Identify your superpower and learn to leverage it

Have you already discovered your superpower?

I was in third or fourth grade when I shocked my parents and got in trouble. I'd had a recent birthday and family had given me money – it might have been the first time I got money instead of toys.

What I did was take that money and give it away to two different kids – one in my class and one that was a year older. And my folks didn't learn about it until a week or two later when they asked me to get the money so we could go shopping for a birthday present.

I wasn't even 10 years old when my superpower first appeared. Generosity. That's mine.

What about you? Have you already discovered your superpower?

Superpowers aren't always welcomed

I was in college when I discovered that being generous wasn't always welcomed. It was the first time that I was generous with someone and they had all sorts of questions.

  • Why did you do that?
  • What do you expect in return?
  • What's the catch?

Your superpower may come easy to you. But it doesn't necessarily come easy to other folks, and as a result, they can't see it thru your eyes. Only their own.

[tweet “Having a superpower means some things will be easy for you, but that doesn't mean everyone will appreciate it. They may feel intimidated.”]

I discovered that most of the pushback told me more about them than it said anything about me, but I knew that to develop my superpower meant understanding the context that it would be used in.

And the truth is that having something be easy and useful to you may threaten or stress others out. And you have to be ready for that.

In other words, having a superpower means some things will be easy for you, but that doesn't mean everyone will appreciate it. It may cause folks to feel intimidated.

Four questions to help you identify your superpower

Here are four questions I regularly use to help people discover their superpower.

What is something you can do without much effort that others may spend 10x the energy to accomplish?

I can get on a stage, tell a few stories, make a few jokes and come off the stage with only the feeling that it was fun. But I know that's not the case for everyone. That year that I was in fourth grade was also the first time we had to do presentations and I'll never forget Tom sweating so much (while up front) that the paper in his hands dissolved!

It's work for me to create a talk. But not so much when it comes to delivering it. By that point, I'm comfortable and ready.

And that may be where you start freaking out. Clearly public speaking wouldn't be your superpower, if that was the case.

But what comes easy to you – almost without effort? It's worth noting.

What is something that you can do that surprises other people when they see it?

Years ago I discovered I could write long documents without a lot of stress. I mean 30-60 pages. It didn't matter if it was a paper for my Master's degree, or an RFP (response for proposal).

I had the ability to think about the structure of the content in my head, while not writing, and then sit down and pull all the data together pretty quickly. Long papers that were supposed to take weeks mostly took me a few days.

But I didn't realize it was unique until talking with other people. Then when I looked back, even at other work efforts, or college papers, I realized that I could construct outlines in my head over days without writing any notes down. And people were surprised.

What about you? What do you do that surprises other people? They think it's incredible and you think it's normal (and that everyone does it). That may be your superpower.

What compliments stress you out or bother you?

My friend Jennifer wrote about superpowers a while ago and what I loved was her articulation of how often we shy away from compliments. We downplay or reject the compliment, or we make excuses. Sometimes I get downright frustrated.

“Yeah I wish I could be generous like that but I'm not rich.”

The presumption in their statement to me was that I was able to be generous because I was rich. At the time, I was certainly nowhere near anything that closely (or even remotely) resembled being rich. I wasn't even 30 and had just finished paying for a divorce settlement.

But I had sacrificed in my budget so that I had an amount that I could be generous with.

In other words, I was willing to sacrifice in order to activate my superpower. That's another clue for you. Are you doing similar?

And the shortcut way for you to identify your superpower is to listen to those compliments (“It's so easy for you…”) that frustrate you. Look for the statements that you downplay (“I bet you're awesome every time you do that…”), simply because you don't want the expectations to get any higher for you.

If you're stressing out about the compliment, you may be closer to identifying your superpower.

When and where can you predict the future?

My fourth question to help you identify your superpower is about your ability to see things that other people can't see. The reason you can see it is because you can connect certain dots and jump forward to some conclusions.

You can do that because of the way you're wired. But that doesn't mean other people are wired the same, or can make the same predictions.

When you start realizing that your wired in a certain way, a way that lets you predict a specific kind of dynamic, then you know you've discovered your superpower.

What do you do when you've identified your superpower?

I can write quickly – mostly because I can form an argument or structure of an argument in my head without a lot of work. I also love being generous – with my time, my skills, and my cash.

When you put those together, writing a blog where I invest my time to write quickly and try to add value to your world seems like a no brainer…. to me.

Imagine that I told you all you had to do was the same thing as me, and you'd get the same results as me. That would be insane because what works for me may not work for you. You and I are wired up differently. What I do, I do because it works for me. It's easier for me than it might be for you.

What superpowers might you have? Here's a cool list from WPMUDEV from years ago that I still point people to.

So the first thing to do when you recognize your superpower is embrace the fact that it may not be someone else's superpower. I see people that do something once, and they're ready to write the book, go on podcast tours, and get on stage to tell the world to do what they did because it will work for them too. Hint: it won't work that way.

The second thing to do when you identify your superpower(s) is to shape the work you're doing to leverage your particular way of seeing and doing things. I just recently designed a t-shirt and started sending it to people. Because being generous is my thing and the design was simple enough that it didn't take a long time. But that's my jam. Yours may be something different. You may be gifted at writing people's twitter bios – and if so, do it. Help others that way.

The third thing to do after knowing your superpower is to talk about it with your team and get rid of the stuff that clearly isn't powered by your amazing talent. Being good at one thing doesn't make you good at everything (or even a lot of things). Talking about your area of giftedness can help you not only pick up some work that you should do because it's easier and faster for you, but can also help you invite help for the things that you're really not shaped to do.

Lastly, once you know your superpower, help others find and develop theirs. Because you've been down the road, you are likely better able to see who is coming after you that is similar and might need some help. After all, with great power comes great responsibility. I have frameworks for everything. It's part of how my brain is wired. But I don't keep those to myself. I share them with friends and coaching clients, to help them succeed – simply because I know that one or two of them could likely take what I've started and evolve it to the next level.

Imagine if we all played to our strengths

If we were to hang out together – you know, when we can do that again – I'd introduce you to several of my friends. Whether they're folks in the WordPress community, folks in the cigar space, or the friends I have from the other communities I'm a part of, you'd start to notice something.

I like hanging out with people who are talented, but who also know what their superpower is. I'm not saying we don't have our insecurities. But we've managed through it and we're comfortable in our own skin. It makes it so much easier when we're not trying to prove that we are who we are. Or stressed that someone might not believe we are who we are.

Imagine a world where we were all comfortable in our own skin. It'd be pretty amazing. And it starts by identifying your own superpower.