In part one of this post I suggested that we need to give ourselves permission to be bad at some of the things we’ll need to do in order to grow a business. Today I want to suggest how to be really, really good at everything you do.

use your superpowers

clifnotes via Flickr

When it comes to excelling at something like running a business, the common advice among experts is to identify your strengths and weaknesses and build on things you’re good at, while finding ways to shore up your weaknesses.

I take a different view. I think society and our past experiences can mask our real strengths and trick us into focusing on the wrong things entirely.

People who have been led to the accounting industry for example, in some cases because they couldn’t decide on anything else in school, are often told that their creativity is a weakness.

Or, artists are made to believe somehow that making a profit or organizing a business that allows them to mass personalize their art are somehow sellouts or worse.

Simply having experience doing a certain kind of work is not necessarily the same as being good at a certain kind of work or having a special talent and knack for a certain kind of work.

I think business owners need to find and tap what I call their superpower and then apply that to every aspect of their work – even if all that means is hiring someone to do a particular something for you.

Here’s what I mean. While some might look at me and suggest my strengths are writing and speaking, they would miss my superpower, which is curiosity.

The reason my business exists is because I want to know how things work and why. I want to know what makes people tick, I want to know how to do everything in a different way.

So, when faced with doing something I don’t know how to do or something I know I need to permit myself to do badly, I don’t try to figure out how everyone else has done it, I engage my curiosity and wonder for how it’s done, and I turn it into something I explore and take apart, and that is what gets me by.

This view allows me to be really, really good at everything I do, no matter what that task at hand. (Or at least it allows me to be fearless in my approach to it.)

I have seven brothers and two sisters and my parents would always joke that when we were little and they would take the ten of us on some adventure (with ten kids any trip was an adventure) they would split us up and dad would watch me and mom would watch the other nine. My superpower found me at an early age.

Do you know your superpower? Everyone has at least one and if you can find a way to bring it to work in every aspect of the day, you’ll develop a powerful super charged business building weapon.

Is it insight, caring, math, vision, listening, hustle, flow, calmness, persistence?

You may have to dig deep to reacquaint yourself with it. You may have masked it because you think it’s not very business oriented. You may have to go back to when you thought anything was possible, back to when you played like a kid.

Finding and using your superpower is like tuning into a potent frequency – a fearless, never fail instinct that can inform every decision you make about your business. If you lose this signal, if fear creeps in, your passion for your business will drain – guard your superpower wisely.

Your superpower is your greatest defender, it shreds resistance and that inner and outer critic that tells you something is hard and that you’re no good at it anyway so why bother.

Your superpower allows you to outsmart the fact that some of this stuff is just plain hard and no fun and not natural.

Your superpower helps you tune out those invested in keeping you right where you are.

Your superpower zaps fear.

If you’ve been doing this for a while, maybe you think it’s no longer any fun, maybe you think you’ve lost your passion, or maybe you can’t control your overabundance of passion.

The only thing that’s real is your superpower – discover and tap into it and you’ll find an interminable source for making your art.

Update: One of my readers pointed out another blogger’s approach to the idea of Discovering Your Superpowers – you might enjoy his take as well.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • You listen and lean from others and take what they do right..into your steps of becoming really good.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Ahhh… it only get better from you John! Now I’m totally feel like I can leap all tall buildings today. I use the word “gift” a lot and I firmly believe everyone has a gift(s) to give to others, to business, to the world! Superpower is a more high-energized, focus word so I think I’m going to start using that instead! 😉 If I could only explain to you how much I really appreciate this post … it comes at the most appropriate time! I’m very grateful – thank you!!

    • We’ll call it my gift to you 🙂

      Actually, discovering that something I’ve written has a positive impact on just one person keeps me going another dozen blog posts or so – thanks Elena

  • mihla

    Your insightful article convinces me what I’ve secretly known all along — my nosiness is not a character flaw, but rather a superpower. Now my mission is to use it for good, not evil.

    • Love it – that’s right, when used improperly our greatest strengths can become our greatest weaknesses.

  • Wow. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. I’m in the midst of becoming “re-passionate” about my writing biz after 12 years. As I was reading, I realized my superpower — Vision or Possibility Thinking — helped me get back on track.

    And yes, your superpower zaps fear! But I propose it also zaps exhaustion and boredom and all the other icky stuff that gets in the way feeling alive.

    Thanks for the perspective, John. Truly inspirational…

    • Hey Michelle, I agree – feeling alive is the best payoff of all!

  • Be Excellent. Focus on Excellence. I suppose if one does not understand how to find or recognize their own superpower, perhaps the word “passion” might help. What are you passionate about? Typically it’s identifying that passion in order to find your superpower. I have found that it’s that one thing that I can do all day and forget about time, it’s effortless and consuming but in a great way.

    • Hey Cindi – I agree with passion, but you’ve also go to understand another layer – where does that passion come from, what feeds and drives it – it’s not always a certain thing that you like to do – it can also be a trait, like I’ve shared, that you can power up to bring passion to anything.

  • My superpower is my drive for questioning the status quo. To poke, create, and hopefully inspire people to ask themselves tough questions instead of just accepting what they’re told.

    Once I realized that this was the root of my motivation and enthusiasm, the rest was much easier. It gave me license to be myself, say what I mean and not worry about pleasing everybody. If I’m lucky enough to create anything of real importance in this life, it will be because of that.

    • Yeah, that’s really it isn’t Marcus – it gives us the license to be ourselves – that’s such a powerful thing.

