Why the Best Business Advice Came From Mr. Rogers

By Adam Mendler

My favorite television shows of all time are "Seinfeld" and "Married with Children," but when I was in preschool I was hooked on "Sesame Street" and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." As you get older, it is easy to dismiss the first lessons you learned (especially those from television programs targeted toward young children) as overly simplistic and hokey, irrelevant to those of us who have grown out of our infatuation with Big Bird. But whenever given the opportunity to share my single best piece of advice -- in classrooms, to interns, to friends and even on dates -- I am reminded that Mr. Rogers was right on the money.

I am a very firm believer that most people are bad at most things. I personally am bad at so many things that I can’t even attempt to list them all out because the list would be so long. This is not false modesty. I am reminded every day of something that I am really bad at. Among the many: I was the last kid to figure out how to tie my shoes and that has manifested itself into struggling to put my workout gear on for a class I have been going to once a week for a few years. No one would confuse me with Bill Nye … or Anthony Bourdain … or Mike Trout … or Michael Jordan.

Fortunately, I am not bad at everything and neither are you. We are all objectively good at a few things. But more importantly, we are all exceptional in one distinct way. We each possess a defining feature that differentiates us from every other person in our midst. Each one of us has an extremely special and unique quality, trait or, as a friend defined it, superpower. It is not a superficial marker, like being good at soccer or being nice but rather a defining characteristic that sets you apart from your friends, family, co-workers and everyone else you know.

I have come to learn that most people are unaware of their superpower, between those who have yet to recognize that they have one and those who have failed to dig deep enough to discover what makes them truly unique. In working to uncover your special talent, it is imperative to engage in intense introspection and, if need be, to probe people in your life who know you well, soak in their perspectives and hone in on a common theme.

Mr. Rogers used to conclude each show by telling his viewers that each one of them is unique, different and special: “There's no person in the whole world like you.” Understanding not just that you are special, but how you are special, can be transformative personally and professionally. Once you fully grasp how you can be most valuable, you can apply your superpower to a vocation that will allow you to thrive. If you are gifted at the art of persuasion, you can enjoy tremendous success as a salesperson or in a role negotiating deals. If you possess exceptional quantitative skills, you can be a great hedge fund manager or data scientist. If your talent is selling, do not spend your career crunching numbers as an accountant. And if you are extraordinary with numbers but poor with people, avoid working in sales.

Figuring out what makes you great and monetizing it will allow you to live a happier life, as you will excel at what you do and will be more likely to intrinsically enjoy your work. It took me some time both to discover my superpower and to frame my thinking around capitalizing on it. The process started by learning what I was bad at and evolved into recognizing how I am unique. Even in my case, however, understanding how to best apply my superpower is a work in progress and a significant part of the entrepreneurial journey. I continue to confer with those who I trust and encourage you to do the same. While I no longer turn to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" when I want my television fix, I turn to the essence of Mr. Rogers’ advice in informing how to spend my time, energy and focus. And you should too.

Adam Mendler is CEO of The Veloz Group and founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions

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