How to Find Your Hidden Talents

finding your talentsPhoto by vramak

In the past hidden talents have commonly been defined as things you are great at but nobody knows about, or things that you would be immediately great at if you tried them, skipping beginner and progressing to intermediate in an instant.

The first definition is useful mainly in movies, the latter is not really useful at all (arguably more myth than reality).

Your hidden talents are the things you could do that would make you happy. But you don’t know it yet.

This is not just about work, but speaks to the whole content of your life. I’ve already written about the psychological evidence that shows that when people do work or activities that make them feel good and involve skills, either mental or physical, live happier lives.

This is just common sense, and it’s probably nothing you haven’t already heard before. But I don’t think many people actually take the next step and give themselves the opportunity to discover all of their hidden talents.

If you take a pen and paper and write down a list of all the things you’ve always thought you might enjoy or be good at, you’ll be surprised at the number of them that can be tested or teed up within 7 days.

With the help of the internet, it’s easy to find local classes, get how-to book recommendations, follow along with tutorials – and find other people who can answer your newbie questions!

There is no real excuse to miss out on finding your hidden talents.

If the barrier to entry on any of your possible hidden talents is too high – for example, you want to try performing mechanical repairs on light aircraft – there is always a way to make it accessible.

Try working on your car instead. If you enjoy that, you can take the next step towards your real goal.

You might also worry that your real hidden talent is not on your list. It’s so hidden that you’ve never even thought about it as something you might like to do.

If you usually hate exercise, you might never expect that you’d love hiking, for example. But your hidden talents are never that random.

You might hate exercise but love nature, so it makes sense that you’d enjoy relatively easy hikes. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a passionate hiker who hates exercise and is bored by natural beauty!

Your hidden talents will always fit your personality or interests in some way. Instead of being hidden and random – things to be discovered by accident – the things you love doing actually make a lot of sense.

You can find a good beginner’s lesson on anything for free, online. This is an incredible privilege of living in our current era. It provides us with endless opportunities.

50 or 100 years ago, a farmhand in a small rural town who loved sculpture may never have been able to learn more about it.

His small local library didn’t have the books, he didn’t know anyone who could teach him, he didn’t know where to travel to buy materials or join classes.

So he never had the opportunity to find the hidden talent that would make him happy. For us, the barriers to entry are so low that there’s no excuse not to give yourself that opportunity.

Get online, Google the phrases ‘sculpture classes’, ‘sculpture resources’ or ‘sculpture lessons’ and in 5 seconds you have more opportunity than that farmhand ever did to pursue something that could be your life’s calling.

The free and instant access to answers, advice and learning materials on any topic is, to my mind, the internet’s greatest gift to humanity.

By methodically searching out all your hidden talents, you can:

  • Find what puts you into flow and, if you want, build a business on it
  • Be happier
  • Build a personal brand around the activities you’re passionate about

As myself and other online business pundits have argued, positioning yourself as an authority is the best way to create a valuable personal brand.

You become an authority by giving good advice on things that you love and know a lot about. Widening the pool of things you’re passionate about means you will have more options and opportunities in online business. Better yet, it will make you happier.

To finish off, a little homework:

Write down anything you think could be your hidden talent on a sheet of paper: things you might like but haven’t tried, things you liked in the past before life interrupted (maybe you stopped going to art classes when you moved states, or stopped playing sport when you had a baby.)

If it’s in the AM when you read this, pursue one of your potential hidden talents this evening. If it’s in the PM, pursue on of your potential hidden talents tonight or tomorrow.

If it’s something you can do without help, read up on some beginner lessons. If you need help, look for a local class, group or team you can join.

My own story is that I discovered one of my hidden talents a couple of months ago. Believe it or not, it’s playing soccer!

I’ve enjoyed watching it for many years but never gave myself the opportunity to try playing it until recently. I’m so glad I did.

It’s become a passion of mine and I can’t imagine giving it up. My only regret is that I didn’t give myself the opportunity to try it earlier.

Not only has it made me happier, it’s also opened up a whole new sphere of blogs, websites or online businesses I could create in the future based on this new thing I love.

Now I have books on drawing, 3D modeling, fiction writing and game development in the mail – and I’m reading a great book on CSS… just in-case I have any other hidden talents up my sleeve :)


The Real Reason Why You Never Did It

sunset over the oceanPhoto by Irargerich

The best thing about the internet is the wealth of free, in-depth information on almost any topic.

If there’s something we want to do, but don’t know how, the internet is often the first place we turn – and so it should be.

The rising class of self-taught experts is impressive to behold, and the number of self-styled teachers is staggering.

