Strengths Finder Vs Talent Code

Here’s a formula for what I call Human Capacity Optimization.

td + PD + SD + rp + rld = HCO

Recent research in talent development suggests that extraordinary skill can be earned through
the trio of deep practice, ignition, and master coaching (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code, 2009).

Talent —understood as the possession of a repeatable skill that is not dependent
on size— is not something with which someone is born. Neither is talent hardwired
into our being at an early age.

In other words, the “natural” is a myth. Talent can be grown or earned or developed.

On the other hand, many who utilize the Gallup tool StrengthsFinder™ in
their coaching practice, build on the premise that talent
is hard wired into the brain at an early age.

In this framework, talent — defined as a recurring pattern of feeling, thought, or behavior that can be productively applied — must be discovered.

Yes, a raw “talent” must be developed if it is ever to become a strength, but the key to excellence is to focus on the already optimized patterns of feeling, thought, or behavior. Thus, the StrengthsFinder Assessment tool helps participants discover their innate raw talent.

So, are we born with talent or is talent earned?  This is a question that has many expressions: Are leaders made or born? Are entrepreneurs made or born?

As most of you suspect, the answer to this question is not black and white. Some people, for example, seem to be born with a higher risk tolerance than others. This would seem to be a quality necessary for an entrepreneur. But, it is not the only reason people take risks. While there is a genetic component, environment, nurture, and circumstance all play a part. (See, Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?).

While StrengthsFinder and the newest IMN Coaching Tools are premised on different understandings of the brain, they also reinforce one another. Both put emphasis on the development of talent.

Coaches who use the StrengthsFinder must, in the end, design practices and experiences that develop a talent into a strength. Knowing your strengths is not enough. Developing a raw “talent” (which is what the Strengths Finder assessment discovers) into a “strength” will take deep practice, ignition, and master coaching.

Strengths development is aimed (through deep practice) towards a goal that motivates the person (ignition) who is being coached (master coaching). Their talent will surface as they face their “what do I do now” moments in life.

For a real world example of talent development, take Odell Beckham. I was watching the New York Giants play the Dallas Cowboys when I saw Beckham make the greatest catch I had ever seen in my life. As a former quarterback and wide receiver, I have a special appreciation for this kind of feat. I was so moved, I tweeted about it right away.

Here’s the video. Watch the entirety of it for the closeup view. It’s sick. (Note: the NFL won’t let this video open here, but click anyway and watch the video on youtube. The audio reaction of the commentators is worth it).

I watch this and just marvel. But was this just a phenomenon of natural talent? Of course, the man is a beast of natural ability. I was amazed when Talent Code author Daniel Coyle discovered and shared the following video. This is even more amazing than the actual catch. Are you ready for it —Odell Beckham actually trains for this moment.

As my coaches liked to say, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
I have learned that skill can be learned. All skill is a form of memory.
Skill is the way our bodies remember.

But developing skill requires 3 important inputs.

  • The first is a profound and resonating passion that motivates.
  • The second is targeted deep practice.
  • And the third is the power of deep listening and guidance from a master coach.

Great coaching is attentive to

  • (1) what motives the person and connecting at that level
  • (2) the design of practice that targets the necessary improvements
  • (3) deep listening and observation.

In my own coaching practice, I rely more and more on the newest brain research. I find it a powerful framework for transformation. My own Master Coaching formula has become

“talent discovery + practice DESIGN + skill DEVELOPMENT + RESONANCE with passion
+ real life deployment = Human Capacity Optimization. 

What do you think?

Dethroning the King of LA / The Ebb of Car Culture

Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art

Writing Coach, Nic Nelson IMN Mentor, Strategic and Ideational Leadership
Writing Coach, Nic Nelson
IMN Mentor, Strategic and Ideational Leadership

Los Angeles, California is known around the world as a place where the car is king. It is a bellwether city when it comes to automobile culture and traffic management. And on August 11, 2015, the Los Angeles City Council approved a controversial plan to begin removing, rather than adding, traffic lanes to the city’s most important thoroughfares.


