Unique Ability®: The Secret of Free Energy
By Dan Sullivan
There's something compelling about people who are talented. Not only do they produce tangibly superior results, it's as if what they're doing doesn't use up energy. It actually seems to give them more — so much so that in their presence others have more energy too.
Fringe scientists have been searching for decades for "free energy" from inventions like perpetual motion machines. But the laws of conventional physics dictate that it isn't possible to get more energy out of a machine than you put in.
In the case of people, though, that's not true. Each of us has within us a source of limitless energy, creativity, and potential growth. It's called "Unique Ability®." If you can tap into your own, you'll find your life's direction and the source of all your best successes. If you can tap into others', you have the makings of a dream organization.
Your Unique Ability is a combination of your talent, the passion you have for using it, and the incredible value it creates when you deliver it to the world.
You may not believe that you have a Unique Ability. That says more about how we evaluate ability than it says about you. Unique Ability comes in as many forms as there are individuals on this earth. Some of these are very subtle. For instance, take someone who's great at establishing new relationships, or someone who can picture things that haven't yet been built: There are no tests for these abilities, and they're not taught in school, but they're still extremely valuable in the right situations.
Even if you don't yet recognize what your Unique Ability is, your desire to use it has driven many of your past decisions. In fact, it may have driven you to become an entrepreneur in the first place.
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Unfortunately, as most entrepreneurs' businesses grow, they get called upon to perform a wider and wider range of activities. Some of these — perhaps tasks like keeping books, hiring and training, organizing an office, or buying technology — are so far from their Unique Ability, and the sheer number of them is so overwhelming, that they lose that original sense of drive and energy about the business. They put in more effort than ever but find it harder and harder to produce results. Their lives are eaten up by ever-increasing demands on their time.
Whether you're in this situation and want out, or would like to avoid it altogether, the best strategy is to focus on your Unique Ability. It restores simplicity, gives you and your team direction and energy, and ensures that you enjoy what you're doing along the way.
At this point, you may already have an idea what your Unique Ability is, or you might still be doubting whether you have one at all. Either way, the world around you will provide helpful clues about it, because Unique Ability is not just an inner resource but shows up externally too. Focusing on your Unique Ability is not an instantaneous process, but you will experience rewards from the minute you commit yourself to discovering what it is and expanding its role in your life.
Everything you do, you do at one of four levels of ability. There are some things you're simply incompetent at: No matter how hard you try, you end up with failure, frustration, conflict, and stress. There are other activities at which you're competent: You get by, produce a passing result, but you can't improve at them and don't feel particularly compelled to, either. At some activities, though, you're excellent: You perform better than most people and are well-regarded for it. The only problem is that you don't feel any passion for these activities. You might enjoy the recognition and results they bring you, but they leave you cold. Then there are your Unique Ability activities: You love doing these things and could do them all day long. You'd even do them for free, except you don't have to because others value what you can do so much. The more you do these, the better you get at them — and this learning can last a lifetime.
One way to get started identifying your Unique Ability involves keeping track of all the activities you do in a week. This might sound extreme, but until you do this, you might not realize how many demands there are on your time and how many different types of activities you're involved in. Feel free to add things from the past or things you know you'll be doing in the future, if that makes your list better reflect what you normally do.
Once you have a fairly complete list of your regular activities, the next step is categorizing them according to the four levels of ability. Take a sheet of paper and divide it into four sections. Label them Unique Ability, Excellent, Competent, and Incompetent. Classify the activities on your list, putting them under one of these four headings according to how you feel about them and the results they've produced for you in the past.
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Anything that falls below "Excellent" on this chart is best handled by someone else. The more of these activities you can give away, the more you'll be focusing on your Unique Ability. Not only will this free up time that you can fold back into your personal life, you will notice a big jump in your productivity.
Contrary to popular belief, you're not obliged to be good at everything in life. In fact, you have a unique capability to be you, but other people are better at everything else. So instead of wasting time trying to build strong weaknesses, trim away everything that's preventing you from using your Unique Ability as much as possible. In a word, delegate.
Delegation needn't feel like "dumping." Think of it this way: There are things you love to do, that fascinate you, that would bore someone else to tears. Likewise, the things you hate doing would be, for someone else, an exciting opportunity. The trick is to begin identifying the Unique Abilities you have around you so you know whom to delegate to. When you witness the creativity, energy, and passion that's released when the right person receives the right task, you'll come to believe that every delegation is a gift.
Another strategy for identifying your Unique Ability is to write a letter to someone who knows you well, someone who's seen you operate in a number of different situations. Ask that person for his or her insight into what your Unique Ability might be. It's much easier for others to see it. For you it's a natural way of being, whereas for them it's a stand-out quality. They don't need to be able to articulate what it is; just ask them what they count on you for, what they think you do exceptionally well, or in what circumstances they've seen you at your best.
You may find yourself having a lot of conversations in which Unique Ability comes up. The idea has an infectious quality to it, and it touches a part of people's potential that they're passionate about, even if their lives aren't demonstrating it yet. This kind of talk is helpful, because the more attuned you are to the idea of Unique Ability, the more adept you'll become at seeing it in others.
The purpose of your organization is to act as a delivery mechanism for your Unique Ability. The purpose of your team is to protect your Unique Ability and to use their own to amplify it. This might sound utilitarian at first, but this is actually the best gift you can give your team: Everyone loves to have an opportunity to be his or her best.
What I've just described is called a Unique Ability Team™. It's an incredibly respectful and positive type of organization, committed as it is to the betterment of the individuals in it. It also produces results that exceed anything you could expect from a bureaucratic organization.
If you work on your own, you can still apply the concept of a Unique Ability Team any time you deal with others — suppliers, vendors, organizations — who act as extensions to your abilities.
When you're focused on your Unique Ability, your clients and customers will benefit directly from your increased ability to create solutions for them, and they'll also experience a secondary benefit: the surge of energy that comes from being around someone who's doing what he or she is talented at and loves doing most.
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