This is the third of ten posts where we follow Marcos Salazar’s personal branding journey, as he uses the concepts and four-step process outlined in Me 2.0 for his own career.
“What are you passionate about?” I am sure there’s a post on every single career website that focuses on this topic. And for good reason – you won’t have a meaningful career nor will you be able to develop a strong personal brand if you don’t know the answer to this question. However, the harsh reality is that passion will never be enough!
In my last post, I started the process of clarifying the things I am passionate about in order to help me further develop my personal brand. However, as I thought more about the post, something just didn’t set right with me. There was something missing that I needed to do. I felt like the last post was really thin and didn’t dig deep enough in developing an understanding that would provide a foundation for creating a unique personal brand. I soon realized that before I am able to integrate all my interests, passions, and work experiences into a unified personal brand, there’s another form of self-knowledge that needs to be tapped into, and that is discovering what you are born to do.
The curse of competence
When I started college I thought I wanted to major in biology. I was really good at it in high school and loved the subject. I also knew chemistry was a big part of the major and didn’t worry too much about that because I knew I was pretty good at this also.
Then I took my first chemistry class. This was the first time I encountered people who were programmed for chemistry. While it would take me 2 hours to finish an exam, these people were out the door in 30 minutes and would easily set the curve for the class. What I quickly realized is that even though I enjoyed chemistry and biology – and was really good at them, I would never truly be great at either of the subjects no matter how much I studied.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, refers to this concept as, “the curse of competence.” That is, we are all pretty good at a lot of things because we have an abundance of talent, but there are only a few things that we are genetically programmed to do and become truly excellent at. So in addition to discovering work we are passionate about, you also need to keep in mind there is a huge difference between doing what you are good at versus what you were born to do.
This idea that there are things we will not be great at is something that goes against the grain of what many people have told us since we were kids. This is especially true for all us Gen Yers whose parents have told us that we can be anything we want to when we grew up. However, the brutal fact is that there are some things that we will only be good at, and part of your personal branding journey is to find out what you were made to do in life.
Psychology came calling
It was after this realization that I was not going to major in biology (and a few not so great grades in Chemistry) that I took my first psychology class. I had always been fascinated with human behavior and why people acted they way they did. From a very young age I recognized that I had a unique ability to provide people with a level psychological visibility that made them feel understood – often in a way that they had never experienced before. When I would meet someone for the first time, they would open up and tell me things that they usually kept deep inside and had never even told their best friends or family.
It’s as if people had a certain frequency that they operated on and I was able to naturally tune into their unique frequency and connect with them on a level that they had not previously experienced. This was also facilitated by me being able to naturally pick up on emotional cues and ask insightful questions based on that information (what would later be called having high emotional intelligence). Through this way of relating, I was able to provide people with an environment where they could let down their guard and simply be who they truly were.
So when I finally took my first psychology class, I felt like a fish in water. I had found something that provided structure to all that I had been thinking and a systematic way to describe all the things I had been experiencing since I was a little boy. I realized this was what I was meant to do – in what capacity, I was not sure yet, but I did know that I had found what I was wired for.
Then came writing, organizing, and creating businesses
However, just because you find something you were born to do doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to that one thing. After graduation I thought psychology was going to be my life. The plan was to take a year or two off, get some work experience, obtain my PhD in clinical psychology, then teach at a university and have a practice on the side. Sounds like a great path, right?
Well, once I started to explore more of the world after college. I started to develop a better sense of who I was and where I wanted to go in life and came to see that there were many other things I was passionate about and potentially born to do. This became increasingly apparent as I moved from job to job and project to project – a common theme among Gen Y and which I describe personally in my first post in this series.
What all these experiences have made me come to see is that the discovery process is never-ending and we have to think of our personal branding journey not as linear, but as circular. After we develop our personal brand, from time to time we will need to come back to the discovery phase and integrate new experiences, passions, and information about things we are potentially born to do. The key, however, is to continue to be open to new experiences and knowledge while also trying to maintain a consistent personal brand.
What are you wired to do?
Each of use has a genetic predisposition to be great at certain things. When you ask yourself this question, be brutally honest with yourself. While I loved biology (and still do – I read read about evolution and how it relates to psychology constantly), I had to accept the fact that I would never be great at it. But in accepting this fact I was forced to go exploring and that led me to psychology. Today, I can’t imagine my life without having this self-knowledge of one of the things I was born to do.
So set some time aside and ask yourself, “What are those things that I can truly be great at? What am I wired to do?” Then use this knowledge you gain during the brand discovery process and integrate it with your passions to create a strong personal brand you can feel confident about!
Marcos Salazar is the author of The Turbulent Twenties Survival Guide, which focuses on the psychology of life after college and what graduates go through as the make the transition from school to the working world. He writes a psychology and career blog for young professionals at www.marcossalazar.com. You can connect with him on Twitter @marcossalazar.