Los Angeles has led the way worldwide in creative traffic management engineering for more than half a century. It was the first major city to be geographically and structurally determined by the capabilities of automobiles. Los Angeles’ first automobiles were designed and built there as early as 1897. Detroit soon took over as the heart of automotive manufacturing, but Los Angeles remained the heart of automotive passion and expression from the Roaring Twenties to the present day.

Yet the automobile was never without its challengers. From streetcars and bicycles in the late 1800s to CicLAvia-Ver-Latorre-Flickr_0residential canals, monorail, elevated trains, subways, and regular commuter rail in all the decades since, other forms of transportation have competed passionately against the automobile, and have either been utterly defeated or won very limited successes.

Automobile enthusiasts among urban planners have often pointed to Los Angeles as their inspiration for how a modern megacity can competently handle heavy automobile traffic. If Los Angeles gives up that dream, will another world-class city take its place as the heartbeat of the automobile-centric lifestyle? Or might this signal the beginning of the end of automobile-centric urban planning?


“The Roaring Twenties… set Los Angeles on an irreversible path as a city dominated by the automobile. L.A.’s population of about 600,000 at the start of the 1920s more than doubled during the decade. The city’s cars would see an even greater increase, from 161,846 cars registered in L.A. County in 1920 to 806,264 registered in 1930. In 1920 Los Angeles had about 170 gas stations. By 1930 there were over 1,500.”

“The approved plan places a high priority on traffic safety, including making Vision Zero official citywide policy. L.A. is now committed to ‘decrease transportation-related fatality rate to zero by 2035.’ Public testimony was limited to 20 minutes, and was heavily in favor of plan approval.”

“We’ve been building for the car for about half a century now [in Los Angeles, a whole century!], so it’s understandable that old habits die hard. But the evidence is growing that traffic does indeed disappear and that reallocating road space will lead not to commuter chaos but rather to better conditions for those on foot and on bikes. Research has established the theory of disappearing traffic. Now leading cities around the world are beginning to test it.”


On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life. Edited by Amy Walker; quoted article by Bonnie Fenton. Published by New World Library, Novato California (2011) p.349-354.

Cannabis and Church Leadership: a comment

Thanks to Greg for his comment on the Cannabis Question. The original scan hit from our “dispatches from the future” is pasted below Greg’s comment.
Greg Borchert, Guest Writer. Greg is a health enthusiast, business owner, and executive search professional.


On the marijuana question, I think those who are uninformed tend to lump it all together.  First, pot in some forms is an effective medication.  You have to separate recreational pot use from medical pot use.


Would you dismiss an Elder who was taking pot medically to control chemotherapy nausea?  Would you dismiss an Elder who was orally ingesting cannabis medication to handle chronic pain?
The insanity of our pharmaceutical culture is that people are fine taking dangerous prescription drugs, often with negative side effects and at great financial cost, but not OK with various natural forms of medication.
When I crashed my bike last August and broke my acetabular, requiring major surgery and now two six inch screws in my pelvis, I was on powerful painkillers.  That was necessary in the hospital but I wanted to wean myself from them as quickly as possible.  The doctors sent me home with 240 30mg Oxycontin, a smaller number of Oxycodone, and two or three other medications.  They expected that I would be taking this crap for months.
The Oxycontin was certainly effective for pain, but it also meant cold sweats, waking up in the middle of the night with damp bedding, hallucinations of sorts, active dream states while awake, and an inability to be mentally sharp at work.
I immediately established my own tapering schedule as you can’t just stop taking these things all at once. I worked my way completely off all of them 10 days after hospital discharge, and then switched to a strong Indica cannabis hybrid to help me sleep and adjust to the pain.
Since I live in Colorado, this was of course legal and readily available.  The cannabis was very effective.  I slept well, no cold sweats, and woke up the next day comparatively clear headed.  I did this cannabis treatment for another 10 days and then quit all treatment completely and got back to my normal life.
The surgeon told me that I would be in a wheelchair for 10 to 12 weeks minimally, and in rehabilitative therapy for another 4 to 8 weeks. I was out of the wheelchair and walking 4 weeks after surgery, and the physical therapist assigned to me stopped seeing me 2 weeks later because I could already do her full routines.
The biggest health problem in our culture is that people don’t think for themselves. They don’t take care of their health, don’t eat right, don’t exercise, and delegate the most critical aspects of their lives to medical practitioners who at best have only partial answers.


