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Superpower & Kryptonite

By May 20, 2014Work it Out

Stand up and get ready to dive under your desk, because I am about to unleash my mighty superpowers onto the world! Okay, go ahead and sit back down. Although I really am flexing my superpower right now, there won’t be much drama and no special effects are required.

Every one of us has superpowers, but they show up a little differently than in the movies. On the big screen, the superhero gathers all the information about the bad guys and then corners them at the scene of the crime. BANG! He or she unleashes a fury of KAPOW that knocks the villains flat and saves the day.

Real-life superpowers materialize in an almost opposite manner. These skills and talents are always at play behind the scenes. They are instincts that bubble up unnoticed and impact those around you. Sometimes your superpower is so subtle that someone else has to point it out to you because you are so used to doing it, that you ceased to notice.

Henna Inam from Forbes Magazine gives us this list of important questions regarding our superpowers.

1. What are your strengths?
2. Which strengths bring you joy and create unique value?
3. How are you honing and developing your superpower?
4. How can you design your job or career path around your superpower?



The first crucial step is to know what you are good at. The Gallup StrengthsFinder test is a tool that helped me to understand my strengths more clearly. You use the book by Tom Rath in conjunction with the Gallup online assessment to identify which of the 34 elements are your strongest. The results provide you with 5 areas where you are really strong and tips for how to build up those areas. You may find that your superpower is not one of the elements on the test, or it is a subset of one. Only you can identify your powers for certain, but the test is a good place to start if you don’t have something in mind.

I took the test and reviewed my results. One strength jumped off the page: Positivity. My first reaction was critical, “That’s not even a real thing!” I was disappointed that I wasn’t “best” at something useful, like people with a #1 strength of “achiever” or “communication.” After considering the results and discussing them with a trusted friend and colleague, it occurred to me that positivity didn’t feel like a skill or talent because practicing it is a natural extension of my personality. Exercising positivity brings me great joy because I am wired to see the potential upside. Now I am learning to extend that positivity to myself and work to encourage and motivate people around me.

This spring I am participating in an online course based on Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. The course introduced a new dimension to the superpower conversation: Kryptonite. Unfortunately, every superpower has a weakness or dark side. Our kryptonite is the thing that makes our power unravel, exposes our vulnerability, saps our momentum or leaves us depleted. For example, with positivity I generally see the “glass as half full.” When I go to a meeting and hear bad news about a project, it doesn’t really discourage me. My mind begins to churn out ways that we can improve or salvage the situation. Others can perceive my reaction as “spin” or naivety. I have even been accused of dishonesty and covering up the facts—because I honestly thought we could save something that a coworker wanted to dismantle.

Kryptonite is not always the easiest concept to apply, so here are a few more examples:

    Superpower: Empathy
Kryptonite: Feeling like a pushover, over-extending yourself, being taken advantage of

    Superpower: Organization
Kryptonite: Being seen as too rigid or inflexible, experiencing difficulty making mid-course or spontaneous changes

     Superpower: Analysis
Kryptonite: Sounding harshly critical, or becoming detached

See where this is going? It’s one thing to have a superpower, and it’s another thing to use it well. Perhaps Ben Parker (uncle to Peter Parker/Spiderman) said it best, “With great power comes great responsibility.” A responsibility to develop and share our superpower, but also to care for ourselves and be aware of our kryptonite.



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