Our boss cleared her throat. “I’m sorry, but I have some bad news.”
She paused, looking down at the stack of papers she was shuffling in her hands. She looked back up at us. She started to say something and then stopped, looking back down at the papers.
That’s when we knew we had lost our jobs.
Newly married and with bills to pay, I was scared.
“What am I going to do? How am I going to tell my wife?”
Hands shaking, I picked up the phone.
“Hi sweetie!” my wife answered, excited but surprised to hear from me. “Is everything okay?”
“Tell her there’s nothing to worry about,” I said to myself.
“Tell her we’ll be fine. Tell her I’ve got this. Tell her…”
“No,” I finally answered after a long pause.
“But it will be.”
Success Stories are Often Preceded by Tales of Woe
Before he became the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan was a high school sophomore licking his wounds after getting cut from the varsity team.
Before he became a millionaire CEO, Jon Morrow was recovering from a horrible automobile accident and wondering what he was going to do with his life.
And before I became the Editor-in-Chief at Smart Blogger, fulfilling my dream of writing full-time so I could work from home and spend more time with my family, I was just a boy…
…standing in front of a girl…
…asking her for directions to the unemployment office.
Life rarely takes the path we think it will take. All too often, it sends us on detours filled with potholes, road construction, and pedestrians who refuse to use crosswalks.
But here’s the thing:Some of life's greatest opportunities are in the detours.Click To Tweet
Getting cut from the varsity team made Michael Jordan work harder. Jon’s accident afforded him free time to learn everything there was to know about blogging. My unemployment led me here.
If I hadn’t lost my full-time job, I wouldn’t have leaned on freelance writing to make ends meet.
Knowing random baseball trivia wasn’t a payable skill. Neither was earning an income as a male model, no matter how devilishly handsome my wife says I am.
I turned to writing, a hobby I dabbled in from time to time on the side, out of desperation. And, to my surprise, I discovered — not just my true passion, but — the thing God put me on this earth to do.
Of course, my story isn’t unusual. The paths people take to find their passion and discover their strengths tend to have unique twists and turns.
The good news?
If you’ve yet to find your passion or strengths, knowing the journeys taken by others can help you find your own way.
How 13 Influencers Discovered Their Strengths (+ Lessons Learned to Help You Find Your Passion)
Over the last several years, I’ve reached out to successful people I admire and asked them two simple questions:
How did you discover your strengths? How are you using those strengths to pursue your passion?
Some (I’m looking at you, Weird Al) never got back to me. But many did.
Here’s how they responded (and how you can use their experiences to find your own strengths and passions):
Make Yourself Uncomfortable
It meant living in a country where I didn’t speak the language; jumping out of a plane (with a parachute!); speaking in front of hundreds of people, and more.
Every time I do something that expands my personal comfort boundaries, I discover some strength I didn’t know I had.
It turns out I am more than capable of learning a new language. And facing my fear by jumping out of a plane was fun! And people enjoy my presentations when I speak.
If I’d never made myself try those things, I wouldn’t have discovered those strengths.
[On using strengths to find your passion]
It’s funny, more than using my strengths to pursue my passions, I think I’ve used that sense of “just go for it!” to pursue my passions.
The “nothing ventured, nothing gained” approach has served me well both in my personal life and in my business life.
That’s why I’m continually pointing people toward taking action. At some point, you have to take everything you’ve learned and step out and apply it.
Go ahead — jump out of that plane. There’s a beautiful view on the way down. 🙂
— Pamela Wilson
Founder of Big Brand System
No one likes to be uncomfortable.
But, if you force yourself to be uncomfortable from time to time, you’ll find you’re capable of more than you could’ve ever imagined.
Tweetable TakeawayEvery time I do something that expands my personal comfort boundaries, I discover some strength I didn’t know I had.Click To Tweet
Just Do It
I wanted to be a Podcaster, so I just had to Podcast. As I podcasted my way to the now over 1000+ episodes of EOFire, I uncovered strengths I didn’t even know I possessed, and it all stemmed from DOING.
— John Lee Dumas
Host of Entrepreneurs on Fire
Want to know a surefire way to never find your passion or discover your strengths?
Do a whole lot of jack and squat.
Tweetable TakeawayI discovered my strengths from the simple yet powerful quote: ‘If you want to be…do.’Click To Tweet
Know Your Limits
It’s almost like experimentation…
[On using strengths to find your passion]
Whatever you are passionate about, you want to use your strengths to move you forward. No one is a jack of all trades, so focus on using your strengths to help you accomplish your goals. As for what you aren’t good at, find other people to help you out in those areas.
— Neil Patel
Co-founder of Neil Patel Digital
Knowing your strengths is great, but knowing your weaknesses is equally important.
Those things you suck at (whatever they might be)? It’s okay to ask a friend (or find someone on Google or LinkedIn) to handle them.
Tweetable TakeawayNo one is a jack of all trades, so focus on using your strengths to help you accomplish your goals.Click To Tweet
Be Willing to Look Stupid
I think that’s the biggest part of discovering what you do best: the willingness to look stupid. If you try 100 different things, you’ll suck at 95 of them, and you have to be willing to put up with the failures until you find the areas where you are genuinely gifted.
