it anymore, what happened in the moment just prior to the explosion of anxiety, angst or whatever it was that you felt? What was going on external to you? What were people saying and doing? How were they doing that? What were you feeling internally and what thoughts were associated with that? Are there any patterns in what triggers you?

• Becoming aware of this will develop your ability to know when it starts to happen and thus give you more choices.

Have a dialogue with your demon; give it a different role that will help you

• This might sound a bit bizarre, but have a go for a moment. It has worked well for many.

• Ask your demon compassionately what it needs/wants. Enter into a dialogue with it. Sometimes what it needs is something that you may not have realised a part of you needs. The demon may be fulfilling a function or playing a role that has a positive intent at its heart. Ask what the positive intent is. Ask it how else it can provide that positive intent. Offer it a new role where it can do what it is good at in a way that will help you achieve what you want. Get and deliver constructive and balanced feedback

• If you get only positive feedback, ask what specifically you can improve on. Likewise, if you get only negative feedback, ask what you did well. Ask for specific examples, which are behavioural, what the person saw you do and heard you say.

Don’t worry about getting to the destination tomorrow. Enjoy the journey.

Written by: Barbara Babcock (L&D Consultant and Coach)

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