If you read blogs in this niche often, you probably know a lot about how to do things just like the experts: how to make money blogging, how to attract a storm of traffic to your site, how to spread your work far and wide through social media, how to launch a product and how to write the world’s best blog post.

But whenever we outline the perfect way to do something – the ideal process that all the experts use – we also outline a dozen wrong ways.

Pitfalls to be avoided, common mistakes, amateur errors. As the information on doing everything right becomes more and more prevalent, there are fewer and fewer excuses to do anything wrong – to be less than perfect.

Doing the wrong thing

Have you ever spent so much time trying to do things like the experts do, to get everything right, that you found you ended up achieving nothing at all?

For example, I expect there are a lot of people out there with an encyclopedic knowledge of how to make money from blogs – who know all the right ways to pick a niche, launch a site, put the right ads in all the right places, and sit back and make a killing.

I also suspect there are thousands of people like this who have never actually made more than small-change through blog advertising, despite dozens or even hundreds of hours worth of study.

We listen to people who make it look so easy, when really, only a small percentage of people succeed.

Because we tend to believe the people who don’t succeed have done something wrong, we’re desperate not to be one of those people. We strive for perfection, and because of this, often end up doing nothing at all.

I think there are a lot of extremely intelligent people, brimming with potential, who’ve spent a long time learning how to get things right – with much less to show for it than they could have.

You never started that website. You never launched that business. You never wrote that eBook.

You spent so many days and weeks learning how to not mess up – how to follow in the footsteps of the experts – that it stopped being about the idea and started being about following a strict process to the letter.

The flame left you, and your brilliant idea has still never seen the light of day.

My personal notebooks are full of ideas like these – some bad ideas, some good ideas, some great ideas – that were never put out into the world because I spent so much time trying to guarantee their success by focusing on every conceivable thing – other than the idea itself!

It almost doesn’t matter what your idea is – the process is the same:

You’re missing out on sales/traffic if you don’t have a Twitter account, and a StumbleUpon account, and a Digg account, and Facebook fan page – but they have to be active, and regularly updated in an authentic voice…

Whatever it is, it needs a blog to draw-in traffic, and the blog should be updated at least a few times a week – definitely by you, not by somebody else…

If you’re launching a product, you need to make sure the niche is hot, and if it’s hot, you’ve got to start building an email list of around 5,000 subscribers, and you’ve got to update both the blog and email list, and have another one for your affiliates, and you’ve got to write a free eBook on-top of your product or you won’t get any email subscribers, but don’t forget about JV partners, or outsourcing grunt-work to a grateful VA in the Phillipines, who can also help you to release your content in video, audio, text…

All this, instead of:

I want to make something really, really, good – make something I would love, and want to tell people about. Then once it’s made, I’ll put it out into the world and find a way to make it work.

Maybe we have to earn the right to be perfect, first?

The experts are able to follow complex plans and tick-off exhaustive marketing lists because they have sweated on their stuff for years.

Yet, we expect to follow closely in the footsteps of experts when making our very first business or creative ideas a reality. We’re like the beginner guitarist expecting to learn Purple Haze on our first day – our brains aren’t ready yet.

Sooner or later we give up, frustrated that we weren’t able to get it right – we couldn’t execute that many different riffs and techniques, all deployed with speed and confidence. Instead of eeking out Ode to Joy and putting some music into the world, we stop playing all-together.

If you’re someone with a lot of ideas and a lot of potential, who has struggled to make these ideas a reality, to deliver them to other people, and to make a profit off of them – even just enough to cover the costs of the internet bill – then I’d like to challenge you to approach things differently this time around.

If you’re willing, I’d like you to try focusing only on the core, common-sense, gut-instinctaspects of making your idea a reality and a success. And that’s it.

No complex strategies, no reading-up on the expert opinions, no elaborate marketing plans. You may even have to ignore what you already know.

If you’re certain that successfully launching an email newsletter requires a free resource, it’s probably a good idea to deliberately not include it.

This forces you to focus on the bare essentials – the thing that inspired you in the first place – the prospect of creating an awesome email newsletter that will market itself.

Instead of releasing your web app with a staff blog, forum and elaborate social media strategy across five platforms – try limiting the web app to doing only one thing for now: doing what it’s meant to do, and doing it well.

Instead of an elaborate social media strategy, challenge yourself to promote the app on the back of a single Twitter account. You might just find that the old saying is true: limitations encourage creativity.

If you have an idea you’ve always dreamed of making a reality, but have never succeeded before, it can’t hurt to try a completely new method.

Work-out the bare minimum things you would need to do (diligently and well) in order to bring your idea to life and put it out into the world.


