When Steve Jobs died in 2011 at age 56, he was the famous CEO of Apple Inc., one of the world’s most successful technology companies. Widely regarded as the visionary behind landmark Apple products such as the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad, Jobs’ passion for technology might not have been discovered were it not for two crucial influences in his youth.
Jobs’ adoptive father liked to work with automobiles, and shared his mechanical interest with his son at an early age. Though young Steve did not like to get his hands dirty, he showed an intense curiosity in the rudiments of electronics his father taught him. That interest grew when he met a neighbor who introduced him to hobbyist kits that let him build electronic test equipment, radios and even televisions. Jobs later said that building these kits “gave a tremendous level of self-confidence, that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one’s environment” (“Steve Jobs interview: One-on-one in 1995,” Computerworld.com, October 6, 2011).
These youthful explorations fueled a powerful lifelong obsession with technology that has affected millions of people. Jobs’ technology focus became a personal passion that defined his character. Though Jobs did not frame his own journey in Christian terms, he was certainly an example of the biblical principle: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Part of the challenge of adolescence is to find out “who we are” as unique human beings. One aspect of this is to discover our strengths and our weaknesses—what we are good at, and where we can improve. Understanding that every human being has both weaknesses and strengths is a vital aspect of developing maturity.
To some degree, our self-image is shaped by what others think of us. This can be unhealthy, if we give in to peer pressure to make unwise and unhealthy choices. Yet we should not ignore other people’s positive input, and even their correction. As we develop our unique strengths, we can better resist the wrong kinds of peer pressure. I know this firsthand because I, too, experienced the challenge of discovering my unique talents as I was growing up.
I grew up as the youngest of four brothers. Because we were close in age, we went through school together. For most of that time, I was known as “Wayne’s brother” (or Cap’s or Jim’s). In high school, each of my brothers became known for a particular athletic talent. Since my athletic ability was modest, people did not see me as having a particular talent, until something happened during my junior year.
The previous year, Cap and Wayne and I had taken a beginning guitar class to satisfy our school’s music requirement. My brothers did well enough, but their interest was limited to the coursework, while I went beyond the assignments and learned to play for my own enjoyment. So, as a junior, I enrolled in jazz band as the sole guitarist.
At first, I was intimidated by the idea of performing with a group of experienced musicians who had been playing together for years. But I wanted to pursue something I enjoyed and was good at, so I practiced with extra diligence the first few weeks. Because I had both the basic skill and a love for playing, my ability increased enough that I could contribute to the band.
When we began to play in public, people started to notice me as “the guitarist.” My confidence grew, as I had developed a skill for which none of my brothers was known. Moreover, I found that my confidence in this one area bled over into other areas of interest, giving me the courage to pursue other new areas of personal development.
Perhaps you have not yet discovered the unique strengths that define your personality. How, then, can you locate your particular talents and aptitudes? Consider these three simple points, from the book King Me by author Steve Farrar:
Of course, you will never know you have natural ability in an area if you do not at least give it a try! This is why it is so important to take advantage of every positive opportunity presented to you. Do not let fear or unfamiliarity hold you back. There may be many more opportunities available than you realize—perhaps at your school, or through your church, or through family members and friends. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons through experiences that take you out of your ordinary routine. This may involve summer camp, or learning to play a musical instrument, or taking an internship in a field you think you might like to explore—or even something as simple as exploring a museum in a subject that fascinates you.
Your process of discovery may launch a career that will fulfill you and even touch many lives, as it did for Steve Jobs. But even if you do not become “the next Steve Jobs,” you will be glad to have developed some enjoyable skills, as I did by learning the guitar. The Apostle Paul twice in Scripture describes the Christian life as a “labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 6:10). That can be true of your personal talents as well. You can be sure that you—and others around you—will benefit as you discover and develop your unique personal talents.