Our Blog

Affinity + Ability = Achievement, Part 2

Affinity + Ability = Achievement graphic.  This is part 2 on Ability

What do you enjoy vs. what are you good at?  That is your affinity vs. your ability.  You need both to truly succeed.  Michael Jordan was one of the greatest NBA players of all time.  How’d he do in baseball?  Your ABILITY is as important as your AFFINITY.  We talk about ABILITY today in part 2 of a 3-part series: “Affinity + Ability = Achievement”.

Listen to the podcast here:

Affinity + Ability = Achievement with Allen Fahden: Part 2

Karla Nelson:  And welcome to the People Catalyst Podcast, Allen Fahden.

Allen Fahden:  Hello, Karla.

Karla Nelson:  Hello, sir. How are you today?

Allen Fahden:  Life is always better when doing a podcast.

Karla Nelson:  Your favorite time. Podcast time.

  Well, we’re so excited to share with our listeners here today. We’ve been putting together a three-part series, and this is part two of the three-part series, which is Affinity Plus Ability Equals Achievement. And so if you missed the first part of this series, feel free to go back and listen to it, because it’s really difficult talking about affinity and ability separately, because the lines between this particular equation, they really bleed over into each other.

  Affinity is when you have a deep love for doing something. Everyone’s heard the quote “if you love to do something, you’ll never work a day in your life.” And then the ability is how well you perform at a task. You can have an affinity for something and not have an ability, and then you can have an ability and not have an affinity for it. What we’re talking about is where the magic comes between both of those, which is having both, or at least starting with one and adding a little training, support, mentorship to the other to make that equation happen, so we can ultimately get where we want to get, which is achievement.

Allen Fahden:  Yup. And I remember working with my coach when doing my TED Talk. She really turned me on to this concept of affinity and ability, because of her husband. She said, “You know, my husband is a scratch golfer.” And I said, “Well, I know a lot of people who would like to trade golf games with your husband. I’ll bet he loves it.” She says, “No, he doesn’t love it. In fact, he doesn’t play any more.” I said, “You’re kidding me, what a waste. Why doesn’t he play any more?” And she said, “He just doesn’t like the game. He doesn’t enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if he’s a scratch golfer.”

So that got me thinking about it, and that really helped develop this concept of affinity and ability. Here’s somebody who’s got lots of ability, no affinity. Well, he’s not going to be motivated to play golf. He wasn’t sustaining. He wasn’t enjoying it, his mind would wander then. All things can happen that undermine you when you don’t have an affinity for what you’re doing.

Karla Nelson:  Yep. You bring up a good point there, Allen, in regards to this equation that you can have an ability for something, but if you don’t have an affinity, no matter how good you are at it … And I think sometimes even people despite the fact that they’re so good at it when they don’t enjoy doing it at all. This applies to everyday life, and it definitely applies to our work life.

  So if you can have the affinity on the front end, you can always dump in the training and the practice and the mentorship. We can always increase our ability. Doesn’t mean you’re going to be great at it, because there’s plenty of people who like to do something and potentially are not very good at it. However, there’s a higher capacity when you have an affinity for something, where people care and they want to do something, they want to put in the time and energy and effort. And as trainers, these are the students that just soak up everything, and watch everything over and over again, and apply it, and step out of their comfort zone, because they have this affinity to it. And again, that was part one of our three-part podcast, and we’re talking about ability. But how you increase your capacity for ability when you enjoy doing something.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. You can have a lot of affinity for something, and so you spend a lot of time at it because you like it, and you say, “Oh, I want to get better at this.” But sometimes we run into walls. Now, sometimes you can get around walls, but there’s one wall that is very difficult to get around, which is not having the innate talent or ability.

Here’s an example. Michael Jordan, who probably … arguably you could say he’s one of the greatest basketball players who ever lived. Transformed the game.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, absolutely.

Allen Fahden:  And he decided in the ’90s that he would move over to a career in baseball, because he loved baseball, too. So instead of being with the Chicago Bulls, he went with the Chicago White Sox. He was with them in spring training, and didn’t do all that well. But they, like a lot of players, they signed him to a minor-league team and he went to the Class A Birmingham Bears. And I actually saw him play in Memphis. Here’s a clue about Michael Jordan as a baseball player. Loved baseball as much as he loved basketball, but Michael Jordan was playing right field. And right field is where you go when you’re chosen last. Like, “Uh-oh. This is a-”

Karla Nelson:  Oh my God. And I’m not sure what his batting average was, but it was bad.

Allen Fahden:  .211. .211.

Karla Nelson:  I just remember feeling bad when I saw it way back in the day.

Allen Fahden:  And he struck out 114 times, and made, I can’t remember how many errors in right field.

Karla Nelson:  You can make an error in right field?

Allen Fahden:  Oh, yeah. It’s not like elementary school. Yes, you can make a lot of errors in right field.

Karla Nelson:  I bet you they were actually targeting him at one point, probably.

