On Value and Talent

How do you leverage your talents to create value?

Find your Zone of Genius!

A lot of people underestimate their value, and the value of what they can offer to the World.

A lot of people underestimate their Talent too.

A few thoughts on Talent 

In 2007, a busker started playing the violin in the subway in New York City. People walked by, barely noticing him. After his 45 minutes of playing six Bach concertos, he collected a total of $32. What these people didn’t know, was that this violinist was Joshua Bell, a famous and world-class violinist. His violin alone (a 1713 Stradivarius) is worth $3.5 million. Two days before, Joshua Bell was playing at a theater in Boston. The show was sold out and the seats averaged $100. This subway performance was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. Watch Joshua Bell’s talent go unappreciated here.

Yes, as human beings, we need to be prepared for an experience. We need to be guided. Sometimes, we need it to be really explicit: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, please welcome this evening, the phenomenal prodigy…” That sets the stage and prepares people to appreciate the experience.

 When I think about “Talent”, the parable from Matthew’s Gospel (25:14) comes to my mind. One does not need to be religious to appreciate the wisdom of this parable. Here is the full version from the King James version, it is worth the read:

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I love this parable, as it shows that talents need to be used. At first, it can seem unfair, as the two servants who spend their talents are rewarded, and the more conservative servant, who buries it in the ground is cast away by God. It is interesting to note that this servant was fearful (verse 25).

Talent comes from latin, talentum, which was a sum of money, as described in the parable. In a more modern sense, it is used as a synonym for skill. The teachings of this parable are applicable to both skills and money.

A lot of coaches are completely unaware of their talents or fearful to use them better. I know many people who could be tremendous professional coaches, but cannot see it for themselves. They dwell in their everyday job, using their coaching talents without being paid for their worth. They are deep listeners, they ask questions instead of giving answers, they have a high intuition and are great at building relationships with people. They are amazing leaders too. Yet, their talent is unappreciated and undervalued in the organizations they work for.

What is holding them back is that they are in their Zone of Excellence, where other people want them to stay. It takes a leap (and a personal commitment) to move to their Zone of Genius.

Gay Hendricks gave a great explanation of the difference between Excellence and Genius. See his model below as to how to use your Talents at their best:

Source: This great article !

One can move from being excellent at something (Zone of Excellence), to focusing on what one is really phenomenal at (Zone of Genius). That is part of the 15 commitments to Conscious Leadership.

To help you find out your zones, here are questions from the Conscious Leadership Group:


What do you consistently get negative feedback about in your work?

What do you do that just about everyone can do better?


What work do you do that others can do just as well or better?

What work do you do well though it doesn’t feel totally satisfying?


What do you consistently get positive feedback about in your work and life?

What do you do better than just about anyone else?


What work do you so love doing that it doesn’t seem like work (it can even be fun and playful !) ?

Which aspects of your work generate the highest ratio of positive results compared to time/energy spent?

A few thoughts on Value

You might already know the story of Picasso, sitting in a restaurant. It was told by Alastair Dryburgh in Everything You Know About Business Is Wrong.

“One day in Paris a wealthy woman goes into a café and sees Picasso.

After a few minutes, she summons up the courage to approach him.

‘Monsieur Picasso,’ she asks, ‘would you make a portrait of me? I’ll pay you anything you want.’

Picasso nods, grabs a menu, and in five minutes has sketched the woman’s portrait on the back of it. He hands it to her.

‘Five thousand francs,’ he says.

‘But Monsieur Picasso, it only took you five minutes.’

‘No, Madam, it took me my whole life.’”

Watch the Master in action:

What strikes me is that Picasso is totally in flow. He is not stressed by time, on the contrary, it helps him.

Furthermore, he is a master of transformation: what he creates transforms over time, so that the final result has nothing to do with what he started with. That is part of the Mystery of Creation.

When you build a value-based career, your clients do not pay for your time. They pay for the value you bring to the table.

The value you bring to the table is your whole life experience. It does not start at your coaching certification, or the couple months where you just started. It encapsulates all your life experiences, the professional as well as the personal.

I had a client who is a keynote speaker, and she brought to the table her whole experience of creating her law firm in the US, another who is a professional photographer in NYC, who brought along all her business background, as well as her training as a beautician.

In fact, the experience you bring with you can go way back to childhood. For me, I started learning conflict resolution as a kid, when my parents argued. I wanted to be the peacemaker. As a sensitive child, it broke my heart to see them argue and I wanted peace at home. That lead me to studying and practicing negotiation in business school, and then being a negotiation and conflict resolution trainer at the Institute for Research and Education on Negotiation (IRENE) at ESSEC Business School in France.

As Ken Wilber says, “transcend and include.” As you aspire to wholeness, and move forward, you bring all your luggage with you. Your baggage becomes your toolbox.

As a coach, your clients don’t pay you for the time they spend with you, but for the value you deliver through your insights.

For instance, during the Deep Dive coaching experience during 3 days with my coach Rich Litvin last December, I felt that I had already received all the value I invested after the first day only. I had arrived in L.A. the day before, and expected to spend the next month in the U.S. Yet, after the first day, I thought: I could book my flight back for tomorrow and leave, and it would already be worth it. I had invested $5000 in that experience.

In his podcast, there are a couple episodes where Rich draws the insight from his clients so effectively, that they are complete after five minutes of conversation. Sometimes they can continue the conversation, but my favourite ones are when he takes them off the hot seat and sends them off straight away (for example in S01E05).

The other day, a client asked me to move our session two weeks further down the road, as he needed more time to digest our last coaching session (which lasted 90 minutes). Coaching can be so powerful that one needs time to integrate and apply the insights.

One must beware of the notion attached behind “Value”. “Value” is not necessarily linked to money. I remember some time ago, I had prepared a session for a client in California, and was about to ask her about her progress on creating her next 6-figure client. Yet, as we connected at the beginning of the session, I noticed the state of distress she was in. She was burned out. Exploring what was going on further, I sent her on the meditation retreat she wanted to do so badly. That was her “homework”. As a high performer, she pushed herself too hard and needed someone to help her give herself permission to blow off some steam. That is the value she got from our coaching together. As a coach, your job is to listen deeply to what your client is saying, not saying, and serve them so deeply that they never forget your conversation for the rest of their life.

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