We all meet a lot of people over our lifetimes; therefore, the older we get, the more people we have met. The question I have come to consider is, “How have the many people I have met throughout my life impacted who I am today?” I have wondered why some people have had significantly more influence in shaping who I am than others. You may be surprised it isn’t fame or fortune. I have identified three attributes common to those who touched me more than others.
The first is that they lived their lives openly and authentically in relationship with me. They shared their struggles as well as their triumphs with equal engagement. They didn’t hide their foibles, nor did they elevate their strengths. They simply lived their lives before me in a way that allowed me to see who they “really were,” unlike so much of what we see around us today.
The second is that they used their minds in a way that allowed them to access information that others didn’t even know existed. They continued to learn. They developed an ability to perceive what wasn’t readily obvious to others through paying attention to the lives around them. This skill allowed them to read others and situations. For most of them, their learned intuition was developed to give them insight into situations that others neglected. Over their lifetime, they learned to trust their gut and confirm what they were sensing through questions.
These two abilities, 1) to live openly and 2) to assimilate what they were learning and perceiving with accuracy, come together in a unique way. They forge a powerful force of influence.
Each of the first two characteristics were definitely developed through intentional effort despite whatever natural gifts existed in their lives. However, only when these two were combined with the following third one did their impact become great.
The third is that they have figured out their unique strengths. We spend the first half of our lives figuring out what we are good at; then, we get the second half to hone that superpower. The good news about taking time around 35-45 years of age to consider this, is that the work one does in the subsequent decades will make all the difference in how one “finishes the race.” Paul says in the last chapter of the last letter he wrote close to the end of his life (2 Timothy 4) that he “finished the race well.” Most of us want to be able to say that at the end of our lives, but we don’t do the work in the middle of our lives to lay the foundation for this kind of ending.
The challenge in the middle of our lives is to give up what we struggle to do so we can really do what we are gifted, called, and wired to do. I have known a lot of great leaders in the Kingdom, and they all made a conscious effort to develop their superpowers. The greatest enemy of our best is good enough. We can do a lot of things, but there are some unique gifts that each of us possesses exceptionally well. This is the advantage of taking a “half time” to do an evaluation. Most football games are won in the second half. I have watched way too many gifted individuals lose their impact or influence in the second half of their lives. They didn’t evaluate their first half during halftime. That is why halftime is so critical in a football game; it allows for adjustments to be made so at the end we can say we finished well.
It is important to ask what brings you significance, joy, energy, and deep satisfaction…rather than what do you do simply because you “have” to do it.
All three of these attributes seem critical. The first two open our lives to influence others, authenticity, and being a lifelong learner of people; we all can possess these. However, when we add to these to our unique wiring, we truly possess a superpower.
I believe that is why as one matures through their second half of life; they begin to be free from proving themselves to being themselves.