So, would a congregation dismiss me as Elder because I do what I need to do to take care of my health?  I think that’s the real question.
Also, again, people who aren’t very knowledgeable about cannabis should be aware that it’s extremely varied in effect.  Sativa cannabis strains are entirely different than Indica cannabis strains.  The problem with grouping it all together is that a little bit of Sativa might be like a glass of wine, and a little bit of Indica might be like a pint of Everclear…grain alcohol. One might be intellectually stimulating and energizing, and the other knock you on your butt and put you to sleep.

What we have in this era of hybridization is an extremely varied mix. There are strains now that have very little THC and no euphoric effects but high cannabinoid content and high pain effectiveness.


So, it’s dangerous to lump it all together.
I think much of the problem is that pharmaceutical companies don’t want people to self-medicate. They want to sell us drugs.  There are currently scores of different medical trials around the world using various cannabis-based substances. There are two pharmaceutical drugs on the market right now where the active ingredient is a form of cannabis. As soon as a big pharmaceutical company can sell it to us, it’s all OK.
I personally separate this though from recreational drug use.  I think implementing cannabis use into religious worship would be completely off the mark.  I would question why anyone thinks that’s a good idea. I also think that someone whose life is out of control because of any form of substance abuse, whether prescribed or not, might need some guidance and help with treatment and healing.  If I was a Head Elder I would first honestly evaluate the situation and see how I could help.
And here’s the ORIGINAL SCAN HIT to which Greg replied.


CANNABIS. Majority of key swing-state voters support legal weed. In a recent session with Pastors I asked them to imagine a world in which Pot had the same social status as wine. Would the use of cannabis in their minds disqualify an elder from service?

To take things a bit further, I was recently chatting with a friend of mine, Gene, who works with college students. In our conversation I told him that I imagine that within 5 years, we’ll see a church incorporate cannabis into its worship experience. It could be a new church launch or it could be an established church. Either way, it will make having church in a nightclub or pub seem like the good old days when morality still meant something.

What do you think?

“Anthropocene” may become an official unit of Geologic Time

The early readers of my book, MAKERS OF FIRE, will be familiar with the term, Anthropocene, which means the “era of age of man.” It has been an informal designation until now. This Friday in Berlin a task force will meet to consider making Anthropocene official. (Thanks to Michael McManus for the find)

“The Anthropocene Working Group assembles in Berlin on Friday, an interdisciplinary body of scientists and humanists working under the umbrella of the International Commission on Stratigraphy and “tasked with developing a proposal for the formal ratification of the Anthropocene as an official unit amending the Geological Time Scale“.

From the Independent


Three Crucial Issues

One of the keys to understanding social change is to keep your finger on the pulse of culture. In my book, Makers of Fire (November 2014), I call this the fuel of the triangle of combustion. Let’s put this in the form of a question:

Where are the trigger points that are shaping the narratives of faith and culture?

Over the next year, I want to focus on several cultural issues that are shaping the narrative of both faith and culture. Here are three of these issues.


There are more singles today than ever. Divorce rates are high. (So high, for example, in Montreal that, in anticipation of a likely divorce, newly married couples must pay an additional administrative fee to legally change the bride’s name to her new married name). The acceptance of Gay marriage is changing the meaning and usage of the word marriage.

