Identify Your Talents Early

Identify Your Talents Early

I have an acquaintance who is my age (almost 35) and has just recently finished medical school. He is currently in his residency program and will not finish until 2013 when he will be close to 36 years old.

Because he didn’t identify his talents early, he spent 8 years attaining an undergraduate college degree because he switched majors several times. After college he worked odd jobs, but then decided to go to medical school. He didn’t score high enough on the MCAT test to go to a medical school in the states, so he went to a medical school in the Caribbean. He came back to the states, but lost a few years taking the step 2 exam.

I applaud him for ultimately choosing a good career, but the opportunity cost is something that he will never recoup.

What I’m trying to illustrate with the story above is what happens when you are not focused and not future-looking at an early age. I often hear many stories of parents who tell their children that they can be anything that they want to be.

While I agree with this philosophy to a degree, many people end up unhappy because they cannot make ends meet while pursuing their dream of becoming a rock star. We then often wonder why people who are not good at math become accountants, people who are not exceptional at basketball pursue the NBA, and people who can’t sing audition for American Idol.

These children are the ones who spend more than 4 years to obtain a 4-year degree, supported by parents for years after college, jump from job to job, and seem to go through life aimlessly.

As humans, we are not good at assessing ourselves. If we were, then we would fail at nothing, but we fail…we all fail from time to time. The key is to not underestimate or overestimate our abilities and talents. I fail constantly and am not perfect, but I try not to think of myself more highly than I really am. I am an optimist, but realistic in my optimism.

So, how do we get better at assessing our talents?

  1. The first step is to get an objective view your yourself by seeking council from a family member, friend, or mentor. Ask them to be brutally honest about your key talents and your areas of improvement.
  2. Write down what your good at and what you need to improve. For the items that you’re good at, try to match them up with careers that will maximize your strengths. Share this list with a family member or friend for an objective review.
  3. Assess your personal situation. Are you willing to move to another city away from family? Are you willing to move to another country? Do you want to or plan to get married in the near future? Do you want to have kids? Yes, nothing in life is certain, but knowing what you want out of life will help you plan better for it.
  4. Create a mission statement. What do you want to accomplish in life personally, professionally, spiritually, etc? Create a road map on how you plan on getting there.

Life is too short to waste. I try to live each day like its my last and ask if the world is a better place at the end of the day because of my contribution. Of course its hard to say “yes” everyday, but it is a good barometer on how I’m achieving my long-term goals and helps me stay focused on this journey.

About The Author

Edwin is a marketer, social media influencer and head writer here at I Am 1 Percent. He manages a large network of high quality finance blogs and social media accounts. You can connect with him via email here.


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20 Comments

  1. Michelle

    Great post! I agree with this. I have so many friends who have switched majors and careers. One of my friends WAS in her last semester of school, but she decided she didn’t like teaching. So instead of being done in 1 month, she has to start almost all over.

    Reply
    1. iam1percent

      So close, but yet so far. She must’ve really not liked teaching to stop with only a month left to go…

      Reply
  2. Leigh

    This is so true! I pretty much picked my career when I was six. I know I’m a tad crazy, but it’s definitely done wonders for me. Because of the reputation of the college that I went to and the internships that I did, I’m about 2-3 years further ahead in my career than I otherwise would have been at this point out of college.

    While in college, I had some other crazy ideas of what to do with my life and career, but eventually I stuck with this. I realized that I had many, many career options in front of me and I could be quite happy doing them all, so why not pick the one that made the most money and stick with it? I told my dad that realization and his comment was “Good for you for figuring that out young.”

    I know that I’m an anomaly. I’ve watched so many other friends take an extra year of high school or an extra year or two to finish college. I have some friends who are 3-4 years older than me and I finished college a year or two before them! By going at it this way and knowing exactly what I wanted, I (well, my parents) saved a ton of money on schooling and I fast-tracked my career, increasing my potential lifelong earnings.

    Now the trick is to remember that my career isn’t my entire life and have some fun too, balancing spending and saving my earnings wisely. I’m working on that one! 🙂

    Reply
    1. iam1percent

      Sounds like you knew what you wanted at an early age! I don’t know if I necessarily did, but once I made the decision to pursue pharmacy, I didn’t switch.

      Reply
  3. Poor to Rich a Day at a Time

    I am guilty of this, I am in my 40’s and still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up 🙂 I also have a real hard time looking at myself and saying good things about myself and what I am good at……………

    Reply
    1. iam1percent

      No one is perfect..I still wonder if I would’ve been happier going into computer science. Maybe there are other ways for us to pursue our passions without wasting time?

