Stumped on Your Talents? 5 Steps to Polling Your Audience

by Lisa Rothstein on 01/06/2010

stumped on your talents?When we ask most DaVinci types to inventory their talents and passions, they usually have no trouble coming up with a long and impressive list.

But what if it’s been a long, long time since you’ve even indulged in the luxury of thinking about what you enjoy and are good at? You may have the opposite problem — an inability to come up with any of your talents. There are a number of reasons for this brain cramp:

  • Your dreams may be buried under what you think is possible or what you think you deserve. You’ve given up on pursuing your talents, so you’ve blocked them out to avoid pain or “rocking the boat.”
  • You’re only allowing yourself to think of what seems reasonable or appropriate for someone your age (or your gender, or in your social or financial position…)
  • You’re limiting your imagination to what you think you should be doing (showing up every day at ye olde grindstone) as opposed to what you want to do (paint, write, join the circus).
  • Then there’s modesty, false and otherwise. You don’t think it deserves to be called a real talent unless you are the very best at it. Or you really don’t realize that not everybody can just whip off a cartoon or a funny poem the way you do. We all tend to take for granted what comes easily to us.

So when asked — as you will be, if you stick around this blog — to create a list of your talents, you’re as speechless as a contestant in round 10 of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.”

“Is That Your Final Answer?”

So what’s the solution? Stop asking yourself, and poll your audience — get up the chutzpah to ask others. You can ask people who know you well, such as your friends and family. People you know in only one capacity, such as at work or your book club or place or worship. You can even ask people you’ve only just met. A great opportunity for this is a seminar or retreat, where you’re thrown together with strangers for an intense day or two. At a recent 4-day coaching training intensive we were all asked to give our impressions of each other’s strengths, and it was fascinating (and a little embarrassing) how certain things about me were obvious to my fellow students in just that short time we spent together.

This five-step exercise will put you back in touch with your talents, and with the people who appreciate them, and you. Warning:  it does take a little courage. But you will find that people love to be asked, and most will have plenty to say.

  1. Make a list of people with whom you share a strong know/like/trust factor. Be sure to have a good assortment of people from different areas of your life: old and new friends, family, work, social or community groups. Think of all your activities and see if you can choose at least one person from each.
  2. Craft an email or letter asking them to list what they see as your top five talents and/or personality traits.  If you feel embarrassed, say you’re doing a survey to help you rate your strengths for a career assessment, or as an assignment for a course. If you want to make it look more scientific, or allow anonymous responses, you could even make a one or two question survey for free on or and send that around. (Note: At in-person events such as seminars, if you’ve gotten to know a person or a small group well, offer to trade your impressions of their talents for their of yours.)
  3. Look for trends. People who know you from different venues may see very different sides of you, so it’s significant if almost everyone says you’re a great writer, or good with your hands, or have a lovely voice.
  4. Also look for things that make you smile. It’s hard not to feel good when you are essentially receiving a netful of compliments (albeit ones you fished for), but some may jump out at you as things you’re very grateful were noticed. Pay attention to this! It’s a huge clue
  5. (Optional but worth it) Share your results. You’ll find that a number of people you surveyed will be interested to see how their impressions matched up. Your golf buddy will also be gratified to know, for example, that since so many people shared his opinion that you’re funny, you’re going to do a stand up routine at your local club’s open-mic night next Friday.

Activity: List your “audience” members, and send out that email or survey.

Whose opinion of your talents would you most trust, and why? What compliments have you received most from others? Go ahead, brag a little below.


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Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The Da Vinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at

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