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Étiquette : talent

Insight #100

leonor fini, talent, insight, coaching, career, carrière
Leonor FINI – La Tenebrosa, 1978 – Huile sur toile, 116 x 81 cm


« D’où sort le talent? Moi, je crois que c’est quelque chose qui sort d’une sorte de révolte. Une sorte de besoin de s’affirmer très fort. »

“Where does talent come from? I believe it is something that comes from a kind of revolt. A kind of need to assert oneself strongly.”

Leonor Fini, in an interview by Chris Vermorcken


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 Source: Avik Chatterjee

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept which literally consists of ‘iki’ (to live) and ‘gai ‘(reason) and means « a reason for being » – equivalent to the Western concept of « purpose » or raison d’être as one says in French – at the very center of four dimensions: what we love, what we are good at, what the world needs and what we can be paid for. In other words, it is more fulfilling and rewarding than passion, mission, profession and vocation separately.

Psychiatrist Mieko Kamiya, explains that ikigai is what allows you to look forward to the future whatever the way you feel right now. It is what gives you strength, resilience and hope when tragedy occurs. Whatever it may be, it is a source of energy and inner light.

Of course, your ikigai may differ from what you do to make a living. And this is absolutely fine as it can help you find your own balance. However, finding your own ikigai and living it daily is a way to secure a fruitful life and – potentially – a flourishing career as well. It is also how you could find pleasure in your current work, or a direction you would choose to realign your career. Dan Buettner formulates the hypothesis in a Ted Talk it would even be a way to live longer.

Coaching surely can help you identifying your ikigai.

In his book Ikigai, the Essential Japanese Way to Finding Your Purpose in Life, neuroscientist Ken Mogi suggests to start asking yourself three questions to find the first clues that will help you find it:

  • What are your most sentimental values?
  • What are the small things that give you pleasure?
  • What are the small things in the deep swamp of your mind that will carry you through a difficult patch?

Going further, you can ask yourself additional questions to detect and explore the components of your own ikigai:

  • What did you like doing when you were a child?
  • And what would the 12-year-old say about you if he saw you now?
  • Today, what absorbs you so much that you forget to eat and drink?
  • Which activities put a smile on your face and light in your eyes?
  • What would you put in your suitcase if you decided to go exploring the world?
  • What would your activities be like if every single morning you would be forced to leave your home and were not allowed to come back before the evening?
  • What is easy for you to do?
  • What are your talents?
  • On which of your activities are you complimented?
  • If you were living in an ideal world, what would it look like?
  • Which values would you like to see more often?

Answering those questions and digging into the material you will collect is the first step of a beautiful journey, no matter how long it takes. So let yourself be surprised by the destination. This is why Ken Mogi also set the framework of ikigai which he presents as being based on five pillars. Pillars that we would also present as benchmarks for your progress.

  • Start small, keeping in mind that life needs evolution not revolution
  • Release yourself, accepting who you are, eminently distinct from your ego
  • Pursue harmony and sustainability. Time and integration are key
  • Enjoy little things, the sum of them is priceless.
  • Be in the here and now, mindfully

From theory to practice and to observe the concept of ikigai in action, we invite you to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a 2011 American documentary film directed by David Gelb. The film follows Jiro Ono (小野 二郎 Ono Jirō), a 91-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin three-star restaurant. Sukiyabashi Jiro is a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station and Jiro Ono is the oldest living three-Michelin-star chef. Dining in this restaurant is like experiencing with your five physical senses a perfectly well orchestrated choreography raising from a life dedicated to talent and perseverance.

Here are a few quotes coming from this film…

« There are some who are born with a natural gift. Some have a sensitive palate and sense of smell. That’s what you call « natural talent ». In this line of business, if you take it seriously, you’ll become skilled. But if you want to make a mark in the world, you have to have talent. The rest depends on how hard you work. »

« All I want to do is make better sushi. I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is. »

« Always doing what you are told doesn’t mean you’ll succeed in life. » 

« If I stopped working at 85, I would be bored out of my mind… I have been able to carry on with the same job for 75 years. It’s hard to slow down. I guess I’m in the last stretch of the race. »

« Always try to elevate your craft. »



And you, what is your ikigai?


