"I want everyone to be aware of what their superpower is because I believe that we all have superpowers."Nafessa Williams, American actress
My love affair with reading and books began when I was very young. Our family's weekly visits to the city library became my highlight of the week soon after I learned to read.
I clearly remember my mom sending me to bed with a stern warning that I had to sleep, not read. Of course, all I wanted to do was to read! So I often resorted to "undercover reading," or what's commonly known as the tried-and-true "flashlight-under-the-blanket" method.
But what was it about books that cast such a powerful spell on me?
Superpowers Aren't Just for Superheroes
In part, it was the words. I love words and language. But it was also the characters I met in those books – especially the ones who were able to perform magical and powerful acts like flying, shapeshifting or breathing under water.
When I read of those superpowers, I dreamed of having them too, because I wanted to help people, to rescue animals and heal all kinds of ills in the world.
Fortunately, we don't need to be Spiderman or Black Panther to have a superpower and make a difference in the world.
Superpowers in the Everyday
One of my best friends, Steve, grew up in rural Kenya in a setting that couldn't have been more different from my own.
I grew up in a city with all the comforts it offered and two parents earning an income. His parents had to make a living off the land, in an environment where they were at the mercy of the seasons and the elements.
School might not have been high on his agenda, but his mother wouldn't have any of that nonsense of missing lessons. During his first few years of school, they had an afternoon routine. Before he set about his chores, Steve had to write down a few things that he'd learned that day.
His mother would then take her red pen and mark what he had written. Without fail, she'd mark half the sentences right, and the other half would get a red "x."
It was only after five or six years of this that he learned his mom was illiterate. She pretended to read his work every day. But her message was clear: push yourself and be the best you can be.
Reading might not have been Mama Mululu's superpower, but she wanted her children to be educated, so she came up with a creative way to encourage them. This was her superpower.
And it paid off! Steve has built a very successful business from nothing and is a pillar of strength in his community.
Superpowers at Work
How do you like the idea of being able to talk to someone who isn't engaged with anything else but your conversation, at that moment?
In today's technologically connected but impersonal society, mindful listening is a superpower. I'd say that it sounds like the kind of superpower that can help others to work through some tough emotional issues and workplace challenges. It can also make them feel heard and respected.
Another superpower that increases trust and connection, is the ability to be fully present in the moment, wherever you are. In a space (even a virtual one) where you're fully present, your energy is visible and palpable, and you can instantly touch and inspire people.
Do you know someone with the ability to step back from a situation and to think things through before they comment, judge, make decisions, or give advice? In the highly reactive world we live in, that's a person whose superpower is priceless and rare – stay close to them.
Superpowers and Creativity
A friend of mine who has now passed on, always used to say, "You can run out of money, as long as you don't run out of ideas."
At the time, I was still young and I didn't appreciate his statement for the sage advice it was. However, later in my career I understood the value of a person who can always come up with a plan or idea. It's a creative superpower not to be messed with!
In 1958, Paul Torrance – "Mr Creativity of the 20th Century" – wrote that your technical skills and academic intelligence will not give you a particular advantage. He said that it is only your creativity, your creative insight and your energy that will you give you an edge.
Oh, and did I mention that my rottweiler, Helmuth, also has a superpower? You'd be forgiven if you think that it's his size or strength, but it isn't. It's his ability to use all kinds of goofy tricks and antics to extract treats from humans – and make them laugh, in the process, too!
What's Your Superpower?
In our #MTtalk Twitter chat this Friday, we discussed how to find and use your superpower. Here are all the questions we asked, and some of the best responses:
Q1. How would you define a superpower in real life?
@JKatzaman A superpower is the strength to get you through days when walls seem to close in.
@SarahH_MT I find the whole idea of having a "superpower" a bit challenging TBH. This question really made me dig deep for some reason. I suppose for me it's describing a highly-developed strength that has the power to be transformative.
Q2. Is a superpower just a strength or is it more than that? Explain.
