My struggle with finding what I am good at

 May 2, 2016

By  Casey Berman


Our Unique Genius is something I like to write about a lot.

Our Unique Genius are those skills and strengths and enjoyment that come so naturally to us, so authentically to us, so easily to us that we don’t even think of them as a skill. We just do them.

Unique Genius is something I am always working on for myself. It’s something I am always talking with my coaching students about.

It’s something that is the crux of leaving the law: Instead of pursuing jobs and a career based on not-the-most-fulfilling reasons (money, status, title, security, what other people think is right), we can use our Unique Genius to help inform and identify a more authentic and aligned and happier career path and job search.

For me, throughout my life I have kind of had an idea of what I was good at (speaking, writing, interpersonality).

But, admittedly, I never had a firm grasp on what it was. I didn’t ever think that critically about it.

And that’s because I didn’t really need to think that much about it – like most of us, I was able to do pretty well on all of the “right†things in life (school, grades, standardized tests) so much so that I met “success†how our society defined it: professional degree, professional license, professional job.

For me, I have kind-of-always had an idea of what I was good at throughout my life (speaking, writing, interpersonality).

But, admittedly, I never had a firm grasp on what I was good at. I didn’t think that critically about it.

And to be honest, I didn’t need to really think that much about it – like most of us, I was able to do pretty well on all of the “right†things in life (school, grades, standardized tests) so much so that I met “success†how our society defined it: professional degree, professional license, professional job.


Unhappiness forces exploration

It wasn’t until I became unhappy as a professional lawyer, around 2002, that I was forced to wonder and examine what it was I was really good at.

And it wasn’t easy for an unhappy attorney like myself to clearly identify what I was good at.

It’s pretty evident what a good singer is good at. You can see what a good athlete excels at. You can see what the top law firm partner does well.

But for those of us who aren’t a fit with being a lawyer. What are we good at? The tangible results are harder to glean. Or they are hidden. Or we need to be doing something else to see them.

It wasn’t until 2009, right before I started this blog, that I really started getting a handle on my Unique Genius.

And someone else had to point it out to me.

That year, I was asked to give a talk at a Career Services event at my alma mater University California, Hastings College of the Law. The talk was entitled “Alternative Careers for a Lawyer.†I had left law in 2004 and after a number of professional twists and turns was doing management and strategy consulting.

I expected 5 people to show up. 55 showed up. This was right in the middle of the recession. Many UC Hastings grads had lost their jobs or were thinking of a career change or they were current students unsure about the future, looking to take their degree in a new direction. People needed hope. They needed motivation. They wanted new ideas. They wanted to see what steps they could take to change their lives.

The talk went very well. I spoke of our Unique Genius. I spoke of our transferable skills. I spoke of networking and getting out there.

People nodded their heads at my talk. They asked engaging questions. I loved the public speaking, I loved speaking from the heart. I was so happy (so happy!) that I could help. I stayed for an hour afterwards answering questions.

It just came naturally to me – the speaking, the ideas, the personal story, the motivating words, the sincerity, the engaging with people.

I began the Leave Law Behind blog the next month.  And one person I met at the talk followed up with me and became my first Leave Law Behind coaching client (he successfully left the law and now is a rising star in mobile technology security, listen to him speak.)

As the night wound down, I was gathering some of my handouts, and saying my goodbyes. As I grabbed one last chocolate chip cookie for the road, Sari Zimmerman of the UC Hastings Career Services came up to me.

She told me something that has driven me to this very day: Casey, she said, your Unique Genius is you give people the courage to take the next step.


But what does this all really mean?

See, it’s amorphous and ambiguous this Unique Genius thing. “Courage to take the next step� I loved what Sari said. But I struggled with what she meant by it. “Courage to take the next step� What does this all really mean? I’ve been slowly answering that question ever since.

Exploring what we are good at, and what value we can bring to the world, can (will) at first bring up more questions than answers.

It is confusing when we explore what makes us tick. It is ambiguous when we look deep into our soul and try to marry it with tangible skills. It is gut wrenching to look at our past and feel the regret or doubt or pain we may experienced.

Which is why so many of us do not explore our Unique Genius.

So many of us do not do it.

So many of us do not do it.

Come, let’s do it. C’mon now. I know, I know, it’s so hard. And if this is what it takes to leave the law, we say to ourselves, then I just might not be leave-the-law-material, we say this, yes we say this, but we don’t feel it, no we don’t feel it, deep down, deep down, we know we can add value, we know we can help, we know it, we know it, we know we are here for more. It’s the distress and the disconnect and the rupture, that while painful, is evidence to us that we are here for more. If we didn’t feel the pain then we wouldn’t know that we have more to do.

But it’s so difficult to start. And when we do, we come across these ambiguous phrases (“Courage to take the next stepâ€) and we are confused as to how to make money off of these skills. We do not know anyone who will ever want these skills.


Ambiguity = good

But the ambiguity is not there to frighten us, it’s there to welcome us. It’s there to tell us that now, things will be different. The ambiguity and confusion is there to let us know that there is no structure being created for us. The ambiguity and confusion are there to let us know that we now can create for ourselves.

Did you read that carefully? Do you see the power in that?

We now can create a structure for ourselves. No more LSAT prep class schedule. No 1L section meet and greet schedule. No professor office hour schedule. No final exam schedule. No OCI schedule. No bar prep schedule. No law firm associate schedule.

There is ambiguity and confusion and pain and regret and tears and “why me?!†and feelings of lost potential and fear of ridicule because we are now about to create a life of our own choosing.

I don’t remember if I asked Sari what she meant exactly, or if she could elaborate further. I think the meaning was up to me. And I slowly found a way to turn “helping people to become courageous” into a business. It was up to me to interpret and act on.

It’s now up to us. It’s now up to you.

Ready to take BACK Control of Your Life?

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  1. This is fabulous. You can find the “uniquely amazing you” through a personal potential appraisal, mindfulness training, and seeking feedback. I did this and what is really great is that legal profession can be morphed into many things to use what you are you are uniquely talented to do. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Hi Ashleigh, thank you so much for the comment! I’m going to reach out to you directly, I love what you’re doing on your blog!

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