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Are you playing to your strengths?

arcimboldo, earth, strengths
Giuseppe ARCIMBOLDO – Earth, 1566 – Oil on wood, 70 x 48.5 cm – Private collection, Austria


When Arcimboldo painted his allegories of the four elements in 1566 and in particular, of earth, intermixing dozens of animal bodies and other objects to form faces in profile, perhaps he was trying to tell us – in addition to the surrealist pleasure he afforded us – that the identification of our strengths, their particular alchemy and their knowledgeable overlapping reveals the extent to which we are unique beings. And that it is undoubtedly with this uniqueness forged in diversity that we should play with a filigree of passion.

Passion without reason…

Martha Graham once said “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion ». I agree profoundly with this sentiment. Passion enables us to transcend ourselves, to excel, to go beyond our own limits. Passion is the ultimate ingredient, one over which we have no control but which fills us with an immeasurable and necessary energy. In the right dose, it is an inexhaustible, fuel – sustainable, economic and well-balanced. Passion lets us live rather than just survive. Integrated into professional life, it resolves the conflicting worry of balance with the private aspect of life by way of harmonious integration.

Nevertheless, we are forced to accept that passion alone is not enough. The dream can conjure an unobtainable Grail. The desire to excel, to live our passion to the point of rejecting any unassociated activity can engender a utopia especially in a world where competition carries more weight than benevolence. And while some advocate that work, energy and astuteness are the means to all ends, I would add that the risk that they lead to deception is also great without the accompaniment of lucidity, honesty and a little bit of focus. Returning to the sentiment expressed by Martha Graham, if a dancer’s greatness depends on passion, this cannot be at the exclusion of technique, certainly fruits of their labour but also of their talent.

In fact, whatever the passion may be, whether it comes to the surface in during childhood or it is fortuitously revealed in adulthood, it is by resting it upon our strengths that it truly becomes possible to excel and thus to grow. These strengths make up our identity, they are an integral part of our essence and can make the difference between two individuals.

How does one discover one’s strengths?

A study by Strategy&from carried out in 2013 with the participation of hundreds of executive from diverse sectors shows that companies find it harder to identify their strengths than to understand their customers. So how can we as individuals identify our own strengths or how can the coach help a client with this search? How can we find that which allows us to incorporate passion in our personal expression of leadership? How can we awaken an area in which passion can be integrated in a realistic and effective way in regard to development? Simply put, which are the tools available to us?

Basically, there is no perfect tool or miracle recipe even though we are spoilt for choice. Actually, several strategies are possible and these can be combined in a triangular approach, echoing the old adage “Know thyself”.

  1. The mirror approach
    The simple application of the principle of introspection, it requires honesty, reflection and courage as well as and especially the intention not to allow oneself to be duped by one’s ego. Analysis of past successes and failures and how these have been overcome, echoes of our past life, it takes time to distinguish what we know from what we want to believe, to accept what our interior voice is telling us, perhaps in dissonance with what we want to understand. Alone or accompanied, extremely enriching, it can serve as a primer for a beautiful exploration while also evidencing the difficulty of us becoming judge and jury as we know full well that we will remain deaf to the things we don’t want to hear if we ourselves lead the discussion. Introspection is an enriching game if we follow the rules, rules that none but ourselves can define.
  2. Feedback, formal or not
    From a diametrically opposed point of view, we can look for our strengths in the way we are perceived by others. Here, we encounter the arsenal used habitually in the professional environment: from annual evaluations to less formal meetings, by way of the mid-year review. There is also the more structured 360° formalized by companies (or the informal self-lead approach) that gives a more complete view of the whole because – as their names suggest – this type of feedback recalls an image of eccentric subjectivity, circularity (N+1, pairs, subordinates, relationships) and forcibly different from that which the individual possesses of themself. It is exactly the subjectivity of this type of approach that makes it interesting – whether the feedback be given in a professional or private context – but at the same time reflects its intrinsic weakness as the strengths that come to light will now be the mirror image of others’ weaknesses. Furthermore, even if the feedback is delivered within the necessary climate of trust, it cannot guarantee an exhaustive assessment, no matter how educational it may be.
  3. The tests
    Test (from the latin Testis, witness) is an instrument, a controlled and calibrated tool, that allows directly address a specific question. Several tests have been developed to determine an individual’s strengths and some of these have entered into the public domain where they are free to access, such as the VIA Survey of Character Strengths developed by the University of Pennsylvania or the one developed by the Université de Kent. One is composed of 240 questions in the full version and the other only of 52 but both come in the wake of positive psychology which proposes that we all possess innate strengths but that few of us know what they are. The advantage of these tests is that they can – like feedback – send us an unexpected echo of ourselves.

