A few friends had recommended the testing for our 14-year-old daughter, Victoria, who we homeschooled until fifth grade. She’s always been very smart and very very creative—I couldn’t wait to see what kinds of things she could be! The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to take the tests, too—I was feeling unhappy and aggravated about my current situation and wondered what kinds of things I could be.
I guess I was kind of at a midlife career crisis—I had spent a lot of time focusing on my weaknesses, not my strengths. Trying to make up for what I saw as deficiencies in my skills, not trying to capitalize on what I was good at. I realize that this way of thinking really undermined my confidence, which made it hard to be positive and enthusiastic about pursuing opportunities. I was stuck in a swamp of self-doubt. Turning 40 didn’t help matters, either!
What a Difference a Day Makes
What I learned about myself was eye-opening! I loved the variety of tests and welcomed each challenge—I can be quite competitive, especially against myself. The things that were difficult really made me realize that some people are good at some things, and others are good at other things. It’s not a matter of effort or will, it’s just how it is. After going over the results, I can truly state that this information has really helped me be much more confident as well as focused on a career that allows me to use my strengths. I still know that there are things I’m not good at, but I don’t pay so much attention to that anymore.
I’m much more positive now, because I stick to focusing on what I AM good at—selling, teaching, managing people and activities, using my visual talents, inspiring others to achieve, among many other activities. This testing has lead me to try out new things, and pursue jobs that I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go after, before. I don’t just trust my judgment (which I’ve always done) but now have objective proof that I could, for example, be a great recruiter or motivational speaker. I really feel that that confidence comes through to people, too.
Selling for Others vs. Selling for Myself
I have a background in marketing, and have always done some kind or another of sales. My first job out of college was selling computer systems to banks. Okay, it was sales, but not at all what I had in mind. I lasted one year. Barely.
I have always known that I am much more of an entrepreneur than someone who’s happy being trained to sell something someone else’s way. I guess you could call me a serial entrepreneur—I’d had my own businesses before and paid my way through college working for myself. I turned one of my favorite project—hand-dyeing clothing and shoes—into a successful business at a major tourist destination and through mail-order. I was happy as a clam doing that—I worked hard but had my own hours, and it was a limitless outlet for my creativity and problem-solving skills.
I put that on hold after five years as my husband and I had our first child, Victoria. After two years of being a mom, I was restless and really felt I needed something more. Don’t get me wrong—I loved being a mom, seeing our daughter grow and learn, but I really needed to do something else, too. I know now that my aptitudes were crying out to be used: ideaphoria, inductive reasoning, analytical reasoning, and especially foresight! When Victoria was around two, my husband and I co-founded a real estate company, and once again I felt back on track in terms of feeling fulfilled by my work.
In a few years, we had gone from the two of us making calls in our kitchen to opening our first office. In addition to the challenges of growing that business, our daughter was old enough for school now. We formed a homeschool group with some good friends, about 10 kids in all. I loved the days it was my turn to teach—inspiring and engaging the kids, coming up with activities, planning lessons—all of it. So satisfying and so productive! I see now that my most-dominant aptitudes were fully engaged by these tasks. The problem was, I didn’t teach every day. Maybe I would’ve gotten bored, though, without my other career in real estate. It’s hard to say, but in retrospect, I believe I would’ve still needed more. Foresight making its presence known, I think!
A Major Force
In real estate I found that I especially enjoyed the thrill of the chase—going after that difficult listing, working with those very particular buyers, making that rocky deal come together, negotiating with other agents and banks. I guess I’m a challenge-seeker. But after doing that hundreds of times, it started to feel terribly routine. Once I got the prize (the listing, the right property, the commission check) I felt like, “Well great, but now what?” I realize now it was that my goals weren’t far enough away. I scored in the 90th percentile on the Foresight test. I needed to be working towards something much larger than a successful closing—or even a hundred successful closings. Once I’ve gotten whatever I’m after, I need to have something new lined up to pursue.
I know that now, and make sure that I always have several irons in the fire—several paths I’m pursuing at the same time, which gives me more places to set goals. I’m currently consulting for our real estate business, I train every agent who works for us, and have worked as a national trainer for the company with which our office is affiliated. I organized a women-only social networking club (we attend lectures, go dancing, see plays, get our Tarot cards read), and I do stand-up comedy (I recently competed in a storytelling slam—won the first round!). I love improv comedy and live theater (aptitudes in action again! Ideaphoria and my reasoning skills). I sew and paint, and decorate and redesign our house so often that my husband despairs of me ever being “done”. What’s especially funny about the artistic stuff is that I’m so not a spatial thinker—my daughter Victoria got that aptitude from somewhere else it seems. So it takes me a long time to see what things would look like, whether it’s the new kitchen design or a hat I’m making. But that’s okay—I’m not an interior designer or a milliner so I can take my time. I still enjoy these things, but know I have strengths in very different areas that I need to focus on.
Familiar vs. New
It was wonderful to hear and read that what I think I’m good at—my people skills, my creativity, my ability to plan—I actually am good at! I’ve always know I was a creative person, but never realized that I am an equally good manager. I have since embraced my executive skills in the groups I’m involved in, realizing that it’s my destiny. I’ve stopped thinking of myself as bossy—I’m just a natural manager. I scored Objective on the personality test, indicating that I need to work with other people. I understand that objective people often steer towards managerial roles. I like being in charge and now know that I have the abilities of an executive, so I look for those sorts of opportunities.
Something I found out, though, I had never considered—I’m good at numbers! I never liked math in school so I always assumed that things like economics and statistics would be the difficult as well. I scored high on the Number Series test, meaning I have the ability to understand patterns in numbers and use numerical information to do other things. It was a total, “Well, duh!” moment for me—one of my favorite activities in real estate was crunching the numbers for pricing comparisons, working out offers, dealing with the appraisal information, and working out costs for updates and repairs.
I continue to explore new career opportunities and it’s taken some time to cultivate the right prospects. I’m fortunate enough that I can be somewhat selective about my next step, as I’m still doing the consulting and training. I want it to be as fulfilling and engaging as possible for as long as possible.
Understanding my aptitudes will also help me understand Victoria’s. When she came to us to talk about leaving high school before graduation, it was a little shocking, but it also made a lot of sense. When a teenager says “I’m bored at school”, and, “Nothing challenges me” it seems very typical. But because we knew about her abilities we could really see that, yes, public high school just isn’t challenging enough and she probably was wasting her time. So we agreed to let her drop out and get her GED so that she could attend a school that really would challenge and engage her. She had to be a certain age to take the GED exam, and she did, right after she turned 16. The following year she was accepted into the School of Fashion Design and was the youngest person there by at least four years. Her work was held up to others as an example, even, and at the end of the year, there was a display in the lobby of her sketches. So, all in all, I think we made the right decision, even though many people, including some of our friends, thought we were crazy.
I see the aptitudes we have in common being used in such different ways, but I also know that my way of using my ideaphoria is not “better” than Victoria’s. We’re both very creative, but she’s the one who got accepted at a fashion design school at age 16—because she’s a spatial thinker. I’m a little in awe of her talents at such a young age. It helps me to know about her strengths for future school planning, and it definitely helps me understand her, and myself, and others better.