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How Many of Us Find Our True Talent?

Throughout my life, a recurring question has occurred to me: “Am I doing the thing that I’d be best at?” By that, I mean are there talents that lay dormant inside us because we never got to exercise them?

Yeah, I’m waxing a little philosophical.

I look at Tiger Woods. Imagine if his father Earl Woods hadn’t gotten him hooked on golf at a young age. And seen the child prodigy with a sweet swing at the age of 3. Suppose his path had been different. Maybe he goes to law school. Would he be some world class lawyer? Maybe. But I expect he’d be more like a great lawyer in a sea of great lawyers. As opposed to the standout golfer he is.

I look at Sergey Brin. Founded and has grown Google. Wow. Suppose he had decided to practice medicine instead?

Donald Trump…instead of real estate, maybe he’d be a golf pro at the local club.

Al Gore could have been a hell of an accountant…

My own theory is that each of have talents that are uniquely strong in us. For some, these talents would put them on the world stage. For most of us, they’d probably vault us to the top of a particular field. And yet I suspect that most of us never hit on those unique talents.

Why?

  • Too quick to focus on something at a young age, never trying out other areas
  • No opportunities to surface and develop the hidden talent
  • Practical realities – kids, mortgage, caring for someone who is ill – prevent a move into a different field

Some hypothetical examples: You’re a solid IT manager in your company. But it turns out you have a hidden talent for making exquisite furniture. You’re a consultant to Fortune 500 companies. But you have an unknown talent for designing scalable architectures. You’re the financial controller for your company. But you would have been an amazing, Gretzky-like hockey player.

As I go through my own career, I do wonder about this idea. But even more important to me is thinking about my two kids (4 years old, 19 months old). First priority is their happiness. But if I could help them in figure out the things they are really good at, might they be even happier?

What do you think? Most of us find our “highest and best use”? Or are there opportunities most of us are never aware of?

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Investment as Signal: Bezos Funding Twitter Is a Green Light

Twitter announced today that it picked up more funding, which I first heard through Marshall Kirkpatrick’s tweet. He has a nice post up on ReadWriteWeb.

Investments provide three benefits:

  1. Cash
  2. Signal the broader market about the company’s prospects
  3. The investor provides advice, ideas and introductions

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is one of the investors. His investment hits all three benefits listed above.

Let’s look at what Bezos has done while at Amazon.com:

  • Established the preeminent brand for online retail
  • Built a platform for small merchants to sell on
  • Integrated user ratings as a key element of the sales process
  • Pioneered affiliate marketing
  • Developed Amazon’s highly successful recommendation engine (35% of sales)
  • Created a vibrant cloud services offering
  • Gambled on Kindle, which is showing some promise despite skepticism

Clearly, the guy has a good eye for things that can be successful.

Now he’s put his own money into Twitter.

What are the two biggest things Twitter needs?

  1. Reliable, scalable architecture
  2. Monetization strategy

Amazon.com processes how many transactions per hour? I imagine the number is huge. Amazon Web Services are all about scalability, with the need to process millions of transactions reliably. If you can’t scalability master Google or its executives to invest in you, I’d say having the founder of Amazon.com qualifies as the next best choice.

Monetization is the other question for Twitter. Amazon has had success in its affiliate marketing (relevance drives the clicks, distributed advertising program), its recommendations (35% of sales, driven by relevance) and in its fee-based Amazon Web Services. Ads, incremental revenue, web services fees. You think in that mix there is a solid revenue model for Twitter? I’d bet on it.

I really like this investment by Bezos in Twitter. Good for Twitter, and I hope it portends success for them in the months ahead.

*****

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