  • Sheila

    I’m not sure what my superpower but today I am determined to find out, thanks for the interesting post 🙂

    • Sheila – here are couple questions that might help
      1) What you willing to give up in order to have what you want
      2) Who do you relate to more: Goofy, Dorie or Ariel? 😉

  • I like the idea of digging deep for our underlying power that may have been hidden away. Just because a boss somewhere told you that a certain quality abut yourself wasn’t helpful for your duties with their company doesn’t mean that it holds true for every job you have throughout your career. It may not have been helpful for that particular job, but we don’t always do the kind of work that reflects our strengths. Sometimes we just have a job.

    • Or teacher, or uncle or boyfriend or someone else that was afraid you might succeed.

  • fantastic explanation of my own philosophy of:

    the slower you go – the faster you get to where you want to be

    because if you are enjoying where you are

    you don’t have to go anywhere!

  • Great post. I love the concept of “Superpower”. Our work and skills go beyond simple strengths but in fact are a part of a larger image we should aim towards, like curiosity or entrepreneurial spirit.

    Thanks for the post,


    • I don’t know why, but I think that word sort of taps into everyone’s love for superheros and the realization that we all have superpowers is something we can’t let the world smother.

  • Wonderful post – you nailed so many points. Knowing your purpose and finding your real talents and relentlessly pursuing excelence is a journey that never ends. We sometimes spend too much time looking for answers that we lose our focus and stray – but then sometimes, if we are lucky someone writes an article that creates that focus again. Thanks for cleaning my glasses!

    • Cleaning glasses, great metaphor – some of the best reminders I get are the seemingly obvious ones!

  • Mreezy

    Whatever my ‘super-power’ may be, I really wish you’d helped me find it, it will never define me. Whatever I was born with I cannot choose and its my choices that define me. I still like this article though, playing to my strengths can get me over the worst hurdles and boost my confidence.

  • cubiclewarrior

    Excellent post. The holidays are coming up (Easter) and I definitely want to spend some time looking for that super-power. I’m quite obsessed with trying to improve everyday and my plan was to do the best I could with what I was doing. This sheds light onto that and I have to look deeper in order to find that x-factor/superpower 🙂

    Thanks for the post, appreciate it

  • Check out Strengths Finder 2.0. the book comes with a code to take an online survey that will tell you what your top five inherent talents are and offers strategies to turn those talents into strengths. Also offers suggestions on how to compensate for weaknesses too.

    • I took this and read the book, it was spot on with me – I found myself very much in all 5 of the strengths. Learning was one of the bigger ones – always looking to improve. The other one dealt with making things “just right.” Being a graphic design person I tweak things a lot in PowerPoint to make sure it is “just right” or any fliers that I create – have to find the perfect font, etc.

  • Great article but you should cite your source if you are going to rip off someone else’s work.

    Also note the comment section.

    The proper thing would have been to reference him. I’m sure you know by now that Lifehacker did adjust the article and included a link to him.

    • C’mon seriously? I’ve been using this term for over 10 years, but I would never claim to have been to first person to use superpower – we could probably go back hundreds of years to try to credit someone with the original concept – happy that you’re looking out for your bro, but well, you’ve missed the mark.

    • You know, thanks for pointing that Karl’s post in which he included me as a superhero – come to think about it I actually did tweet that post – that was nice of him.

      I certainly have long history of sharing and linking out to many other bloggers – I’ve been doing this since 2003 – so the accusation that I had somehow ripped someone off is particularly troubling.

      I went back and read the post you cite about superpowers and while we do use the same term and I may have read his post back 7-8 months ago, we aren’t really even talking about the same thing so the use in purely a commonplace one.

      Lifehacker actually linked to the post about superheros and not superpowers, making the entire conversation even sillier in my view.

      Karl seems like a nice guy and his viewpoint would interest me – so I’ll reach out to him, but thanks for your interest.

  • John

    You’d love (one of my favourite books), All My Friends are Superheroes. Short and sweet.

    • Thanks Michael, I’m a sucker for book recommendations – I’ll check it out.

  • John,
    Great post. I agree. We all have this “super power” within. It’s just a matter of boiling down, finding it and then tapping into it. Once we tap into it we can surmount many, many challenges. Thanks for this reminder.

    • I think the tough part after you find it though is getting in the habit of accessing it at will – until you start to routinely witness your use of it you might find it a bit flabby and out of shape

  • Keith O.

    Good read! The NYT just posted an article about the Wisdom of CEO’s and guess what trait they all had in common? “Passionate Curiousity”! You hit it on the head.

    • Nice – so I’m a wise CEO, I’ll go with that for a while and see how it feels 🙂

  • Great Article. I have recently started exploring more into what my gifting/superpower might be and I heard a great message by @RobertMadu and he gave some awesome insight into uncovering your gifting.

    1. Find something that gives you passion. Either good or not so good. Sometimes frustration is an indication of your gifting and if you pursue it you could reveal the solution to that frustration.

    2. What would you do for free? It’s important you do what you like, if you would do it for free it would be even more satisfying to be paid for doing it.

    3. What do other people see in you? What do your superiors/mentors say are your best qualities? Build upon those.

    4. What comes easy to you but difficult to others? Clear identifier of your superpower.

    These are just a few of the things he touched upon but I will be doing a full on blog post to elaborate on this more!

    Awesome article, this is one of my favorite blogs in my Google Reader.

    Take Care