      Reply
  4. Christopher @ This That and The MBA

    Your post today makes me think of Bronx Tale – the saddest thing in life is wasted talent. So many people fall short or never pursue anything that they are talented in. They just go to work and just survive. They do not really live to their fullest.

    Reply
  5. 20's Finances

    I agree that you shouldn’t sit around, but there’s also a danger of focusing too much on one thing that you don’t consider all of your options. I know that’s not what you’re saying, but it’s a fine line.

    Reply
    1. iam1percent

      Corey, I agree. Its not black and white and people do make the mistake of narrowing their focus too early without exploring all the options…

      Reply
  6. Shaun @ Smart Family Finance

    It’s very helpful! There are a lot of young adults who would benefit from this post. Few young adults realize how kicking around the weeds hurts their future financial outlook.

    Reply
    1. iam1percent

      Thanks Shaun! The very reason why I posted this article!

      Reply
  7. I think choosing too soon, or not choosing soon enough are both “dangerous”. I don’t think there’s any harm in living life a little and figuring out what you want to do from there. In HS I thought I wanted to be an attorney. With a little life experience and a yearlong paid internship at legal services, I soon discovered that law was not for me. That being said, I wish I had taken a little more time to decide on my college major (Political Science). It was chosen because “all lawyers are political science majors”, not because I had a strong interest in Political Science. If I had done that internship before college instead of after I probably would have majored in business. Oh well, life has a way of working itself out 🙂

    Reply
    1. iam1percent

      Good point…sometimes it is difficult to know what you want to do for the rest of your life at age 16 or 17.

      Reply
  8. Philly area

    Sometimes kicking around in the weeds for a few years is exactly what someone needs to determine what it is they want to do with their life. I agree it’s best to cultivate talents early and often in ourselves and our kids, but I will strongly disagree that it is in most people’s best interest to choose a career path (or make any life decisions) while still young. You’ve stated above that you’ve wondered if you shouldn’t have taken up computers instead. For some folks that musing can quickly return to regret that can become overpowering. Going around the block a few times before you make a long term commitment is probably good for most of us.

    I’m 46 years old and one thing I’ve been witnessing over the last few years is the divorce of many of my peers who married young. On paper, these people were compatible – same backgrounds, religions and work ethics, etc. However, at some point, one of them (and it’s usually the wife) realizes “she never loved him” but just loved the idea of the marriage, kids, and home.

    There are worse things in life than not deciding upon a career (or a spouse for that matter) until you’re in your 30’s.

    Reply
    1. so

      This. I spent a few years in my 20s teaching before law school — it definitely helped vs. people who went straight through from college: time spent working somewhere that isn’t a good fit for your talents is actually really helpful, as you develop skills and techniques to try and make it work that are helpful in any environment…

      Reply
  9. Nick

    Yep. Identifying my talent(s?) early enough definitely was one of the best things I’ve done for my $$. It’s amazing how much of a long-term difference “starting early” doing what you love can make over the course of a lifetime. (It’s also pretty sad how animated I get “talking geek talk” about my trade… but that’s what’s made me a relative success.)

    Reply
  10. KYD

    Everybody has talent, but finding out the real talent out of a person is not easy always. Nonetheless, age plays no role in identifying one’s talent. There are people whose talent comes out at 9 years of age; while there are people whose talent comes out in even their 40s; for example, Roger Milla. He achieved international stardom at 38 years old, an age at which most forward-playing footballers have retired, by scoring four goals at the 1990 World Cup.

    Happy Weekend!!

    Jonny

    Reply
  11. Daisy

    Good post! I definitely agree with this, although I don’t know that I’m in a career that compliments my talents. I think it’s something that anyone could do provided they have the education; the only talent they might need is conflict resolution.

    I’ve always known what my strengths are, and I’m beginning to find my weaknesses. It’s a journey!

    Reply
  12. Ray

    I am a sophomore in College and recently I was hit by reality. What I mean by that is…I did not know exactly what I was doing with my major and because of that I was pushed around by the bureaucratic system. I am a Psychology major…and I cannot see a profession that will make me fully happy about myself…Reading this article has reinforced myself that I should have decided my future goals by the end of my first semester. Now I plan on making a VISION board with every single step of my career planned out. Unless you are a prodigy…don’t waste your time thinking you can become anything….Life is definitely short. . . don’t slip up now.

    Reply
    1. iam1percent

      LOL…I agree and think a vision board is a great plan!

      Reply

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