Young urban affluents write about the negative economic impact of having children. Others express concern over how bearing children taxes the environment. Still others write about killing their children to reduce their carbon footprint. Recently one young lady even filmed her abortion to show that it was no big deal.

In the future children may be incubated within artificial wombs, raised by nanny-bots, and live out their lives in a world of fewer children.

Tech magazines write about porn as if it were a normal and acceptable aspect of society. The rise of sensitive robots points to a potential future of unprecedented human-machine relationships. We will see a rise in the legal commercial sex industry around the globe.

Needless to say, mindsets are changing.
We often acknowledge how things are changing, but do we stop to consider how we are changing.. and being changed?

What is the future of marriage? What is the future of sex? What is the future of the family? What is the future of children?

How might followers of Christ understand the changes that are underway in light of their story? To draw upon biblical imagery, where is the spirit hovering upon the face of the deep, upon the chaos of our present moment?

the spirituality of leading from the future
Preorder your copy…


For millions of years before the rise of humans, living things experienced suffering, pain, and death. Multiple species of humans walked on Earth before the emergence of modern humans. New knowledge of this kind shakes the underpinnings of many who read the Bible as a chronological history.

The rise of Islam brings to the forefront billions of people who believe that God wrote a book. And millions of Christians feel the same way about the Bible that Muslims feel about the Qu’ran.

At the same time, are we hearing rumblings that some western Christ followers will want to distance themselves from both fundamentalist Muslims and Christians? Meanwhile, a conservative and fundamentalist Christianity rises in the developing world and promises to be the global religion of the future.

What might be the future relationship of the Christ following faith to its scripture? Is the Bible a divine book? Or is this bibliolatry? Is the Bible only human literature? Or is this blasphemy?


In his book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakariah argued that The United States is no longer the epicenter of global culture. Where might global culture be going? In another book, The Next One Hundred Years, George Friedman argues that the United States will remain the center of the world for the next 100 years.

Where might current trends of immigration, an aging population, and military prowess be leading us? What might North America look like towards the end of the 21st century and how might that impact what we do today?

These are three critical issues (among many) which will require answers from us in the very near future. They represent some of the trigger points that are shaping our cultural narrative. Where do the cultural narratives and faith narratives merge and where do they diverge? How can followers of Christ, regardless of geography, frame a Christ following mission for the next century and beyond? What does 21st century discipleship look like in light of massive cultural changes? As cultures change and paradigms shift, where is our own story taking us? How can we respond to the competing narratives around us and tell the story of Christ (and where faith is taking the world) in a compelling way?

I hope these questions primed the pump of your imagination. They have mine.

Join Alex McManus, author of Makers of Fire, for IMN 2015 in Orlando, Fl on Feb 2-6. He will discuss, during the Master Class Certificate sessions, the skills necessary to understand and navigate these kinds of rapid cultural changes through the analogy of Making Fire.

IMN 2015

Strategic Leadership (February 3-5)
Human Capacity Mentor (February 3-5)
Master Class Cultural Architect Certificate (February 2-6)

Preorder MAKERS OF FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future

Social Media on Your Walls

Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art

Immersive, three dimensional, virtual reality comes to social networks and into your home.

My son, Lucas, and I got the chance to try Oculus Rift — a headset that immerses you into a 3-dimensional virtual space — before it hit the market. Besides feeling a bit of motion sickness, I had the feeling I had seen the future. Now things have gone to the next level.

Here’s a short video that demonstrates how oculus rift can make your entire room a virtual reality space.

Remember the fictional holodeck, the virtual reality space on the Starship Enterprise? Well once again, science fiction takes a step closer to reality. Oculus Rift has obvious benefits for gamers but, since we’re comparing reality to science fiction, prepare for the powers of the dark side, the inhumane porn industry , to lead the way.

