“Greatness occurs at the intersection of ‘Talent’ and ‘Technique.’”
James Lipton said this in a moving tribute to the late actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Good actors hone their craft. They learn where to stand, how to look, how to project. They go to schools such as Dean Lipton’s Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University to learn technique. Good actors have something in them. They have behavioral traits and qualities that predispose them to be actors. They focus those qualities on a career in acting. Great actors, the ones who move you, the ones who create timeless characters, combine their knowledge of technique and natural-given talent to be the best in their field.
Starting in the Fall semester the College of Business will launch the “Career Professionalism” classes. In GEB 3003 students will take two self-assessments to discover their thinking and behavioral preferences. One of them is a Myers-Briggs type indicator. The other is a career planning tool that will point students to suggested careers for them to research.
After taking the assessments, students will meet with their Career Coach to discuss the results. What did you learn about yourself? Do you feel you are in the right academic program? What does this say about what you want to do after graduation? How do these results relate to your academic performance thus far, and how you’ll do over the next two years? More important is the answer to one simple question, what do you want to do after graduation?
When you’re a little kid, grown-ups will ask you what you want to BE when you grow up. They do this for a variety of reasons, but mostly just to amuse themselves at the expense of your naivety. Oh isn’t that cute, little Bruce wants to be a dark vigilante. Hopefully he’ll invest his interest in Wayne Enterprises wisely so he doesn’t have to get an Accounting job somewhere. Whether you answered fireman, astronaut, or President of the United States, grown-ups gave you little chance of achieving that dream. That’s because the more critical question, and the harder one to answer, is what do you want to DO.
Focusing on DO rather than BE is important. It suggests that the answer should be comprised of verbs, not a noun. Nouns are easy. Just pick one. Verbs are harder. You have to do research to identify the verbs associated with the noun. And the same verbs can apply to different nouns. “I want to interact with people and help them develop solutions to the challenges they face,” can be what you say about a school counselor, a congressman, a human resources manager, or a sales person.
Going back to James Lipton’s quote, the best counselors, representatives, and HR and sales people, recognized early that they had certain traits that made them work well with people. They were good listeners. They had empathy. They could solve problems. From there they gained the specific knowledge needed to help them succeed. Counselors study psychology, congressmen study law and government, HR Managers understand benefit plans and EEO policies, and sales people learn to network and prospect.
So, can anyone achieve greatness? I guess by this account it depends. Can you identify your true talents? Do you have the discipline to learn (and stick to) technique? Do you have the self-awareness needed to know when you fall short in one (or both)? Can you really answer the question, what do you want to do?