"Uniquely Suited"

Most folks who know me know that I'm an HR guy - have been for a long time. Now, there's a lot to the HR function, truth be told - it's more than hiring and firing (or as Kai says, "recruiting and decruiting", which I love!) That said, firing does remain a part of the job, and I've had to do a lot of it lately.

I remember my first job after the Army; I was an HR guy for a company that was in trouble, and were doing huge rounds of layoffs, hundreds of people at a time. I was really struggling with the emotions of it all. It can be really hard; you're delivering a message that no one wants to hear, and people are reacting in whatever way is authentic for them: anger or calmness, tears or smiles, soft words or hard ones, accepting or argumentative. As I was working through this, I asked my boss for some guidance as to how I could best get through it, and her answer was:

"Some people are uniquely suited to certain things in life, and like it or not, you are well suited to firing people. You remain calm and cool under pressure; you deliver the message with respect and dignity; you address people's behavior, and not their inner core. Just know that even though delivering the message is hard and the message in a tough one, people are better for hearing it from you."

This phrase, "uniquely suited", has stuck with me ever since, and that's what I want to write about today.

More of a question, really: are we uniquely suited for certain tasks, roles, skills? I think we are. Mozart was uniquely suited to music, Michael Jordan was uniquely suited to basketball, my wife Ginger is uniquely suited to parenting. But it's harder to reconcile when you may be uniquely suited to do something but have absolutely no passion to do it; God forbid I should ever be passionate about firing people!

But when I dig deeper, I think what my old boss was trying to say was not that I was uniquely suited for firing people, but that I was uniquely suited for treating people directly, but with dignity and compassion during difficult times. Now that I am passionate about; and as before, God forbid I should ever lose my passion for helping people through hard times.

I think there are two ways to look at this. First, what are you as a parent uniquely suited for and passionate about? Do you demonstrate that for and with your children so they can see and feel what it's like to pursue a passion? While I don't think we can (or should) make our kids do things, I do think that they model the behavior they see to a certain degree (as Gandhi said, "we must become the change we want to see in the world.")

The other aspect is how we help our children discover what they're suited for. If anyone reads this, I'd love to hear your thoughts because while I have a take, I'd like some additional perspective. I guess the way we've approached it is to provide as many opportunities as we can for our kids to learn about new things, and then helped them find ways to explore their passions. For example, Kai found a TV show a few years ago about martial arts that he really enjoyed, which has led to karate lessons and his dream of moving to Japan and learning every martial art there is. We've helped him with this as much as we can - guiding him to websites, helping him find books and CDs, etc. I think he's uniquely suited to it; he's quite good. More importantly, he loves it!

Assuming we have to work at all, finding work that we're passionate about is critical, in my opinion. But look beyond the title of the job and the duties, and focus on what skills and abilities you bring to the job. For example, I do not enjoy decruiting (a duty); but I love helping people, coaching, teaching, solving problems, etc (skills and abilities.) So I suppose I am passionate about the things I get to do at work, and that maybe, just maybe, I am uniquely suited to them. Hope you can find the same, because it's better for you and your family if you enjoy the work that you do, and it helps you "be the change you want to see in the world."


  1. Don't know that I should be listed in the same paragraph as Mozart and Jordan! But I do know I love being with our kids and experiencing life with them. Thank you, sweetie!

  2. I'd like to add that you seem "uniquely suited" to writing and sharing your perspectives about unschooling through blogging. I really enjoy your posts and it always gives me food for thought. Glad your blogging!