True Calling Tip: What are You Naturally Good At?

Posted by on November 4, 2013 in True Self | 10 comments

Many of us don’t “hear” our callings because our true talents and abilities come so naturally to us. 

monWhile I was writing this blog, I took a break to get a bagel at a local coffee shop.  As the guy behind the counter was ringing me up, one of his coworkers was trying to solve a crossword puzzle and called out, “Hey Jeff, what’s a four letter word for ‘harvest?’”  Without missing a beat, Jeff responded, “Reap.”  I was astonished.  He was a natural. It’s often difficult to discover what we’re innately good at even though it’s right under our noses.  It comes so easily to us, we figure everyone else can do it too.  But the truth is, they can’t.  Let me tell you a story from my life to show you what I mean.

When I was studying psychology at Princeton, one of my fellow graduate students gave a talk on music perception.  As part of the presentation, she did an experiment with us in which she played pairs of tunes and had us decide whether they were the same or different melodies.  I remember thinking to myself that “Sally” had chosen a bad demonstration for her talk because the task was so frigging simple.  My score was nearly perfect.  

littlepianistWell, when we went around the room and reported how we’d all done, I was astonished to discover that I had outscored every graduate student and professor in the room, including one of our deans who had studied classical violin for ten years.  I’d never taken a music lesson in my life.  Everyone looked at me quizzically, but after the talk was over, we all went on like nothing had happened.  But something had happened.  The call to music had made itself known to me.  I’d totally forgotten that I used to play piano at age four as if I’d been classically trained.  No one in my family had noticed, so I ignored it too.

photoTo me that music test was as straightforward as someone making a high pitched squeak and then a low pitched squawk and asking, “Were they the same or different sounds?”  Certainly anyone could do that.  But apparently the test was difficult for others in the room.  We often assume that everyone else can do the things we can; but if you look closer you’ll see that isn’t the case.  I’d had a natural proclivity for music my entire life but had never picked up on that fact before because I’d assumed everyone else could do what I could do.

Until I scored off the charts on that music perception test in graduate school, I didn’t realize I had musical talent.  It was only when I compared myself to others that I saw where my true abilities lie.

MG danceSo, what about you?  What are you naturally good at?  You have skills and interests that set you apart from the rest of us, but they’re not always easy to discern because you think we are good at those things too.  What comes effortlessly to you that you do better than others? Crossword puzzles, spelling, cooking, teaching, drawing, math, writing, accounting, dancing, or something else?  Even if you’ve never engaged in the activity before, what is your hunch the answer might be?  Compare yourself to the people around you and find out! The talents you express without even trying are part of your true calling.


  1. I was well into my 40s before I understood that I had an unusually accurate memory, and that most people don’t remember events or facts, figures, etc., as well as I do. This caused me a lot of frustration earlier in life because I thought everyone’s memory was as good as mine was. Like I said, it took years to learn my memory is quite above average. Once I understood, I stopped being frustrated by others lack of memory. And I realize that the journalism I had chosen as a career, and the other forms of storytelling that I practice, were well served by my well above average memory.

  2. That is such a great story–thanks for sharing Bill! Isn’t it interesting how we can’t see what we have going for us until we realize that others don’t have our abilities? EVERYONE has something special that sets them apart.

  3. Thank you, Michelle, for your blog and for sharing your story. I love how it gets me thinking.

    • I’m glad it gets you thinking. It took a long time for me to figure this one out personally. Over the years in my workshops I’ve seen this pattern emerge across thousands of participants with different backgrounds and skills. It can be fun to compare notes!

  4. Wonderful to read as an artist, and as a mom. Makes me think about myself and about the direction I want to help lead my son toward with what he does naturally well and with enthusiasm. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome! One thing to keep in mind is that simply expressing a natural ability isn’t enough. Taking lessons, practicing, and learning from mentors to further develop the skill is the way to answer your calling. It also brings you more joy that way.

  5. My husband Gary, who is an artist, has a story along these lines. He was out with a friend he had known since high school who had become an accountant. Math came easily to her. When Gary said he had always struggled with math, his friend asked something like, “How could you find it so difficult?” So Gary handed her a pen and a napkin and said, “Draw me.” She said she didn’t know where to begin. Gary then said that drawing came as naturally to him as math did to her. Point made.

    • Beautiful example! Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. “True Calling Tip: What are You Naturally Good At?

    This is a good blog post. I really was quite glad to read it. Thanks for your effort-Benedict

    • You’re very welcome!

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