Playing Favorites By Marshall Goldsmith There’s a reason I devote...
Things didn’t get better during Ridley’s first two years of college, until he realized he was meant to be an architect. He transferred from Stanford to the University of Virginia for its strong architecture faculty and beautiful neoclassical campus. After college, he set up his own shop back home in Nashville, where he quickly established himself as the city’s top residential design-and-build firm.
In his mid-thirties, he participated in a research project matching psychological profiles and careers. After two days of testing, the researchers concluded that Ridley had a very powerful sense of “pitch discrimination.” It was similar to a musician with perfect pitch for musical notes or a wine sommelier with a perfect nose. In Ridley’s case, he applied his pitch discrimination to design, constantly perceiving tiny distinctions in the quality and beauty of a home. The researchers, unaware of Ridley’s profession, told him he was best suited for work that required precision, attention to detail, and highly refined aesthetic discernment. They suggested he become either a fine art photographer or a high-end home renovation specialist.
“Most of us are satisfied with delivering work that’s ninety percent perfect,” Betsy told me. “My husband aims for ninety-nine percent. Somehow he chose the one field where he could release that ninety-nine percent compulsion and be happy rather than miserable.”
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard that a potential talent source evolved into an individual’s OTG. Years earlier, I had met a man at a dinner party who could tell me what was being prepared for dinner in the kitchen two rooms away. He claimed to have such a keen sense of smell that he could detect mental illness (evidently caused by a metabolic flaw, particularly in schizophrenics). When a mentally ill person boarded a bus in his hometown of Amsterdam, he’d immediately get off the bus to escape the noxious odor.
“That would be a very valuable talent for a mental health professional,” I said. “Is that what you do back in Amsterdam?”
“No, that would be hell for me, “he said. “I’m a parfumier. I custom-blend perfumes for wealthy people who want their own signature scent.”
“There’s a living in that?” I asked.
“People will always want to smell good. I make them happy.”
A special talent can elevate or torment you.
You can let it be your ally or your nemesis.
It’s your choice.