The other day while journaling I asked myself, “What is your superpower?”
What can I do better than anyone else, or differently than anyone else, that gives me powers others don’t have access to?
Pulling on the threads of self inquiry, the first thought that jumped to mind is something around speaking. I have the “gift of gab” so to speak and I get it from my father. My whole family has it. I can (and do) spend all day talking on the phone and I’m never short of rants and philosophy for all of my friends.
That gift of talking helped me to launch my business, land the sales jobs I currently have, build great relationships with people from all over the world, and learn how to speak Spanish and Portuguese.
But there are others that also have this gift, and while it’s an amazing power to have, it doesn’t quite resonate as the superpower that I identify with.
Next one that jumps out at me is my energy levels. I have an insane amount of energy and it’s rare that you see me low. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and frequently ran around like a lunatic. I’ve always joked that my engine is too big for my frame for this reason.
That energy helps me to work long hours and not lose my enthusiasm. More importantly, that is my trademark. If you’ve ever met me in person, you know it, you feel it. The unique Troy energy that I bring to the table whenever you see me.
Trademark yes, but superpower? Digging more deeply I see that as an expression of a still yet underlying undiscovered superpower.
I remember I once listened to a podcast with Derek Sivers. Tim Ferriss asked him the question, “Who is the first person that comes to mind when you think of the word successful?”
His reply was as follows -“the first answer to any question isn’t much fun because it’s just automatic, right? What’s the first painting that comes to mind? Mona Lisa. Name a genius. Einstein. Who’s a composer? Mozart.
This is the subject of the book, Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. There’s the instant, unconscious, automatic thinking and then there’s the slower, conscious, rational, deliberate thinking.
So I’m really, really into the slower thinking, breaking my automatic responses to the things in my life and slowly thinking through a more deliberate response instead. Then for the things in life where an automatic response is useful, I can create a new one consciously.
So what if you asked, when you think of the word successful, who’s the third person that comes to mind?”
This perspective of “what is the third superpower that comes to mind?” resonates with me right now. Not the first superpower that comes to mind. Not the low hanging fruit my brain wants to throw at me. Not the second one either. No, dig even deeper. Really dive into this and ask myself at a core level what is driving me?
After spending some time meditating on this and looking at the history of my life, I think I’ve come up with an answer that nourishes me, that feels right, that resonates at a deep level.
What is that superpower?
I don’t know why, but I’m open to the world and feel like I always have been. Always been willing to be open about my problems and share them honestly. Get help from people when I had a problem. Share my struggle. I’ve never been one to hold my emotions in, or better yet, hide them from others.
I’m also always very open to constructive criticism and feedback as a result of it. I LOVE getting feedback because it shows me my blind spots of where I need to improve and get better. I frequently ask people to “tear apart” my work. I want to find what hurts me so that I can better protect myself for the future.
I think I get this from my family. In particular my middle brother. He has a fantastic way of ripping your personality apart from limb to limb. Dissecting and analysing you and making you feel like he knows you better than you know yourself. Knows exactly what to say to get under your skin and trigger your emotions, good or bad.
That’s perhaps his superpower. He has an incredible way with words. Can use them as a tool to inspire or to truly hurt you. It’s a double edged sword.
So as a child I was frequently put into this position where I was vulnerable without even knowing it. I never asked him for any of this feedback, he would just throw it at me.
But the funny part is, while I would get defensive (as anyone would), I would be mostly curious. I wasn’t necessarily hurt by it, I moreso wanted to ask questions and understand how he got that impression. Dive into the parts of myself I didn’t understand and here was a gateway to do that.
Is that a comfortable experience? HELL NO! Being vulnerable hurts because you get hurt. But if you focus on learning from it, eventually you internalize how to take the blows and keep going.
Key word there is learning – when you learn from each of these experiences, you grow. You improve. They build your character. Your vulnerability gave you the opportunity to integrate that new learning and now be a new and improved stronger you. Using your perceived weakness to become ultimately stronger in the end.
I get the image of a superhero being shot at with automatic weapons and then he absorbs the energy of those bullets and fires a massive explosion back at them. That’s how I feel about vulnerability – it’s the ability to take blows that come from being open, absorb that energy, and then use it to fuel something doubly positive as a result. GROW as a result of it. Transmutation at it’s finest.
So when I think about a superpower, I think about what makes you grow like this. A power that can make you exponentially stronger over time. Eventually invincible. The ability to transmutate the pain into growth, to grow stronger after every subsequent blow.
This is the core of the book Antifragile as well. The ability to withstand the chaos, surrender to it, but to come out STRONGER as a result of it. To be better with each subsequent breaking.
This is how I feel about my vulnerability. Every time I find my weak spot it hurts, but I come back stronger. Every bad thing that happens adds to me becoming more resilient in the long run. It adds and contributes to and fuels my growth.
As many of you who read this blog can tell, I don’t really have a central theme to all of my writing. There’s no one common topic. I jump around between a bunch of seemingly disconnected yet somehow intertwined random thought experiments and brain dumps.
One day I asked a friend of mine for feedback on my writing, asked her how she would explain my writing to someone else, and she said, “it’s very vulnerable. I feel like you’re really vulnerable with sharing your stories and emotions and experiences and struggles, and I think this is something that many people have a hard time doing.”
This comment caught me off guard, but I liked it. It resonated. I was happy that this was the way my writing was being interpreted and appreciated.
Again though it also took me being vulnerable to ask her for feedback in the first place. I had to acknowledge that I am struggling with trying to find a cohesive structure to my writing and give it some direction. But that vulnerability in turn fuelled an important discovery that improved my writing and direction as a result of it. Antifraglity at it’s finest!
When I asked myself this question about my superpower, this is what came to mind. The more I’ve analysed my life ever since, I realise that it is at the core of all of my greatest successes and accomplishments. They all required vulnerability along the way, and the ability to withstand those blows that came with it. I’ve grown from all of those experiences.
But the thing is, we all have access to it. We can all be vulnerable. This isn’t just me. You can similarly connect with your own vulnerabilities and use them to become stronger. It’s a superpower we can all access.
I think all superpowers are like this. We all have access to them, but we just need to learn how to use them. These tools of antifragility that make us stronger in the long run. The superhero set!? (will have to think on that one!)
It all comes full circle, it could be my superpower in terms of what resonated most with me in this philosophical inquiry, but I think that anyone can have access to this, so it’s not necessarily my superpower at all!
In the end these are the journeys we want to conduct with ourselves. To understand who we are and how we tick and how we can help others discover the same for themselves as well.
What’s yours? Equally is it a superpower we all have access to? Give it some thought and leave me some discussion in the comments below 🙂