When I first stumbled upon the video of Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon doing the tight pants skit on YouTube I couldn’t get enough of it. At one point I watched it so much, actually all night long, that the next morning I had to call in sick at work.
Also, I sang along (loudly) as I repeatedly watched the video all night and the next day I received a warning note from my neighbours threatening to sue me if I ever kept them up all night with my loud singing again!
That was a long time ago and it’s been long since I sang my favourite song. But today I woke humming to the tune of the song and before I realized what I was doing, I was belting out I’m the only one in town with tight pants in the shower. Fortunately, it was past 8am in the morning and I think my edgy neighbours had already left for work.
As I carried on my day to day activities, I somehow kept thinking about Jennifer Lopez and the huge success she has achieved in her career. She’s definitely a royal in her own right – not a blue blood by birth or marriage as some are very lucky to be but by hard work and dedication. She’s obviously got the raw natural talent but then we all know that natural talent alone rarely gets you that kind of unique success that she has achieved, so I believe she does put in her fair share of hard work and lots of practice.
Speaking of natural talent, I remembered one seminar I attended many years ago when I was just fresh out of college and had landed my first stable job, which was a turning point in my life.
I wasn’t one of the guests or participants at the seminar; the organization I worked for was hosting the seminar and my boss had brought me along to assist the guests who attended the seminar. I was thus stationed somewhere between the entrance door and the lobby to distribute pamphlets to the guests, answer their questions, show them the direction of the toilets and usher them into the correct seminar room (there were other seminars going on in the same building).
However, just minutes before the event started something, which was perhaps a defining moment in my career, happened. The interpreter didn’t show up as expected and my boss became desperate because more than half of the guests and participants present could not speak or understand English, and the keynote speaker, a renowned English professor who had been flown in specifically for that seminar, could only communicate in English.
After several failed attempts to reach the interpreter on her mobile phone, my boss suddenly and without warning, pushed me aside, told me to leave everything I was doing and to get into the booth (from where the interpretations were usually done). Initially, I thought she wanted me to tidy the interior of the booth but without much ado, she ordered me to take a sit at the interpreter’s chair and to interpret into the microphone whatever I heard through the earphones.
I was in shock. That was huge seminar and most of the people present were important senior managers, directors and CEOs from several multinational corporations. In addition, the language used in such environments is usually business language that junior employees at my level normally found difficult to understand.
I hesitated but my boss was firm in her order: I had to stand in for the interpreter. I had zero experience as an interpreter and there were other more qualified and experienced colleagues present at the event, some of who were also bilingual but somehow my boss wanted me do the job.
Thus before I realized what was happening, I was seated in the interpreters’ booth wearing huge earphones and staring nervously down at a microphone that had been positioned close to my mouth as my boss quickly showed me how to use the equipment.
Then she left me alone in the booth because she had to be inside the seminar room overseeing the event. I just sat there shaking and sweating with my lips almost perched against the microphone on the table as I waited for the voice to come in through the earphones so I could begin interpreting. In fact, I was shaking so much that the table was making a weird sound as it moved against my shaky hands and body. In addition, because I was so unaccustomed to wearing that particular kind of headphones, it felt like the earphones were squeezing my head so hard that I felt dizzy. In reality, it all just boiled down to nervousness and lack of experience.
When the event finally began, I immediately began to interpret what I was hearing through the earphones onto the microphone. Within seconds, the door of the booth flew open and my boss ordered me to speak louder. She said the guests in the seminar room were complaining that they could barely hear my voice. Eventually, I got the tone right and the rest of the event went fairly smoothly.
I was surprised at myself and was even more surprised when my boss walked into the booth to congratulate me at the end of the event. In fact, she was so relieved that she relieved me of all my other duties for the night. I later learned that during the course of the seminar, the interpreter did eventually show up but was turned away by my boss.
