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Creating Successful Leaders

Should you go back to school? Stay with your current job, or make a radical change? Take on part time work while you’re on the job hunt for a full time job? And which type of career should you pursue? Let’s face it, all these choices only complicate the job hunt process. In his book, “One Big Thing,” Phil Cooke asserts that simplifying the search to one important strength provides the best chance at success and happiness.

“I love asking this question: What could you be the best in the world at doing?…I’m really trying to see what you feel is your greatest strength. Where you could compete. Where you stand out. What’s your niche. What areas of your life are you most proud of?”1

Cooke’s overall message is simple. We all have one distinguishing strength that sets us above the rest, and the key to a fulfilling job is finding and utilizing this strength. Cooke leaves his definition of a strength open to interpretation, but he wants us to think specifically.

For instance, perhaps you have strong communication skills. While this puts you at a great advantage in almost every job, it won’t help you narrow your focus because it applies to so many jobs. Instead, think of specific areas in your life you feel your ability to communicate makes you stand out, flourish, and gives you joy. What age group do you best relate to? Are you better standing before large groups, or do your strengths lie in one-on-one conversations? Hone in on the particulars, drawing on your own experiences.

To help us on our quest to find our strength, leadership coach Ginny Clarke suggests we “ask ourselves what we loved doing when we were 10 years old.” Sadly, many people lose touch with their true passions during the long, hard process of growing up. Thinking back to what excited your 10 year old selves is an effective and powerful method of finding our one big thing, because “this is the age when you are free to imagine,” says Clarke. “If you allow yourself to explore this, then your search stays closer to what speaks to you.”2

Cooke reminds us that most people don’t find their one big strength all at once; it is indeed a process. “Rather than an explosive ‘aha!’ moment, we find bits and pieces along the trail—take a few wrong turns in the process—and eventually start piecing together the puzzle of our lives.”

It’s never too late to discover that one thing that really makes you tick, excites you, and causes you to stand out above the rest. Keep pushing forward, simplify your options, draw from your memory and always follow where your strength leads.

1 Cooke, Phil. One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born To Do (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), xiv, 12-13, 15.

2Jen Weigel, “Stop being average and start being extraordinary,” Star Tribune, October 29th, 2012, accessed October 29th, 2012.



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