What Am I Good At: A Process for Figuring It Out

W

One of the top struggles that people face when trying to figure out what to do with their lives is discovering what you’re good at. In many cases, people will think that there’s not much that they’re good at or that they’re just not that special.

But the fact is, pretty much all of us are good at something. And have skills that we don’t realize that we have. In many cases, we just need a process for identifying the skills and things we’re good at that we often take for granted.

So that’s the goal of this article is to walk you through a few methods that you can use to figure out what you’re good at. Let’s get started.

Skill Stories

This method of identifying what you’re good at is inspired by the book What Color is Your Parachute and is my personal favorite method for identifying what you’re good at.

Basically, it goes like this. Think of five things that you’ve accomplished over the last five years that you’re proud of. It could be anything, from a work accomplishment like completing a project, to learning to cook, to planting a garden.

Once you have a list of those five things (it’s ok if you can’t think of that many, just get as many as you can), spend 5 – 10 minute per accomplishment writing the story of what you accomplished.

Each story should include the following elements:

  • The challenge that you faced
  • The goal that you wanted to achieve
  • The exact steps that you took to achieve that goal
  • The outcome that you achieved

Once you have those written out, read your stories and identify the specific skills that were demonstrated in each.

Here is list of skill examples that you can use to identify the skills demonstrated from your stories.

Skill Story Example

Here is a personal example of a skill story that I wrote when doing this exercise for myself:

Story:

Learning to cook

Details:

In college and outside of school, I was an embarrassingly horrendous cook. I couldn’t do anything other than microwave

And it wasn’t a big deal for me…but quality food is a big value for my wife. She cares a lot about a good home cooked meal and about feeding our kids healthy food.

And I didn’t feel like it was fair for her to have to do all of that on her own…especially because she works a job that is seasonal and stressful at times of the year.

So I took it upon myself to cook more. I would do meals about once per week…it started easy with crock pot meals and then with soups, and then basic meals that you prepare at the time.

I would follow recipes exactly, watch YouTube videos for how to do certain things, and ask my wife a lot of questions. Early meals to forever and I was making a lot of mistakes.

But, eventually, it got to the point where there were some weeks I was cooking more than my wife…where she could trust me to cook a meal if she was busy or stressed…and I could take that off of her plate when she was having a bad day.

I am by no means a good cook, but I am now competent enough to serve my wife and my family, which I’m proud of.

Skills Demonstrated by the Story:

As the story shows, I can:

  • Take initiative
  • Study, observe
  • Analyze, break down into parts
  • Follow through and get things done

Reach Out to Others

The concept here comes from the book Unique Ability and I first learned about it from Louis Grenier at Everybody Hates Marketers. Basically, all you do is reach out to friends, colleagues, or ex-colleagues, those that know you decently well, and ask them: “What do you think is my unique ability? The #1 thing you think I’m the best at.”

From that basic question, you’ll get some really interesting third party perspective to help you identify the skills and abilities that others really see and value in you.

Think About What You Excelled At When You Were Younger

All of us have certain natural gifts. And those natural gifts often emerge when you’re young.

And what’s helpful when it using your youth to help identify what you’re good at is that when you were young, you were consistently measured on your performance in a pretty standardized way.

We were graded at school. We made the team or got cut. We got the part in the play or we did not.

So you should have a lot of data here as to what you tended to be good when you were growing up.

All you need to do is just list out the things at which you quantifiably excelled when you were younger. And then, similar to the skill stories, extract the skills that you’re good at from those.

Example List of Things You Excelled At When You Were Younger

  • Frequently got A’s in english classes
    • Skills this demonstrates:
      • Writing 
      • Reading
      • Communication
  • Consistently made extra money by mowing lawns in my neighborhood
    • Skills this demonstrates:
      • Business acumen
      • Working with hands
      • Lawn care
      • Marketing
      • Sales
  • Was named captain of the lacrosse team
    • Skills this demonstrates:
      • Leadership
      • Teamwork
      • Athleticism

Strengths Finder Quiz

If you’re looking for a third party tool for helping identify some of your strengths, the Strengths Finder test created by the folks at Gallup could be helpful. Strengths Finder is an assessment that rank orders your strengths according to 34 major themes. The themes are fairly high-level, but can help you to figure out some of your softer skills, like strategy, collaboration, flexibility, and others.

For example, I’ve taken the quiz a couple of times in my life and “learner” was consistently in my top two or three skills. I love to read, to learn, and to grow, and I’m constantly reading self improvement books, listening to podcasts, etc. in my free time for fun. With that being the case, starting a blog to help teach people what I’m learning seemed like a natural extension of my strengths and doesn’t feel like work to me.

The most affordable way to take the Strengths Finder Quiz is to buy the book, get a code, and then enter it on the website. Note that the book feels a bit fluffy, and is longer than it needs to be, but getting the code that way is going to be cheaper than going straight to the StrengthsFinder website.

Think About Where You’re Comfortable Leading

The last method that I’ll offer for discovering what you’re good at is to think about situations where you’re comfortable putting yourself out there and leading.

So, for example, think about situations where you’re with friends or family and you frequently step up to take a responsibility.

It could be that if you’re on a trip with a group of friends, you frequently step up to cook a major meal. Or maybe you’re the one that frequently plans the logistics.

Thinking through those types of examples can bubble up skills that you may not realize you had because they feel natural to you (when they may not to others).

An example for me is that if I’m with a group of friends, and somebody new is with us, I’m frequently the first person to go up and engage that new person to introduce myself and make them feel comfortable.

I’m an extrovert and I like meeting new people, chatting with them, and making them feel welcome. Strengths finder would call that skill “woo.”

And it feels pretty natural and easy to me. But I know it’s not for others. 

So it’s a skill that I have, but one that I would have taken for granted without thinking about it in this exercise. 

Make a List

I saved this one for last because it’s so simple and obvious but, honestly, many people don’t do it and it’s pretty effective.

Just make a list of things that you’re better at than the average person. If you have a job now, think about aspects of your job at which you regularly excel. If you’re in school, think about those subjects at which you’ve generally naturally been stronger in.

And don’t limit this to just skills that feel monetizable. If you’re a good racquetball player, list that, as it may be a skill that you can leverage for your job more than you think later on.

A list could look something like this:

  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Softball
  • Project management
  • Making small talk
  • Gardening
  • Personal finance
  • Fantasy football
  • Photography
  • Chess

Conclusion

Each of us have things that we’re good it. However, we often don’t realize it, we take it for granted, or are too hard on ourselves (we are comparing ourselves to the whole world with social media these).

But going through the exercises above can help bubble up what you’re good at, which you can then leverage in your best fit work. 

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and a marketer and business professional with over 10 years of experience. Dan writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

Recent Posts