The next day when I showed up at the office, where I worked as an office assistant, my boss called me aside and told me she had a special task for me. I was handed the audio of the entire event to transcribe and then translate so that it could be reviewed and later posted on the company’s website, as well as published in the company’s newsletter. Again I had zero experience doing that kind of work but my boss seemed to think I could do it. Once again, I was relieved of all my other tasks and told to focus just on doing the transcriptions and translations. In addition, for the first time in life, I was allocated an office. Not just an office but a spacious one in a very quiet section of the building where I could concentrate on my job without noise or much interruptions. With each passing day more and more documents were sent my way for translations and within a month I had been promoted from office assistant to translator, despite the fact that I had no formal training or certification to work as a translator.
When I think about what happened at the aforementioned seminar, I am almost certain that the reason why my career took such a drastic turn is because my then boss noticed that I had the natural talent and ability to do that kind of work. I don’t think it is by coincidence that she singled me out from a bunch of more qualified colleagues to stand in for the interpreter at that seminar.
Coincidentally, the main subject of the seminar that night was ‘discovering and developing the natural strengths, skills and abilities of your employees’. And I think my boss did just that! She somehow discovered that I had the right combination of natural strengths, skills and abilities to be a good translator and interpreter, despite the fact that I had no formal training or certification in that area.
I was lucky to have a boss who discovered my natural strengths, skills and abilities and was very kind, supportive and willing to give me the opportunity to develop my natural talents and grow. Unfortunately, it is rare to come across such bosses nowadays. I have since then gone on to work for many multinational companies and it is commonplace to see supervisors and managers who feel so threatened by their talented and hardworking supervisees that that they intentionally block their opportunities to develop and grow.
In one company I worked for, one Manager was so threatened by her very skilled and hardworking supervisee that she not only blocked all her chances of getting a promotion by consistently giving her very bad reviews (despite the fact that she was doing her job very well) but also did everything to impede her from completing her degree by piling her with seemingly urgent work whenever she had an important class or exams at her university. At one point, things got so bad that the employee wrote to the senior management begging for help – but they turned their backs on her. The other senior managers could clearly see what was happening but chose to look the other way and eventually the employee left the company.
In another company I worked for, several employees hid from their managers the fact that they were studying or taking certification courses and I was dumbstruck to find very intelligent mid-level managers playing dumb so that their respective bosses wouldn’t feel threatened. When I asked one mid-level manager, who I was close to, why they behaved in the aforementioned ways, she responded that they were simply securing their jobs.
I’m not going to comment further on that subject. My main point here is that is that in order to achieve great success, then it is important to be in an environment where people are allowed to unleash their full potential and that happens when we are able to reach inside ourselves and find that unique combination of natural talents, skills and abilities and develop these. Each and every one of us is unique. There is something that only you can give to the world. It doesn’t matter if there are millions of people doing the same thing, there is always something unique that you can sell to the world which can give you a significant advantage over your competitors. And once you find that unique God-given talent, develop it!
The reason why I brought up my experience at the seminar is that on that particular day, and by a twist of fate, the absence of the interpreter created a unique opportunity which required a person who had the right combination of natural skills and abilities to perform that job: and I was very lucky not only to be in the right place at the right time but also to possess the right combination of skills that were required for that particular job.
Of course I have had to practice a lot to sharpen my interpretation and translation skills since then but I now realize that I only got the unique opportunity to move several steps up the career ladder (from an office assistant to a translator) ‘overnight’ because I already had the natural talent (albeit undeveloped). I don’t believe that it was by coincidence that when my boss found herself in desperate need of an interpreter and translator, she turned to me. She must have noticed something about me in the past that brought to her attention the fact that I had the right combination of skills to perform that particular job and on that particular day, that put me at a unique advantage in relation to my other colleagues who were present at the event.
So, what does all this have to do with Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Fallon and the tight pants?
Well, when JLo sings that she’s the only one in town with tight pants – I guess what she’s really saying is that she has successfully found and utilized her unique, God-given, talents, skills and abilities to achieve such great success. She’s selling something unique to the world: there’s only one JLo in town!
So if you ‘wonna be the only one in town wearing the tight pants’ then you have to find and develop your unique natural talents so that you can be the best at what you do!
I’m humming to the tune of my favourite song as I prepare to post this article on my website….
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