In conclusion

Passion without reason and reason without passion are two of the pitfalls we should aim to avoid. If one enables us to realise ourselves, the other anchors us in reality and both provide a source of mutual nourishment. Both can be (re-) discovered, explored, revisited using various techniques. This is especially true for our strengths, often escaping the scrutiny of our conscious minds and being labelled as banal, at the same time denying that which should be imposed on us as a piece of evidence.

Also, keeping in mind we are travellers: coaching is the compass, passion indicates the direction, reason shows the way.


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Utilisez-vous vos forces ?

terre, arcimboldo, forces
La Terre, 1566, collection privée, Autriche

Quand Arcimboldo peint en 1566 ses allégories des quatre éléments et celle de la terre en particulier, entremêlant des dizaines de corps d’animaux ou d’objets pour composer des visages de profil, peut-être voulut-il nous dire – au-delà du plaisir surréaliste qu’il nous donnait – que l’identification de nos forces, leur alchimie particulière et leur savante imbrication révèlent ce en quoi nous sommes des êtres uniques.  Et que c’est sur cette unicité faite de diversité qu’il nous faut jouer avec, certes, la passion en filigrane.

Passion sans raison…

Martha Graham dit un jour « Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion ». J’en suis profondément convaincu. La passion permet de se transcender, de se dépasser, d’aller au-delà de ses propres limites. La passion est l’ultime ingrédient, celui sur lequel nous n’avons aucun contrôle et qui, pourtant, nous insuffle une énergie incommensurable et nécessaire. Justement dosée, c’est un combustible inépuisable, durable, écologique et équitable. La passion permet de vivre plutôt que de survivre. Intégrée à l’activité professionnelle, elle résout le conflictuel souci d’équilibre avec la vie privée par la dynamique d’une intégration harmonieuse.

Et pourtant, force nous est de constater que la passion seule ne suffit pas.  Le rêve peut se révéler un Graal inaccessible. La volonté de se dépasser, de vivre sa passion au point de rejeter toute activité ne lui étant pas associée de près ou de loin peut engendrer une utopie, a fortiori dans un monde où la concurrence prend le pas sur la bienveillance. Et lorsque certains prônent le fait que travail, énergie et assiduité mènent à tout, j’ajouterai que le risque qu’ils mènent aussi à la déception est grand s’ils ne s’accompagnent pas de lucidité, d’honnêteté et d’un tant soit peu d’à propos. Pour reprendre les propos de Martha Graham, si c’est la passion qui fait un grand danseur, celui-ci ne peut faire fi de la technique, certes fruit du travail mais aussi du talent.

De fait, quelle que soit la passion, qu’elle remonte à l’enfance où soit révélée de façon fortuite à l’âge adulte, c’est en la faisant reposer sur nos forces propres qu’il devient alors véritablement possible de se dépasser et donc de grandir. Ces forces qui constituent notre identité, qui sont part intégrante de notre essence et qui entre deux individus peuvent faire la différence.

Comment découvrir ses forces ?

