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By David Harder on August, 27, 2010

What is a unique gift?

Dear Friends,

During the last thirty years, the industrial revolution was indeed replaced with the information age. For many of us, there has been difficulty and awkwardness in letting go of the old standards and measurements of work. The highest measurement of productivity used to be “quantity” – how many bolts can we plug into a hole? How many customers can we get in and out the door in an hour? And, we’ve been turning over the very same quantity driven work to technology as quickly as inhumanly possible. The basic fuel for quantity isn’t engagement, it’s frenzy. The very new and very real measurement behind today’s most profitable work is value. Creating value requires thinking, engagement, passion, meaning and uniqueness. In truth, everyone is uniquely gifted, has a unique “take” on the world. Everyone has a spot that is a natural place for them to work. Value committed professionals step into this arena. Many of us need a little support, a little courage to move here but once we do? Others often can’t tell if we are playing or working.

In 1990, I had no idea how difficult it would be to promote this thinking. A couple of years later, I hobbled into an advisors office. He took one look at me and blurted out, “It’s hard to take responsibility for the evolution of humanity, isn’t it?” He asked me to read Buckminster Fuller’s book, Critical Path (St. Martin’s Press), which in 1981, eloquently wrote about how we were poisoning our world and would have to step forward, as individuals, in order to protect our future. A twelve-year old boy named Michael wrote “Bucky” a letter asking him if he was a “doer or a thinker.” Fuller’s response to Michael is one of those extraordinary “takes” on what it means to create value in the world, an indicator of how we can be naturally drawn to our unique gift and take action. Many of you have asked for copies of this letter:

Dear Michael,

“Thank you very much for your recent letter concerning “thinkers and doers.” The things to do are the things that need doing; that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to see need to be done. Then, you will conceive your own way of doing that which needs to be done that no one else has told you to do or how to do it. This will bring out the real you that often gets buried inside a character that has acquired a superficial array of behaviors induced or imposed by others on the individual.

Try making experiments of anything you conceive and are intensely interested in. Don’t be disappointed if something doesn’t work. That is what you want to know – the truth about this – and then the truth about combinations of things. Some combinations have such logic and integrity that they can work coherently despite non-working elements embraced by their system. Whenever you come to a word with which you are not familiar, find it in the dictionary and write a sentence which uses that new word. Words are tools – and once you have learned how to use a tool, you will never forget it. Just looking for the meaning of the word is not enough. If your vocabulary is comprehensive, you can comprehend both fine and large patterns of experience.

You have what is most important in life – initiative. Because of it you wrote to me. I am answering to the best of my capability. You will find the world responding to your earnest initiative.”

Be well.