I believe the success of anything you make is 90% based on how amazing it is, and 10% based on the other stuff you do to try to get people to know about it and like it.

But you’ll find most people spend 90% of their time worrying about the superficialities and 10% of their total time actually bringing the idea into the world.

Once you’ve cut all the corners and ignored all the advice and have actually made something a reality, sold your first copy, received an email from a new fan, conducted the simplest and briefest launch in history – then I think you’ve earned the right to add a little bit more complexity next time.

And trust me – once you’ve launched something you’ve built, you won’t be able to stop, and each time you’ll get better at it.

Pull an old idea out of storage – one of the ones you thought was ‘great’ at the time – and work out the shortest route to getting the basics right and building it into reality.

Deliberately ignore advice you thought was essential. Strive for imperfection. Limit yourself to almost child-like simplicity.

Just get it out there.

Why I’ll be joining you

Over six months ago I started writing a short book about something I’m passionate about – helping bloggers make good money with their own skills instead of advertising and affiliate programs, which are useless to so many people.

I was so excited about the contents of the book and the insights I’d be able to share that I was determined to guarantee its success.

I enrolled in online courses about product launches and read dozens of posts on email list building. I chewed through enough blog posts on creating your own products to last most people a life-time.

And somewhere along the line, I realized that most of the things that were portrayed as essential to success were things I didn’t particularly enjoy doing.

I started to worry that if I didn’t do them, the book would fail, and my hard work would be wasted, and few people would get to learn the strategies I wanted to teach.

So the file sat untouched for a few months, gathering digital dust, while I moved on to other things.

I worked, I dreamed up new ideas, I traveled around France and Italy for six weeks and didn’t think about much of anything at all except where I was and what I was doing, and the people (and two dogs) I missed back home.

My passion to write the book and share it had fizzled out because I was petrified I would deviate from ‘correct’ strategy and doom it to failure.

Other ideas have been through the same process and didn’t live to tell the tale, but this book stuck with me.

I thought about picking up the process again, trying to push-through were I’d failed last time – but I knew it wouldn’t work. Something had to change.

I finally did it…

I wrote The Blog Business Funnel

That’s when I decided to focus on one thing and one thing only: finishing the book, and making the finished product something I could be immensely proud of.

I had to discard my previous ways of thinking and learn to see success in one thing only: the end product.

After more than six months of work on the book in total, I’m excited simply to put it out into the world.

Though I know a whole lot about how to hold a successful launch, I’ll be following little of what I know. I won’t be releasing teaser videos, or launching an email newsletter with a free eBook, or trying to get coverage on A-list blogs.

Instead, I’ll be spending 90% of the time I spend working on the book alone – making sure it’s the best product it can be, and that it teaches you how to:

  • Build a profitable freelance business fed through a blog
  • Make a good living doing work you love, so you can be happier
  • Create a thriving and popular blog through a variety of advanced strategies
  • Throw away your dependence on ads and affiliate programs

The advice within the book is borne of the strategies I used to completely change my life and my finances in 2008, by going from working a crummy part-time job at a bakery to earning high four-figures a month as a freelancer only through my blog.

I was a complete beginner back then, having never freelanced before – so I feel confident I can teach other complete beginners how to do the same, whether you’re a blogger who doesn’t freelance, or a freelancer who hasn’t yet created a blog that’s a core aspect of your business.

Most of all, the book is written to help anyone who is fed up with pouring time and effort into advertising and commission-based schemes that earn nothing but small change.

Aren’t you just sick of it? I know I am!

Why Failure is a New Beginning

“Failure is the first step to success.”

This is one of those quotes that we hear and say quite often, but how often do we realize its importance or live by this mantra?

Seldom. I myself have tried and have been trying for couple years to secure a fruitful future as an online entrepreneur. I have failed a couple times and it has only made the desire to succeed even stronger.

I remember a show I was watching on TV (I don’t remember the name of the show as it was quite a while ago) where a man was talking about how he became a millionaire.

The most notable thing? He had gone bankrupt just a year ago.

I will try and highlight some points as to why failure can be the biggest step towards your success.

Getting Up Requires Falling

If a nine month old gave up trying to walk after his first fall, he would never be able to walk again, simply because he gave up.

We can relate this to our career and/or business as well. To succeed in doing something we need to realize that we are going to fall. It’s not the falling part that’s hard, it’s the getting up.

The only way we can learn to rise is when we have been through certain circumstances. When we know what we did wrong in the first place, when we have tried every known method that’s exactly when it will dawn on us – the right way to get up.