Une étude de Strategy&from menée en 2013 auprès de plusieurs centaines de cadres de divers secteurs d’activité a montré que les entreprises trouvent plus difficiles de définir leurs forces que de comprendre leurs clients. Alors, comment en tant qu’individus pouvons-nous identifier nos propres forces ou comment le coach peut-il aider son client à identifier celles-ci? Comment trouver ce qui permettra d’incorporer la passion dans l’expression de son propre leadership? Comment veiller à ce que la passion puisse être intégrée de façon réaliste et efficace dans le développement? Plus simplement, quels sont les outils à disposition?

En fait, il n’y a pas d’outil parfait ou de recette miracle et nous avons même l’embarras du choix. En effet, plusieurs approches sont possibles et celles-ci peuvent être combinées dans une démarche triangulaire, faisant écho à l’antique maxime « Connais-toi toi-même« .

  1. L’approche-miroir
    Simple application du principe d’introspection, elle requiert honnêteté, réflexion, courage aussi et surtout l’intention de ne pas se laisser dompter par son ego. Analyse des succès passés comme des échecs et de la façon dont ceux-ci ont été surmontés, écho de notre vie passée, elle prend du temps pour distinguer ce que nous savons de ce que nous voulons croire, pour accepter ce que notre voix intérieure nous dit, peut-être en dissonance avec ce que nous voulons entendre. Faite seule ou accompagnée, extrêmement enrichissante, elle peut être l’amorce d’une belle exploration mais présente aussi la difficulté de nous rendre juge et partie car nous savons trop bien que nous resterons sourds à ce que nous ne voulons pas entendre si c’est nous-mêmes qui tenons le discours. L’introspection est un jeu enrichissant si nous en respectons les règles, règles que nul autre que nous ne pourra définir.
  2. Le feed-back, formel ou non
    Dans une optique diamétralement opposée, nous pouvons chercher nos forces au travers de ce qu’en perçoivent les autres. Là, nous trouvons l’arsenal habituellement utilisé en milieu professionnel: des évaluations annuelles aux réunions moins formelles, en passant par les mid-year reviews. Plus structurés nous avons également les 360° formalisés par les entreprises (ou informels à mener soi-même) et qui donnent une vue d’ensemble plus complète puisque – comme leur nom l’indique – ce type de feedback renvoie une image d’une subjectivité excentrée, circulaire (N+1, pairs, subordonnés, proches) et forcément différente de ce que l’individu aura de lui-même.  La subjectivité-même de ce type d’approche représente son intérêt – que les feed-back soient formulés dans un registre professionnel ou privé – mais reflète en même temps sa faiblesse intrinsèque car les forces mises en évidence seront cette fois le miroir des faiblesses des autres. De plus, même si le feed-back repose nécessairement sur un climat de confiance, il ne garantit en rien l’exhaustivité du bilan, aussi instructif puisse-t-il être.
  3. Les tests
    Le test (du latin testis, témoin) est un instrument, un outil calibré, validé, permettant de dresser un bilan sur une question donnée.  Plusieurs tests ont été développés pour déterminer les forces d’un individu et certains de ces tests sont entrés dans le domaine public et sont libres d’accès, comme le VIA Survey of Character Strengths développé par l’Université de Pennsylvanie ou celui développé par l’Université de Kent. L’un comprend 240 questions dans sa version exhaustive et l’autre seulement 52 mais tous deux sont dans la mouvance de la psychologie positive qui prône que nous avons tous des forces avec lesquelles nous sommes nés mais que peu d’entre nous savent lesquelles.  L’avantage du test c’est qu’il peut – comme le feed-back – renvoyer un écho auquel on ne s’attend pas.

En conclusion

Passion sans raison et raison sans passion sont deux écueils à éviter. Si l’une permet de s’accomplir, l’autre ancre dans la réalité, toutes deux se nourrissant mutuellement. Toutes deux peuvent être (re-)découvertes, explorées, revisitées au travers de techniques variées. C’est particulièrement vrai pour nos forces, échappant souvent à notre conscience de par ce que nous prenons pour de la banalité, négligeant par la même occasion ce qui devrait s’imposer à nous comme une évidence.

Aussi, gardons à l’esprit que nous sommes des voyageurs: le coaching est la boussole, la passion indique la direction, la raison montre le chemin.


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