@CaptRajeshwar A superpower is a superpower when, once you have it, you feel the strength to accomplish your goals with [a] smile.
@ColfaxInsurance I think it's more than that, it could be a variety of things. A mindset or strong beliefs, a skill, an attitude, a process you use, etc.
Q3. What skills/talents/tasks can you do better than anyone else you know?
@DhongdeSupriya An exceptional superpower to connect to fellow humans! Anywhere, and to anyone, I feel genuinely connected.
@SoniaH_MT Areas where I excel include: planning, policy development, making how-to guides.
Q4. What skills/talents/tasks have other people said you excel at? Do you agree?
@PmTwee Easy-going character makes anybody feel comfortable. It is essential!
@J_Stephens_CPA My passion for teaching others and myself, see how happy I am being back in a teaching/helping role. Service, empathy and faith too have me discerning another role.
Q5. Do you know when you're using your superpower? Does it just happen? How does it feel?
@DrKashmirM Yes, I know when patients say they benefited – after 14 years of treatment from other counsellors with no results. I enjoy such small joys and don't wait for "big joys" to come.
@HloniphileDlam7 For me, it just happens, especially when I see someone in pain or suffering. I don't decide to help... I get this urge to take action. I "make a U-turn" if I have to.
Q6. When might someone not use their superpower? Should they?
@pavelStepanov77 Anything that is too much is never good. Learn to know your place and the right time to use it.
@bluesummitsupp Restraint is a superpower in its own right! Being humble and giving someone else the floor can be valuable in their own personal development. It may even give them the chance to develop a superpower of their own, thus allowing them to help others in the future!
Q7. How does your superpower complement the efforts of others/help them?
@MindfulLifeWork The delivery of the superpower is everything. If someone is thirsty you don't spray them in the face with a firehose, nor do you give them a thimble of water... you give them a pitcher of water and a glass, so they can portion appropriately.
@MikeB_MT A listening superpower can help others' ideas, contributions, and viewpoints emerge. I like to amplify the superpowers of others.
Q8. How have you nurtured or grown your superpower?
@JulieHongNimble Part of nurturing resilience is admitting weakness and vulnerability in order to start working on it and preparing for the next time I get hit with the feeling of helplessness. Not beating myself up over a mistake is also something I had to recently learn to do.
@Midgie_MT I've grown it through simply life experiences. Also, by reminding myself that I have faced challenges in the past and come through them, and that I will be able to do it again.
Q9. How might you help someone to develop their superpower?
@LDresslerplus Help them notice when they experience a state of flow, positivity and zest. Brainstorm how they might create more situations/opportunities like this for themselves.
@Yolande_MT Help them address their excuses and fears regarding their personal growth and developing their superpower.
Q10. What superpower would you like to have, and why? How will you develop it?
@viviantmsg I want to become better at handling stress and change in my life. COVID has shown us just how fragile life as we know it really is, and I want to learn how to stay resilient and keep my hopes high in the face of crisis.
@SizweMoyo Keeping a calm head is a superpower I'd like to have, I tend to get overwhelmed with excitement at random times. Deep breathing is always suggested, I'm giving that a shot.
To read all the tweets, take a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat here.
Coming Up on Mind Tools #MTtalk
Cultivating the ability to learn from your failures and successes is an invaluable superpower. Next time on #MTtalk we're going to talk about how being pruned can create space for new shoots. How have you recovered from job loss or surprise setbacks? Did you start again? Or rediscover a new direction or skill?
Ahead of our upcoming chat, we're running a Twitter poll this week to find out which area of your life you think is most in need of pruning.
In the meantime, if you want to explore the topic that we covered this week, check out the resources below. (Please note that some of these may only be available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club and to Mind Tools for Business licensees.
Managing Gifted People
Benziger's Personality Types
The Nine-Box Grid for Talent Management
Gardner's Multiple Intelligences
The Flow Model