Imagine being paid to spend one year touring the most beautiful sites in the world, eating the best food, and staying in the best hotels. Jada Yuan was the lucky winner of a New York Times travel writer competition (of which 13,000 people applied!). She spent 2018 traveling to 52 fabulous destinations: "1 Woman, 12 Months, 52 Places." As she reflected on an extraordinary year, most of her lessons learned have nothing to do with travel tips and tricks. It’s all about self-awareness. For example, she came up with her superpower in the midst of non-stop travel. Guess what it was?
Her superpower is her ability to sleep soundly anywhere and under any conditions, including an uncomfortable airplane seat or noisy environment! For a travel writer (or anyone for that matter), being able to get rest whenever, wherever, is golden! I loved that she described this as her superpower. Something so basic but a "talent" she performs with little effort, and is tremendously beneficial.
It got me thinking…What would I say is my superpower?
I have an answer for you, but I have to tell you a story about hiking before I can share about my superpower. (Howie Mandel used to say in his stand up comedy routine, “I have to tell you this story before I can tell you that story.”)
As I was saying, about six years ago, we planned a family hiking day trip. We enjoyed a glorious day out in nature, climbing challenging, rocky terrain and enjoyed a picnic lunch—and were exhausted when we got back to the car. We stopped for dinner on the way home. At the restaurant, one of my sons asked to play a game on my phone. (Typically, we don't let them play on their phones at the table, but we’d more than met our quota of fresh air and togetherness, and were tired! So, I obliged.) You can’t imagine the skunk eye I got from the people at the tables around us. And, this was several years ago so when it wasn't as common as it is today to see kids with phones. If there’s a look for, “I'm passing judgment on your parenting choices,” I got it. But, seriously? Of all days to question my parenting after spending hours of quality time with my family. Of course, the other diners didn’t know what they didn’t know. I sent telepathic messages back to them with a smile saying, "You don't know the whole story."
You Don’t Know The Whole Story
So back to my superpower, I guess if I had to name it, I'd call it, “Story Radar." Definition: The ability to hear a story and recognize that one is only hearing a small sliver of the full story. In other words, reminding myself, "I don't know the whole story” when listening to others. As a coach, I am a trusted confidant. I hear personal stories all day. My clients tell me about how they are perceived and where they are struggling to get traction. They reveal life goals that they may have never said out loud before, or perhaps never admitted to themselves. As I listen, I stop myself from jumping to conclusions or putting ideas into categories. I remember to assume that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Being trained as a coach, I've learned that there is rarely an easy solution, and the kinds of problems I am entrusted to help with are rarely straight-forward. With my "Story Radar," I listen, see the world from my client's eyes, allow time for reflection, and get curious. This allows me to access powerful questions to help my clients get unstuck or connect the dots. I remind myself, there's always more to the story.
So, that's my superpower. Something that is part of who I am and is probably one of the reasons I ended up in the coaching field to begin with. This superpower shows up everywhere I go, not just when I'm interacting with clients. When volunteering at a senior center, I met Bob, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. He was sitting alone at a table after lunch so I went over to meet him. It turns out he worked on a team at RCA who developed the first color television! And, sometimes, I admit, I overdo it. I strike up conversations with complete strangers at restaurants, for example, and my kids have to reel me back in. The point is, I don't intentionally focus on using this skill, it just happens, it's part of my DNA.
I challenge you to think about a quality you have that simply comes naturally, and probably is something you don't even notice. If you're having trouble thinking of something, ask a close friend or family member. Sometimes you're blind to it, but others you're close to can identify it right away. Write back with your superpower and let me know what it is and how it helps you at work and at home.
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