What impressed me the most is the nonchalant way the writers of these pieces talk about the porn industry as if it were just a normal (acceptable?) part of society.

It would be so easy to get excited about this new technology if it didn’t portend a future of young men lost in a dehumanizing world of virtual sex. The battle for the future minds, wills, and lives of the young is further endangered by a society that is the 21st century blossoming of the 1960’s “me generation” with its progressive dogmas characterized by the proverbs, “who are you to judge others?” and “if it feels good do it.”

There will always be those who earn their living by exploiting the vices of others. But we are now living in a culture without virtue, a culture that speaks of those who prey on the weaknesses of the young and the vulnerable as if they’re just nice guys in the neighborhood. Culture is becoming partner to the predators. As a balancing factor, not everyone is convinced that 3-D VR will be successful. But eventually VR will be a part of the human experience.

“If you think you’re impressed now, just wait till the boys over at PornHub get ahold of this technology.”


The World’s First Family Robot

Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art

Jibo wants to be a member of your family. Jibo is a very sleek and, dare I say, cute little robot that is both humanly warm and helpful. It will keep you company. Order your dinner. Give you reminders. Take your pictures. And talk to you all day. The creator of Jibo wants us to think of technology as a partner in your everyday life not just a tool to accomplish a task. This will be a major shift in the relationship between man and machine. Aesthetically, Jibo reminds one of Eve, the female robotic love interest in the Pixar movie Wall-e. The game changer with Jibo is it’s predictive programming that not only remembers your preferences and choices but anticipates your wants and needs. Could this be the next step towards a mind-numbing life not unlike Captain B. McCrea and passengers of his spaceship, Axiom?

This is a significant step towards the humanization of robot-to-human interaction. The interactive experience has a very human-esque quality to it. This further blurs the line between humans and technology. Seeing robots as partners is a significant expression of that blurry line. It paves the way for robots to function as replacements for real human beings.

The convergence of articulated mechanical hands and feet, affectionate robots ( see scan hit on The World’s First Affectionate Robot), and predictive programming can become a major step towards creating human like androids.

Could these androids and our dependency on them eventually replace people who have traditionally functioned as PSWs, EMTs, nanny’s, and babysitters? Could predictive programming potentially diminish our capacity to think for ourselves?

“Things begin to get complicated when robots go beyond basic manual, bureaucratic, and cognitive labor and become tools for us to outsource intimate experiences and functions to. Part of Jibo’s appeal is that it will let you to stop thinking. That is a disconcerting change, one which over time, can profoundly impact who we are.”

-Evan Selinger, WIRED


Robot Servants Are Going to Make Your Life Easy. Then They’ll Ruin It

The World’s First Affectionate Robot


Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art


On June 5, 2014 Softbank Chairman and CEO, Masayoshi Son, introduced the first affectionate robot to the world. Built in partnership with Aldebaran Robotics SAS, “Pepper’s” human like qualities are driven by an “emotional engine” and a cloud-based AI. It is Softbank’s intention to install affectionate robots in several of its retail location in Japan. Pepper will be available to the Japanese consumer by 2015.


Human like robots are not a new idea. People have been imagining them for much of the past century. What makes this finding significant is that for the first time, affectionate robots are being introduced to the consumer market. No longer limited to the realm of science fiction novels and movies. These are not robots that take the place of human manual labour. Rather, robots that could soon replace human warmth and human contact. They are lauded as being able to replace a “babysitter, nurse, and emergency medical worker.” And they have the ability to improve their emotional intuition and response. The more they experience, the more they will learn…and evolve. Machines with emotional intelligence.

What will an AI that has been given 25-30 years of life experience look like? Sound like? Act like? Feel like? Could this be the beginning of the beginning of sentient machines? And how ubiquitous will these affectionate robots be in 2045?


“It’s either a technological breakthrough or the most terrifying robot advancement I’ve ever heard of.” -Lance Ulanoff, Chief Correspondent and Editor-at-Large of Mashable.


