The term “superpower” often gets used tongue-in-cheek. I sometimes refer to my ability to burp-on-demand (despite frequent requests that I not use it) as a superpower. But real superpowers exist.
I met with my mentee, a big-hearted young man of 14, two nights ago. He talked excitedly about one of his favorite subjects: comic book superheroes. He reviewed their gifts, their challenges—superpowers always have a downside—and the need to train themselves to use those gifts effectively.
It suddenly occurred me that that was exactly what his upcoming CliftonStrengths test was all about—discovering and developing his superpowers.
In case your not familiar with it, some decades ago, psychologist Don Clifton launched the strengths-assessment movement. His idea was simple: “What if we studied what’s right with people, instead of what’s wrong with them?” The result was a test that millions (including me) have taken in order to find out what their key, underlying strengths are. Not only to help them discover what careers they’re wired for, but where they’ll be most satisfied—and where they’re uniquely gifted to serve others.
But back to my mentee. In the middle of our talk, I suddenly blurted out, “So, what are your superpowers?”
“Huh? I don’t have superpowers.”
“Yes, you do! And your strengths test will help you discover them!”
“But those aren’t, like, flying or being invisible or melting steel with your eyes!” he replied.
Nevertheless, he was pretty enthused about completing the test and talking about it next time.
On the way home, I thought, “It’s true, real superpowers aren’t like comic book superpowers—they’re better!”
For example, if your strengths include Futuristic (one of mine), you can envision how things could be in a way few others can. That, according to Clifton, coupled with my Communication strength, means I’m wired to convey concepts and tell stories that inspire others to enact that vision. And, brother, I’ll take that superpower over invisibility–or even flying–any day! (In fact, it is a kind of flying.) If your strengths combine Includer and Empathy (two of my wife’s superpowers), you have the unique ability notice people who are on the perimeter, to feel what they’re feeling, and to draw them in. That’s a million times better than melting steel with your eyes!
We all have superpowers. But, like comic book superheroes, we have to work through their downsides (they’re often the silver lining of what, until now, we’ve only viewed as problems). Like comic book superheroes, we have to recognize and train our superpowers. But when we do, we turn into…
The superheroes we were created to be!