One key note to make is that no matter how great one is in achievement, he will have equally great weaknesses, just like the rest of us. It's not that great athletes only have strengths and no weaknesses, they have plenty of weaknesses, they just happen to capitalize on their athletic ability. Similarly, successful politicians, CEOs, and leaders of all sorts have deep weaknesses, but are able to dramatically leverage their strengths. The fact is, Tom Brady might not make a great CEO, Abraham Lincoln probably wouldn't have been a great football player, and CEOs can make for terrible politicians. It's not the people that are therefore necessarily "great" in absolute terms, but it's rather how they apply themselves. The following diagram helps convey the message:
If one is able to identify and pursue the intersection of all three circles, the question of one's place and purpose in the world becomes much clearer. To help define the above:
- Ability - One's ability in a certain skill or task
- Passion - One's passion for that certain skill or task
- Value - How much does society value that certain skill or task
This analysis would ideally be applied to career searches, but that is easier said than done. Most people tend to find jobs intersecting Abilities and Value, but not Passion. In other words, they find jobs that pay a lot, and that they can do decently well, but are not passionate about. This often leads to eventually changing one's job or having a mid-life crises. Similarly, other types of people may find jobs that only intersect Abilities and Passion, such as perhaps a struggling artist.
I'm not suggesting one can "think his way" through this exercise to figure out his sweet spot. Even for the most successful, this is probably a life long process. However, thinking in these terms, and identifying the issues which make us happy, motivate us, and can make us ultimately successful, may be a key ingredient to achieving that success.