The Avatar Blues

avatar-movie-posterBy now most of you have seen James Cameron’s blockbuster movie, AVATAR.
The night I saw it I knew this movie would strike a chord with large audiences worldwide. I tweeted that anyone who saw the movie was going to want to live on Pandora, the home planet of the 10-foot tall, blue skinned Na´vi.

The Na´vi people are tall, thin, tribal, handsome and fiercely brave. Pandora, their planet, is as beautiful as it is dangerous. The Na´vi live in a ubiquitous communion with each other and their world. The conflict arises when an evil corporation (surprise!) from Earth wants to exploit large deposits of a treasured mineral located directly under the Na´vi’s ancient home.

Interestingly enough, CNN reports that audiences are experiencing depression after viewing the movie, with some even entertaining suicidal thoughts. Others are experiencing an increased disgust with humanity.

I mentioned to a new friend of mine how I felt that many viewers would want to live on Pandora. He said to me in return that he asked his wife to paint herself blue. To me, these are totally understandable responses. The Na´vi live in community. The Na´vi are exotic, wise, fierce, and sexy. Their planet, Pandora, is filled with cool flora and fauna. Life there is an adventure.

Ok, so the fantastical Pandora is cool. What’s not to like?
But thoughts of suicide? Anger with the humans?

Many of us feel a slight melancholy when we finish a great novel, or when a favorite television series ends. But depression?

Still, perhaps there is something here that we should pay attention to. Sometimes we minimize the distance between the world we live in, the world “as it is”, and the world we dream of, the world as “it could be”. The Na´vi live in the kind of dense community we long for but cannot seem to find. They are exotic, fierce, wise, and sexy. We are not blue, not fierce, often confused, and mostly look awful in thong underwear. Their lush planet and colorful lives are filled with adventure. Our lives seem gray in comparison.

Here’s where it all began to break down for me. The CNN article tells us, “Compared to life on earth Pandora is beautiful and glowing utopia”.

What? What planet does CNN broadcast from?

This copy “compared to life on earth…” is a line written by someone who never gets out. Heck, you don’t even have to go outside. Get the Discovery Channel for God’s sake.

Perhaps part of the problem is that while we wished we could live on amazing fictional planets, we’ve never taken the steps to really live here on this planet.

We are estranged from each other and our world, but not because humans suck and the “world is dying” (as one of the depressed said of Earth). Our problem is that we lack a mission worth giving our lives to, something worth defending, something worth dying for. Without this we often feel an emptiness to our lives and routines. Another part of the problem is that we spend too much time being heroes in fantasy worlds and games. We live action packed lives vicariously through television and movies. Since I adore movies and TV let me qualify this. “Too much time” is a relative. Some of us “experience” adventure before our screens to the exclusion of the surrounding real world that is filled with amazing adventures, vicious predators, and lots of opportunities to die doing something really daring.

Just a couple of days before I heard about the “Avatar blues” I was listening to a new friend of mine, Steve, tell of his experience on a hunt in Africa. He and a mutual friend of ours, Terry, had fired on a Rhino and the behemoth charged them. Steve tells me that you could feel the ground tremble as this angered beast ran at them. Terry, he said, took two steps forward at the Rhino, ground trembling beneath their feet, cocked his gun, and fired.

That’s not fiction. That’s adventure. Earth is as beautiful, as dangerous, as lush a utopia as Pandora. There is a difference. Utopia means “no place”. That describes Pandora people – no place. It’s not real. Earth, however, is real. You just gotta get out now and then.

I wonder what would happen if some of us actually got to live on Pandora? Would we spend our “Pandoran” days playing fantasy games in which our avatars were Earthlings like Steve and Terry who actually went out on a rhino hunt and had adventures?

So put the remote down. Here’s the call: Heroes Wanted in the fight for humanity and for the quest to save the planet. Safe Return Doubtful.

what do you think?