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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Remember, You're Unique, Just Like Everyone Else

  Dr. Paul. D. Houston
  Dr. Paul D. Houston
Founding Partner

I once attended a luncheon where the guest of honor was the iconic baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. He attended the luncheon with one of his sons. A colleague of mine was seated next to the son; during lunch he said to Yogi’s son, “You know, you and your father have a lot of similarities.” The son replied, “Yes, but our similarities are different,” thus proving that the genetics of creating “Yogisms” (“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”) were carried forward to the next generation. It’s also a great reminder that we are unique, but so is everyone else! One special thing about being human is that we share the ability to be unique and to manifest our unique gifts and talents.

I love to watch the singing competitions on television; they remind me that a few people should not confuse their desire to be something—a singer, for instance—with their ability to actually be one. Some would-be singers need to find what their real talent is—and it isn’t singing. However, I’m also reminded of how much incredible talent is out there in the world, as singer after singer comes onstage and sings like a superstar.

In fact, it’s not the presence of talent that sets people apart, because we all have talents that are unique to us, but rather the willingness to recognize our talent and use it with the perseverance and deep belief that allows it to blossom and that makes us stand out. I’m one of those people who should avoid singing at all costs. I am a talented appreciator. Despite my lack of musical talent, my daughters are all wonderful singers and musicians. They got that talent from their mother’s gene pool. But they were also able to attend school in a wonderful public school system that emphasized and developed their musical ability. So there’s the lesson for us: Talent must be nurtured in order to bloom.

I do have one really special gift. I possess an ability to find my way in strange territory. I rarely get lost; I just sort of “feel” the right direction I should be headed and go that way. I’m known to my friends as the “Psychic Navigator.” I got that moniker from a mutual friend whom Steve and I share: the wonderful poet Dawna Markova. Once when we were at her house Steve mentioned my uncanny ability to find my way around territory I had never seen or visited before. Dawna said very matter-of-factly, “Oh, you’re a psychic navigator.” She then explained her deep belief that we all come into this world with certain gifts that are given to us to use. She told me that one of the reasons I had been a successful educational leader was my talent for navigation. She also explained that psychic navigators not only have the ability to find their way through space, they can also n avigate through time. They “see” what is ahead in ways that others do not, and they feel the past with an immediacy that others cannot, and that gift allows them to understand context and set direction.

Donna’s explanation helped me understand why, at times, I felt a certainty about what was not yet manifested so that I “knew” what would happen in the organization long before others did. It is quite possible, of course, that my sense of certainty helped to create the outcome I desired. And here is another lesson about gifts and talents. Are they the chicken or the egg? Does the talent precede the act, or does the act certify the talent? The answer is yes. As with most “either or” questions, both cases are true.

In our work, Steve and I have promoted the sense that every one of us possesses unique gifts and talents, and that we must feel certain in them and then use them for a higher good. It is only in doing good that we can serve our fellow humans. Clearly, history is replete with examples of people who have a talent but misuse it, sometimes disastrously. Adolf Hitler was a masterful speaker, but he used that gift in the wrong way. Imagine how history would be different had he chosen to use his gifts to serve humankind rather than as a tool to control and rule. Therefore, it is not enough simply to have a talent. That talent must be used for a higher purpose.

So we return to the title of this little piece. Remember, you are unique, just like everyone else. While we are different, we are all made of the same stuff. Scientists tell us that everything in the world came initially from the molecules of the stars. We are all star stuff. Stars give off light, and that is our role too. We are all an integral part of the larger fabric of humankind. We have all been gifted with abilities and skills that make us the unique person we are, but we must always strive to use those skills to help others, who also came to us with their own unique qualities — their own star stuff. We have a lot of similarities, but our similarities are different. But our differences are also similar — we are all part of the whole.

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