What Distinguishes You?

Posted by Todd Smith

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When Wally Amos was 12 years old, his parents divorced so he went to live with his aunt. He showed interest in cooking and began adding new and unique ingredients to his aunt’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. So good were the cookies that a friend suggested to Amos that he set up a store. In 1975, the first “Famous Amos” cookie store opened in Los Angeles, California.  Eventually, “Famous Amos” chocolate chip cookies could be found on supermarket shelves across America.

Wally Amos found what he was good at and developed that unique gift to bring him fame and fortune.  In today’s lesson I want to help you identify your most distinguishing trait—your unique gift that if used to its fullest potential can bring greater fulfillment and happiness into your life. This gift is what makes you stand out from the crowd and what sets you apart from everybody else.

My Story

A couple years ago, I found myself in a rut. I had strived for excellence in my career. I conquered my craft and enjoyed a very rewarding and fulfilling career. After two decades of success, I was grateful; however, I was no longer challenged.

When I went through the same process that I will share with you, I discovered that my greatest gift—my most distinguishing trait—was the ability to teach others. Though I cannot fully explain how this ability came about, I discovered that I have a unique talent for taking complex information, breaking it down into a detailed, step-by-step sequence, and teaching it in a manner that people can understand and relate to.

How to Identify What Distinguishes You

You’ll read about the rest of my story later, but for now, let’s focus on finding your key. What is the one thing about you that is unique? There are two sources where you can find answers:

1. What You Believe

When you consider your unique gifts, try to identify the things that, for whatever reason, you do better than anyone else. What things seem to come natural to you? What do you believe you do well?  What accomplishments have you been proud of?  What brings you the greatest satisfaction?  What are the activities or accomplishments that come to your mind right now?

2. What Others Say

Imagine that your family, friends, and co-workers got together and someone stood at the front of the room and wrote on a large flip chart the words people said describe your greatest talent, skill, ability, or contribution you make each day. What words would they write down?

You can do the friends and family exercise on your own by considering things people have said about you in the past, or by identifying the things you’ve been recognized for. Or, you can actually ask them to tell you!

Take some quiet time to make a list of your most unique gifts.  After you make this list, narrow it down to your top 10, then your top 5, then to your single most distinguishing quality. Once you have identified it, it’s time to start thinking about how you can use it to bring more enjoyment into your life. This is assuming you are not already using it to its full potential.

The Rest of My Story

So I discovered that there was something unique in my approach to teaching that comes very natural to me. Even though I wasn’t sure what if anything I should do with it, at least I became aware of what it was.

Since this discovery a couple years ago, a number of things happened. I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and what kind of legacy I wanted to leave.

Having the benefit of working in an environment that was like an entrepreneurial incubator for the past 20 years, I began to see that part of my gift was the ability to identify the little things that played a role in people’s personal and professional success.

My Ah-Ha Moment

It was at this time, I began to see how my gift for teaching might be used to share something with others that I was genuinely interested in, believed in 100%, and that would allow me to leave a legacy of meaningful contribution.

Once I had this realization, the idea of writing a book came to mind. I quickly discovered, however, that if I was going to write a successful book, people had to know who I was. I started my Facebook page and my Little Things Matter blog to begin interacting with people who might be interested in what I had to teach.

Five months into this new endeavor, my blog in June attracted nearly 50,000 visitors. I am listed on Feedburner’s Top 100 Podcasts, and recently I welcomed my 17,667th Facebook connection.

This was all the result of identifying my most distinguishing trait (teaching), combining it with something I am passionate about (the little things that lead to success), and using it to leave a legacy of giving back and helping people understand what they can do to achieve greater personal and professional success.

Are You Ready to Take the Next Step?

Once you have identified your most distinguishing trait, consider your options for how you might use it to its full potential. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t answer the question of how to use your gift right away. It took me more than a year before I was completely clear on which direction I needed to go, but it wasn’t a year wasted. I learned something every step of the way.

While this exercise may take some time, identifying and using your greatest strength may be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you’ll ever do.

You have a unique gift that can bring great joy and happiness into your life. When you identify your most distinguishing trait, you hold the key to unlocking a future of limitless possibility.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.


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