Personally, I realized I was a gifted writer really early. I was reading books and writing stories before I even got to kindergarten. For me, it was as natural as breathing. I can’t imagine struggling with it.
I think everyone has something like that. You just have to keep trying new things until you find it.
A byproduct of discovering the areas where you excel is discovering, through sometimes embarrassing mishaps, the things you’re bad at.
If you can power through the stumbles, you’ll eventually get to enjoy the successes.
Tweetable TakeawayI think that’s the biggest part of discovering what you do best: the willingness to look stupid.Click To Tweet
Do What You Love
When I think of strengths, I think of things that give me energy, don’t take it. So I am constantly looking at what I’m doing and asking, “Is this fun? Does it energize me?” If not, how can I turn this into something that is fun and energizing or move on to something else.
We only have so much time on earth, so we might as well spend it doing things that are worth our time. For me, doing what I love (even on days when it’s difficult) is something I have to make room for.
— Jeff Goins
Best-selling author of Real Artists Don’t Starve
Oftentimes, the quickest way to find your strengths is to ask yourself a simple question:
“What do I enjoy?”
True, there are no guarantees you’ll have a natural talent related to your passion. I’ve met many a baseball fanatic who couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper sack.
But if you love something, if it energizes you, there’s a reason. And, sometimes, that reason is you’re good at it — even if you’re blissfully unaware of this fact.
Tweetable TakeawayWhen I think of strengths, I think of things that give me energy, don’t take it. So I am constantly looking at what I’m doing and asking: Is this fun? Does it energize me?Click To Tweet
Listen and Learn
I have discovered my strengths through variety of means. Sometimes it was just a gentle nudge from someone else telling me that I was good at something. At other times, it was from my quarterly reviews of what went well and what didn’t.
— Syed Balkhi
CEO of Awesome Motive
If someone pays you a compliment, don’t assume it’s empty flattery. They might see a strength in you that you’ve to discover about yourself.
Tweetable TakeawayI have discovered my strengths through variety of means. Sometimes it was just a gentle nudge from someone else telling me that I was good at something.Click To Tweet
Try New Things
[On using strengths to find your passion]
Honestly, my strengths and my passions are mostly intertwined. For instance, I love writing. I can’t not write. I always say that if you were to leave me on a desert island with nothing, I’d find a stick and write my thoughts in the dirt. I just can’t help myself.
I also love encouraging and cheerleading other people. So one of the ways I use my writing is to challenge and champion women to be the best versions of themselves that they can be. It’s the perfect mesh of both my strengths and passions.
— Crystal Paine
Founder of Money Saving Mom
Want to discover your strengths? Want to find your passion? You have to be willing to try new things.
Your comfort zone may be nice and cozy, but if you never branch out, you’re never going to grow.
Tweetable TakeawayI discovered my strengths by trying new things (and) stepping outside my comfort zone.Click To Tweet
Wear Many Hats
When I created StudioPress, I was wearing many hats, so I had to run all facets of the business. Through that experience I was able to determine the areas I enjoyed, and areas that I think I was strong in.
— Brian Gardner
Founder of StudioPress and Minimologie
Finding your strengths can be a numbers game. The more things you take ownership of, the quicker you’ll discover the things you enjoy and — even better — the areas where you excel.
Tweetable TakeawayWhen I created StudioPress, I was wearing many hats, so I had to run all facets of the business. Through that experience I was able to determine the areas I enjoyed, and areas that I think I was strong in.Click To Tweet
Remember This Isn’t a Quest
I think discovering strengths isn’t really so much a specific quest we undertake: “Today, I’ve decided to discover whether I’m excellent or terrible at playing billiards.”
I think people find their strength more by undertaking an activity out of fun, interest, curiosity, need or obligation, and then realizing after the fact that, hey, they have a knack for it.
For example, I didn’t realize writing was one of my strengths until I’d written several pieces. I didn’t realize determination was one of my strengths until years of perseverance proved it so. I didn’t realize quick wit was a strength until… you get the picture!
[On how to follow your passion]
It’s more than just using your strengths, really. You can know your strengths, and apply them to your pursuits, but you also need to be aware of your capabilities and interest levels of said strengths.
It’s like this: I’m strong in math skills, but I don’t like math much, and it doesn’t really interest me — so naturally, it makes more sense to delegate number-crunching to my accountant.
That sort of self-awareness is a crucial element of successful entrepreneurship, and that’s why with every project I undertake, I don’t ask whether it falls within my strengths; I ask whether I’m the right person, or whether someone else would be better suited to the task.
— James Chartrand
Owner of Men With Pens
People rarely find their strengths on purpose. Usually, it’s a happy accident.
Live your life, choose a career path, and reflect on your journey from time to time. Inevitably, you’ll discover you picked up a strength or two along the way.
Tweetable TakeawayI think people find their strength more by undertaking an activity out of fun, interest, curiosity, need or obligation, and then realizing after the fact that, hey, they have a knack for it.Click To Tweet
It seems obvious to me now, but I only discovered this about myself in my mid-20s.
