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What makes you special?

Image credit: Speak to Children

Tonight, my (almost) 7 years old daughter asked me: Tato*, what makes you special?

… pause …

As you can assume, I didn’t know what to make of it! When I asked her what she means by that, she told me that she thinks she is good at drawing, so that makes her “special” in her mind and she wants to know what is it that I am good at?!

This made me think — I did wiggle out of a straight answer, btw! — Am I so good at something that I feel special about it? What does being special mean, after all?

I know I am a unique person with own behavior, dreams and wishes for the future. I know that if someone looks hard enough they’ll find few things that make me different from the other 7 billion people on this planet — but that makes me as special as a zebra is special because of its pattern being unique among all other zebras and that is not what my daughter really meant!

No matter how hard I think about it, I don’t think I am able to point at anything and with some confidence or pride say, this is what I am really good at, this is what makes me special! I don’t believe “being good at something” is a state that should be measured, actually. I prefer “being better than last time” as that is what my passions make me strive for.

Thinking about this made me realize why I love learning so much — in fact, the best way to make me feel miserable is to take all learning opportunities away from me! I love learning because that makes me become a better person with each new experience! I should explain the “better person” part.

Learning often leads me into new territories where I feel uncomfortable because I know so little about. When that happens it almost feels like I am going back, but then I remind myself that it is only fair to compare my new understanding with my ignorance for the area before I stumbled upon it. And ignorance, contrary to the popular belief, is not a blissful state to be!

With ignorance, we let walls be built to limit our lives. In the short-term, it may feel like ignorance makes us happier, but it goes against our innate drive to be in control of our lives. The self that we’re is a complex package of fluffy stuff like emotions and feelings, hard to control desires and cravings, learned responses to social pressures and acceptable behaviors… When we ignore a part of who we are, I believe we become a lesser self! We’re no longer authentic and we play someone else’s role.

While I don’t know if I am good at it or not, I know I have found my passion in one thing — I want to empower others to be more of their authentic selves in their interactions with me! I would like to push people feel uncomfortable when they meet ignorance as I do, so they can learn and in return push me in a different direction to learn more. I need that feedback loop as my learning will be limited otherwise.

To do this, I see these three principles as important to me:

  • Never settle for ignorance,
  • Always be part of a change — instead of cheering or booing from the side, and
  • Make my learning transparent — and expect others do the same in return!

I don’t know if these principles will make me special — probably not if special means different, since if you agree with me on them that would make two of us ;-) — but I know I won’t be bored for sure!

How about you, what makes you special? ;-)


* Tato – is how my two daughters call me (it means “dad” in Macedonian), regardless of the language they use with me ;-)

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  1. April 9, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Hi Kima,
    How are you doing? If there is no new post from you, I assume you are busy having some quality time with the family and also getting onboard with some new aspects of your life! :)
    I don’t know if I have great answer to your question Kima.. I have a feeling that over the years, I have turned into a mediocre person.. It is hard to imagine myself as a once great curious and academically thriving student! :( Of course, I know you don’t think academics and success don’t necessarily mean the same thing, but somehow I always think there is room for improvement in everything I do..
    But as you have suggested in your answer here, I have always found that you have profound knowledge in anything you speak or write, and don’t leave any topic with just superficial knowledge.. Now that makes you special!! :)
    Hope you get a chance to write about your Spring break holidays.. That will be fun ;)
    Cheers!
    Rachana.

    • April 18, 2011 at 12:36 am

      Hey Rachana,

      sorry for my late reply — as I am sure you can understand, the combination of cloudy days impacting my ability to stay up late and the transition to a new day job on top of being busy with TEDxKids@BC preventing my brain to wind down from the daily happenings, I find it hard to concentrate and write anything else. It took me so much to reply to your comment, let alone write a new post :-( … and I am not the type to reply back with a simple thank you ;-)

      Not that I am not writing, I probably write more now than I did last year, except I do that in documents and emails instead of blogs ;-)

      When I read “It is hard to imagine myself as a once great curious and academically thriving student!” I had hard time thinking of a meaningful answer, but I got one after attending http://edcampvancouver.org yesterday … what started as a reply to your comment here, though, turned into a blog post at http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/i-learn-for-living/ ;-) … I hope you’ll find my thoughts helpful!

      As for the spring break trip to Seattle … maybe another time ;-)

      I was so happy to see your new post today, btw! I hope all is great with you and your family!!

      • April 18, 2011 at 1:58 am

        Hey writing is writing whether it is in documents or emails.. or blogs.. Ha ha.. Sorry to hear that Kima, I know how frustrating it is when you want to write something and you are just too busy for that.. Sometime back I looked at Coopcatalyst and did not find you as the author or any blog posts, so I did not subscribe when I wanted to.. At least now I know you write there.. :)
        Have a great day Kima!

  2. Ema
    March 23, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Brilliant and heartfelt article Kima, I love it. I agree with you completely, we share the same thinking on so much!

    • March 23, 2011 at 9:31 am

      I just commented to a friend that I need stories from people … I was thinking why I chose the word empower in my article when it comes to letting people be authentic with me … I found I use it with purpose … we all are and don’t need permission to be, but our inhibitions prevent us from truly being … I believe if we think of the act of accepting others for what they are as an act of empowering rather than giving permission, we’ll become better listeners … only then will their stories reach us! ;-)

      Thanks for the encouraging words!!

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