What Is Your Superpower?

SupermanWhile I am fairly certain that you can’t fly, see through walls, or stop bullets, you have a superpower. Everyone has a superpower. In this context, a superpower is a skill or ability that comes fairly naturally to you, that you love to do, and that you regularly apply to solve problems in your life and to make the world a slightly better place.

So what is your superpower? I love this question. I first heard it asked at a conference last year, and it’s come up in my work several times since. Superpowers aren’t grandiose, and most of the time they don’t involve wearing a cape – although I love capes, and if you have one, I encourage you to wear all the time! Superpowers can be quiet or they can be loud. They can be very private, or exercised in public. Discovering and developing your superpower can help you prioritize your goals, find resolutions to issues, and decide what to do next.

Are you saying to yourself “How can I have a superpower? I’m not an expert in anything, I am not a great athlete, and I am just an average person.” Don’t kid yourself. You have a superpower. It just may not be as obvious as Stephen Hawking, Lebron James, or Malala Yousafzai. But you do have at least one, I promise. So how do you find your special superpower?

Start by asking yourself what makes you the happiest. Are you happiest baking for the PTA? Planning conferences? Helping a good friend through a tough time? I know someone for whom mentoring entry-level staff is her superpower, and another for whom it is using her amazing baking skills to cheer up anyone who needs it.

Ask those close to you. Sometimes your friends and close colleagues can see what you cannot. Are you the sounding board they love coming to? Are you someone whom everyone knows they can rely on no matter what? Do your colleagues come to you to sound out a problem or kick around a solution, knowing you will ask the right questions? There are so many ways that superpowers can manifest themselves. It’s most rewarding to find them in the service of others.

What makes you feel most powerful? We do all kinds of tasks in our work day and in our daily life. Think about what tasks make you feel energized, successful, and powerful. Is it helping a young person find their way? Is it successfully negotiating a new contract? Personally, I love public speaking. When I’ve given a successful talk, I feel a couple of inches taller for the rest of the day. I know someone who is a small business coach, and he gets really jazzed when a client’s business meets their goals.

Understanding your superpower is more than just knowing what you are good at. You can be good at something, but not love it. I know someone who is not only an amazing chef, but has top notch kitchen management skills. But she turned down a fantastic job offer from a large hotel chain. While she had the skills to be successful, she didn’t love it enough to commit to the professional kitchen as a career. Conversely, if you love something, you can learn to do it very well without it starting out as a superpower. That’s the best news of all – superpowers can be not only discovered but developed. Your superpowers grow where skills and excitement converge. They are part of our personality and part of our profession. So discovering your superpower will help you discover that unique combination of abilities and enthusiasm that you have to offer your employer, your customers, your friends, and your community.

If it turns out you can fly, can I have a ride?