Although, looking back, I can see the signs – I dismantled my Dad’s VCR when I was 3-4 years old to try and figure out how it worked.
I taught myself to build websites using Dreamweaver when I was 12 and launched an online record label when I was in college.
When did I discover my strength exactly?
In 2012, I landed a job at a marketing agency based on my experience of building niche websites.
For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I was put in charge of developing processes & systems for a new service offering.
I was the guinea pig. The canary in the coal mine.
I had to figure out whether the service could provide an ROI for the client, whether it was profitable, how our team would implement it, and the tech stack that would power it.
Feeling like I was in over my head? That would be an understatement.
But I persevered and got the job done. So well, that I became the go-to person for solving marketing-related challenges.
And eventually it hit me. Jason, my boss, figured out what my strength was back when he first interviewed me.
Here’s the thing:
Progress isn’t easy and personal development doesn’t magically happen. The pressure was real and there were moments when I did feel like pulling my hair out when dealing with nightmare clients.
Sure, there were moments where I felt like throwing in the towel but I pushed through and I’m glad I did. After all, we don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re challenged.
— Adam Connell
Founder of Blogging Wizard
One of the best ways to discover what you’re made of is to apply a little pressure.
Will you sink?
Or will you discover a strength you never knew was inside of you?
Tweetable TakeawayWe don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re challenged.Click To Tweet
Face the Roadblocks Head On
1) Knowing what goal I want to achieve;
2) Then accepting every roadblock as a personal challenge & opportunity to gain experience.
No true growth comes without opposition.
Sadly, humans desperately try to avoid what’s uncomfortable.
But what would you do if you knew you could not fail?
That’s where my own perspective differs from most:
What others call ‘failure’, I call “success in motion.”
[On using strengths to find your passion]
I find it a little ironic (and also humorous) that every skill developed during my hardest challenges in life became critical to achieving my successes today.
Being forced to learn podcasting & editing skills to create Wanted Hero shows for readers allowed me to earn $12K a day for a corporation disgruntled with their current media company.
Having to learn various web skills to build my Wanted Hero sites helped me secure dozens of jobs, including a high-paying annual contract requiring only 90 minutes of my time per month.
The best result of all?
Welcoming opposition in my life has provided the skill set to write, publish and promote my fantasy creations to the world.
— Jaime Buckley
Author, father of 13, and creator of Wanted Hero World
Not every roadblock should be avoided. Some offer valuable life experiences that’ll help you grow, figure things out, and, yes, discover your strengths.
When you hustle, when you put in the hard work, new job opportunities have a way of presenting themselves to you.
Tweetable TakeawayNo true growth comes without opposition. Sadly, humans desperately try to avoid what’s uncomfortable. But what would you do if you knew you could not fail?Click To Tweet
Take Advantage of Opportunities
I used to think I wasn’t creative, and I definitely didn’t have a talent for writing, but years ago I was working in corporate marketing and good content became key to my job. No one else wanted to write blog posts, so somehow I ended up writing our company blog. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it.
After taking Jon Morrow’s guest blogging course in 2011, I got published on Copyblogger and KISSmetrics and I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t so bad at writing. I became braver at trying out new things, and learned I had a knack for teaching and coaching. Who would have thought that I’d create a business to teach people how to write better!
— Henneke Duistermaat
Founder of Enchanting Marketing
When job opportunities present themselves, take them. You never know when life is putting you on a path of self-discovery.
Tweetable TakeawayLuck played a big role in finding out my strengths, and I learned that my strengths were quite different from what I’d always thought about myself.Click To Tweet
Keep it Simple (Just Take a Test)
We recently had everyone in the company take the test and then placed them on a grid so we understood everyone’s core strengths. It was very insightful.
— Michael A. Stelzner
Founder of Social Media Examiner
Short on time or like to keep things simple?
StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup is a strengths test that’ll help your discover your unique talents and greatest strengths.
Or, if you’re a reader, check out Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton’s Now, Discover Your Strengths (affiliate link).
Tweetable TakeawayI rely on the Strengths Finder test to find my strengths.Click To Tweet
Ready to Find Your Strengths and Pursue Your Passion?
We all have strengths.
That’s why it’s disheartening to see so many who are struggling.
It’s often not for lack of talent. And it’s (usually) not for lack of desire. It’s because they aren’t leveraging their strengths to their full potential.
Or, worse: they’ve yet to discover them.
But how do you find your strengths? And how can you cultivate them so you can pursue your passions?
After all, that’s the dream, right?
- A career change…
- Quitting your day job and landing your dream job…
- Getting the right job offer from the right company that’ll allow you to strike the perfect work-life balance…
- Doing what you’re passionate about…
It can happen. All of it.
You just need to look for opportunities in the detours. Try new things. Challenge yourself. Change your life. Be willing to make mistakes.
The insights shared above are meant to inspire you and help you discover your own path.
So go find your strengths. Use them to pursue your passions.
Rule the freakin’ world.
Are you ready?
Then let’s do this thing.