Success depends on you. If you have fallen time after time, its time to build a different strategy for getting up, you will succeed!

It’s a Motivational Booster

“Mom, Dad, I did it! I failed in Math last test but got an A this time around. I know I can do it better now.” That’s just an example but I do hope it gets the point across.

Achieving something after failing is like getting the biggest reward. You fail once but if you are determined in what you are doing, the only one to stop you from succeeding is yourself.

Motivation can come from influences and contacts but, personally, I think the biggest motivation comes from failure itself.

So next time you fail, just think of how you can do it better. I can assure you, you will feel much better doing it the second time and getting it right.

Not to mention, second time around it will be a lot easier better as you apply a lot more things that you didn’t in the first place.

You Will Have Strategies and Wisdom To Share

The other thing that you can get out of failure is wisdom and new strategies that you can apply to make previous failures a success. Your own experience can save others time when trying something similar to what you did.

Like I’ve written at the beginning of the post: “The most notable thing? He had gone bankrupt just a year ago.”

A success from a failure gains much more recognition and the reason behind it is simple – you were wise enough to give it another try and implement a different strategy.

All in all, it comes down to how you take failure. Either you can make it a step to success or a retreat from it. It’s all within you.

Remember: you are what you make of yourself – someone who failed and gave up or a failure to success story, the choice is yours.

Next time you think about quitting your online ventures after a failure, think again! It just might be the thing you needed to give yourself a boost.

If there were no failures there would be no successes, either!

If you have any stories to share with us, please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments section. Share your strategies and wisdom and help us make better decisions.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. — Albert Einstein


Six Impossible Things You Can Do to Improve Your Blog

How many impossible things did you do last week? None? If so, it’s about time to raise the bar.

This week, I’m proposing to you, six impossible things that will make your blog more interesting, more appealing, or just that little important bit more popular.

But how do you do impossible things?

You can’t. If something really is impossible, then by definition, it is:

  1. not possible; unable to be, exist, happen, etc.
  2. unable to be done, performed, effected, etc.: an impossible assignment.

The trick is to know the impossible things from ones that just seem impossible:

  1. Landing to the moon? Impossible.
  2. Curing Polio? Impossible.
  3. Driving a car without a horse? Impossible.
  4. Sailing to India? Impossible.
  5. The Internet? Impossible.

You get the picture.

Most of the big inventions were considered impossible long before anyone dared to try them out. But history shows that the doubters (most of the human kind) were wrong. Those things weren’t really impossible – just hard to imagine.

That’s the loophole we are going to exploit today.

Getting Started With Doing Impossible Things

I will give you six ideas as examples to start with, but the real lesson is more profound.

What I really want to show you is that it’s possible to learn a new way of looking at things: one that sees beyond the man-made limits we have set on our imagination.

Let me ask you this:

If everything was possible, what would you do to improve your blog?

Mark all of your answers down. No matter how impossible they seem. No censorship allowed.

Then take a look at your list and go through each of the impossible ideas one by one asking yourself why you think the item on your list is impossible.

What needs to change for it to become possible? What would you lose by trying it out?

If it becomes clear that the price for trying to achieve the impossible thing is too high, leave the idea aside. Otherwise, make no excuses, just implement it.

Doing impossible things feels great, you know?

The Six Impossible Ideas

I promised six impossible ideas. And when you promise something, you need to do it – no matter how impossible it is.

So, here you go. Six impossible things you can do to improve your blog.

1. Interview a celebrity:

Pick one who fits your topic and who your readers are familiar with, but make sure to aim high. After all, I don’t think anyone considers interviewing Leo Babauta or Skellie impossible.

But how about getting an interview from Steve Jobs or the other Steve from Microsoft? Impossible. (Which to us means “go for it!”)

2. Organize a competition with prizes worth thousands of dollars:

Last September, a blogger I was following at that time, DevDad, organized a competition with a new Apple iMac as the prize.

I was astonished: how can this 22-year stay at home dad afford to do something like this? Impossible. Well, as you see, it really is quite possible, so your mission is to top this – how about a Ferrari this time?

3. Do something impossible, then tell about it on your blog:

My current number one goal is to implement a 4-hour workweek to have more time for my family. Most people will tell me that it’s impossible and I shouldn’t even think of doing something like that.

I know it won’t be easy – but I also know that if I manage to do it, it will have two big effects on my blog: First, I will have something important to share with my readers.

And second, I will have much more time available for blogging. Both great reasons for challenging the impossible.

4. Make your blog appear in the evening news:

In the world of advertisement, TV is usually the most appreciated, and expensive of the alternatives. But you can still buy it with money.

