Conscious Aging: “My Talent”

I’m working on two pro-bono non-profit consulting gigs, and in one case the person who brought me into the engagement emailed this after a meeting: “Your considerable talent is seen and appreciated.” She’d been trying to get a funding/ administrative support agreement from a senior administrator within a complex system. He’d long been equivocating, and by the end of our meeting she’d gotten what she needed.

My talent is of the intangible sort. I don’t garden, or bake, or turn out wonderful gourmet meals, or sew or quilt or plan events that have a lot of details and logistics. I can’t really fix things that are broken, and can barely wield a hammer to put up a framed picture on my wall. I don’t paint, or put together furniture from IKEA. I have very few concrete skills that result in a recognizable product.

What I can do is this: I’m a very good listener, and can take in a lot of diverse information. Then, I quickly see the crux of the matter, and can articulate it in a way that seems non-threatening — even when there’s a lot of heat and emotion in a meeting. Usually there are limited choices that will effectively address a problem. I can sometimes help people expand the range of choices, but in the end, one has to be selected and, without regret or recrimination, acted upon. I am the Queen of low drama and practicality. Say the say, isolate the core problem, list the possible solutions, pick one, go forward as best you can. Tweak over time as needed. Be kind to yourself and others as things unfold.

Hard to put that talent into a resume.

I remember years ago working with a non-profit in Rochester, doing an extended board retreat. One of the board officers, head of a construction company used to seeing detailed schematics before putting shovel to dirt, asked me to tell him ahead of the event exactly how things would unfold and what would happen hour by hour. I said I couldn’t give more than a general design of the two days, but I understood their starting point, and understood where they wanted to wind up. I promised to get them there. He was skeptical. I asked him to trust me. He did. I did get them where they needed to be. He came to me at the end of the two days, a little nonplussed, and said, “How, exactly, did you do that?”

Re-read paragraph #3, above. That’s how.

It’s  a talent not so easy to see in the moment, or in process, so I was touched and gratified that someone did. I’m also glad to have it affirmed that I haven’t lost my touch. 🙂

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