• Community, Advice

What’s your superpower?

Do you remember your most embarrassing high school moment? I do. (Mine, I mean – I have no idea what yours was.)

It was 1976 and I was a sophomore trying out for the school basketball team. I was among those “on the line” – not guaranteed a spot, but within realistic reach, assuming many things went in my favor.

It was a four- or five-day process, during which we ran through all kinds of drills and tests. At the end of each day, the field of players got smaller.

On the third day, the coach introduced “The 6-Layup Test.” It was simple: There were six hoops. One by one, each kid circled the gym, trying to score a basket at each hoop as quickly as possible. The faster your time, the better you did.

Mine was the third name called. I grabbed the ball, the coach yelled “Go!,” and while everyone else watched, off I went. First hoop, right in. Second hoop, right in again. Third hoop … missed it. No problem, try again.Missed again. Try again. Missed again.

Keep in mind that I was standing directly beneath the basket, attempting the easiest shot there is. But I kept missing and I could feel the clock ticking.

How many times did I miss? I don’t recall – I was too busy panicking. I do remember that at one point, the ball bounced off my foot, careened through the open door of the coach’s office, and was temporarily lost among his paperwork and personal possessions.

Eventually, I retrieved the ball (I think it landed in the coach’s trash can), finished the drill, and sat back down.

Like I said, my most embarrassing high school moment. (In case you’re wondering, I never saw day four of tryouts.) I did learn one important thing from that experience, however: I don’t perform well under pressure.

That’s why I’m not an emergency room doctor. Or a fireman. Or a football placekicker. It’s also why the career I’ve chosen has nothing to do with thinking clearly under pressure (there are few Likeable Expert emergencies).

What’s your superpower?

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been converting from one credit card acceptance system to another. Very complicated stuff involving my bank, my “merchant account,” and some other pieces that I don’t begin to understand.

I’ve been getting all these emails telling me to cancel this and verify that. And whenever I get one, I forward it to my business manager, Belinda Wasser (AKA, RocketGirl).

This morning, along with the most recent email received, I wrote: “Sorry to be bombarding you with all this.” She wrote back immediately: “That’s ok – I’ll figure it out. Keep the info coming.”

And that, in four words, is Belinda’s superpower: I’ll. Figure. It. Out. It’s not her project management expertise (of which she has a lot). It’s not the friendly way she treats all of you when you buy a product or attend a webinar (although she’s certainly good at that too).

It’s that when I hand her a big mess, I can just let go and know, without a doubt, that she will figure it out.

What comes naturally to you?

Your superpower isn’t your skill set. (That’s just the price of admission.) Rather, it’s what you do naturally (and often better than anyone else) and that wraps around your skill set. It’s what truly sets you apart.

For my tech guy, Barry Shuchter, it’s the simple, clear, patient way he explains complicated technology options when I ask him a question.

For my friend and expert recruiter, Betsy Harper, it’s the way she can tell the difference – almost instantly – between who’s for real and who’s blowing smoke.

For my friend Marcia, it’s the way she can take a spare piece of wood, a rusty can she found on the beach, and some paint, and turn it into a centerpiece on her dining room table that makes it look like Martha Stewart just left the building (without, by the way, getting any paint on her hands).

Sell your superpower

The problem with most superpowers is that unlike, say, flying or X-ray vision, the person who possesses it doesn’t always realize how special it is.

It’s hard to detect in ourselves precisely because it comes so naturally and so easily. And so we downplay it, if not miss it entirely. The thing is, it’s what your clients are really buying. It’s why the ones who love you, love you.

Which means that if you’re not emphasizing it, you’re working way too hard and not taking advantage of the thing(s) that makes you most special in the eyes of other people.

If you really want to stand out, figure out your superpower and build your business around it.

Flying optional.

Michael Katz Michael Katz is the founder of Blue Penguin Development, where he helps professional service firms talk about their work. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, above.

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