To make things more impossible, I’m asking you to get your air time without paying for it – as a feature spot in the evening news. Scott Ginsberg did it by being the luckiest person he knows. What’s your approach?

5. Build your blog to outlive yourself:

Lately many of my favorite blogs have announced their first birthdays. In Internet years that’s a huge accomplishment, but it’s still stunning that one year is all it takes to develop a Technorati top 2500 blog like FreelanceSwitch.

But can you imagine a blog announcing its 50th, or 100th birthday? Impossible. And thus a worthy goal!

6. Make an impossible promise and deliver on it:

This post started out as nothing more than an interesting headline. I thought it would be interesting to read a post about impossible ideas that you can implement.

So, I wrote the headline and decided that this will be my next post for NORTHxEAST. You’re reading it now: Writing an impossible post wasn’t impossible after all.

Now, get to work and be prepared to give me a different answer the next time I come to you and ask: “How many impossible things did you do last week?”

Challenges Every Blogger Must Overcome

Every now and then I return to a blog that I haven’t visited in a while and find one of these statements, “I’m taking a break from blogging for a while.

Stop back sometime soon.” Unless you’re a die-hard fan, I’m guessing that becomes the last time that you visit that blog.

The “I’m not blogging” statement reveals something profound: successful blogging is hard work and not everyone is up to the task.

Cultivating a durability over time is only one challenge that bloggers face. Here are a few more as well as some strategies for overcoming them:

So you’ve got yourself a steady stream of RSS subscribers and maybe even your Adsense is generating some dough- now what?

Boredom settles in and you ask yourself why you’re blogging in the first place. Tim Sanders of SandersSays has written a great article about blogging passion, he writes that your choice of posting can mean the difference between feeling charged up or blogged out.

For me, I blog to express ideas and slowly build enough material for a published book. I blog to connect with an audience. And, I blog because I like a good challenge. How about you?

Stat obsession
If you don’t watch it, statistics can overtake your life. On the other hand, if you don’t watch stats, you might be missing out on some key connecting points with your audience.

Make a decision to check your stats regularly but not to the point where you are skipping meals or losing sleep. You get the picture.

Lack of creativity
This is a particularly significant challenge that all bloggers experience at one time or another. What do you do when you’ve run out of things to say?

Push through and realize that it’s part of the process. Keeping lists handy with new ideas and writing “drafts” of your seminal concepts is a good way to keep the ideas flowing as it provides a place to go back to when you’re low on inspiration.

Having the right capture tool at the right time will make sure you don’t lose any of those great ideas along the way.

Seldom talked about, but nonetheless very real is the jealousy that up and coming bloggers can find themselves feeling towards the big guys.

It can be frustrating watching larger blogs seemingly attract success with their every move while a smaller blog struggles. Rather than making the mistake of trying to copy everything that they do, learn from their success but follow your own path.

Every blog needs its own niche, own voice and own style, but having said that it’s also important to learn the lessons that the bigger blogs have to offer – about how to format content, how to tailor it, how to leverage a subscriber base, how to innovate and so on.

A good strategy to help you in this regard is to find a blog network – even if its not a formal one, and start chatting with bloggers at the same level of where you are now.

You’ll not only find bloggers your own size are more amenable to helping each other, but you also have a chance to grow together, share new ideas and leverage each other’s strengths and audiences.

This occurs when you find yourself blogging about things that are totally off-topic. Without self discipline and confidence in your desire to blog, straying can overtake even the best of bloggers, leaving readers confused and ultimately even out the door.

It’s far better to have a clear, coherent topic and stick to your message, even become an evangelist for whatever you are about! For me, work-life balance and productivity are at the top of my list.

Fortunately the topic is a broad enough circle so that I have enough space for variety but without going out of bounds too often.

Lack of personal routine
The challenge of personal routine – or its lack thereof, generally shows up within the first month of blogging. Without the discipline of blogging each day or even several times per week, a blog can lose steam and demoralize the author.

The best bloggers post often and provide good content that’s creative and fresh. I try to blog each morning, first thing when I wake up. It works for me and leaves my readers with a confidence that the message is still important and alive.

Readers can smell a phony, so be appreciative of their time and energy to connect with your blog. They can go anywhere else in the world but are choosing you – figure out why and thank them for it.

I provide a weekly downloadable resource free of charge, just as a thank you to readers. There are plenty of weeks when I would rather take the easy way out and bypass the creative process necessary for this resource but, knowing how important those readers are, I persevere.

Whatever the challenges that you face as a blogger, be yourself and be honest about why you’re spending the time to blog. If it’s energizing and fun, you’re probably in the right place.