Allen Fahden:  Well, yeah. This could be.

So how can this be? Here’s one of the greatest athletes who ever lived, certainly one of the greatest basketball players who ever lived. How could he be so mediocre at baseball?

Karla Nelson:  Well, you know what, you said it. If you break down the story and you just look at his career, he had an affinity for basketball. But remember, he didn’t even make his high school basketball team. But then when he didn’t … I believe this is accurate. It’s been a good 15 years probably since I’ve read the story, maybe a little less than that, is that he didn’t make his basketball team, and every day he would train and practice to increase his ability. And when he got tired, he would close his eyes and remember the time he walked into the locker room and look and see that his name was not on that list. So what he did, he went back and he trained, and he practiced, and he increased his ability. Well, and as you said, Allen, he basically is one of the greatest if not the greatest basketball player of all time, and he changed the game forever with the slam dunk. How many basketball players have shoes named after them that I still see kids wear today?

Allen Fahden:  Just him and Buster Brown, I guess. But he had the advantage of not having a dog in his shoe, so he did pretty well.

There’s an interesting thought there. Raw talent versus world-class talent. Obviously the rap on world-class talent is you got to do something ten thousand times to get to the point where you can be world-class at it. And some people give up after two or three hundred times, or five thousand times. At some point, you realize that you don’t have that talent and there’s just no point in going any further because you’ve tried just about everything. Even though you have an affinity for it, you don’t have that world-class talent.

Raw talent, on the other hand, is that point at which you’re undeveloped. Now, if Michael Jordan had been standing there at that moment and saying, “Hmm, should I go basketball or should I go baseball?” Well, he had some raw talent in each. The difference is he developed his raw talent in basketball, and the doors kept opening, and he got better and better, and he changed the game to fit his talents. And he was even physically built for basketball. He could leap, “Air Jordan.” He could jump without falling down, practically. Well, that wasn’t so valuable in baseball. And if you look at Michael Jordan’s baseball uniform, it looked like somebody photoshopped his picture and stretched the whole thing out vertically, top to bottom. Because he was a tall stick, and that’s the worst thing you could have in baseball. It’s enormous-

Karla Nelson:  Strike zone.

Allen Fahden:  Enormous strike zone.

We can all find it. Everybody’s good at something, and we can all find those things. And then the key is to develop your ability and keep your affinity. And if you can get both of those to their nth degree, then you’ve really got something.

Karla Nelson:  Yup, you got it. And I think, based off of the work that we do, that you start with talent, and then you add in there some knowledge and experience. If you look at the story we were just talking about, he added in by training. And what’s my knowledge of the game, and how many times did I do a slum-dunk. I think he actually had to grow four inches or something before he could even do that, right? But his study and knowledge and experience over that time then led him to where he was at.

  Where, in business, one of the biggest challenges that I see is that we really focus on a certain group of people even though we need everybody, we just don’t need you at the same time. And specifically speaking to the movers, because again, that’s only 15% of the population. However, they get such an easier shake than everyone else. And what I mean by that is they have the raw talent they came out of the womb in a way that they were going to … And obviously there’s nature versus nurture and all these other things. But based off a core nature of strength, they came into work being able to communicate with other people, understanding how to leverage other individuals, seeking out your shakers so that you can get the ideas, prioritize those ideas, figure out how to get people to rally around those ideas, and that’s their core nature.

  And I think what’s really happened in work is that’s exactly why we have this cliché of the movers and shakers of the world. But guess what, that’s a little bit of a stretch here, because we need everybody. Not one is more important than the other, and I really think that in business, movers get such an easier opportunity, or they get more acknowledgement, or they’re seen as being “better than.” When you look at world-class talent … Because that’s not just in one area. It’s just different.

  I think that that experience piece is something that movers get a little bit more of, because why? They’re the ones that get pushed up the corporate ladder. They’re the ones that launch companies. And I think that that ends up being something when you look at ability that we have a skewed vision of ability. I think people might get a little bit of ability envy because of it.


Allen Fahden:  Yeah, absolutely.

Yeah, experience being a critical, critical piece. I would suggest that experience, what it gives you, beside skills, is insight. The more you do something, the more you can look at the work you’re doing and not only love it, but you can look at a situation and pull an insight out that’s going to make all the difference. And I think one of the things that’s when movers … Movers are trained, probably from the moment they’re socialized. Somebody, “Hey, let’s get this done.” And, “I’m going to organize a play for the backyard.”

Karla Nelson:  You’re right. We’re recruited. We’re recruited. That’s the thing. We’re recruited, you’re right. Oh my gosh. I never even thought of that. In school and on projects, we’re recruited. We’re sought out.

Allen Fahden:  And you’re sought out because there’s such a void there that everybody is so worried about their own piece, the shakers and the provers and the makers, particularly, that the joke is always at the end of the meeting, you say, “Well, nothing’s going to happen as a result of this meeting,” because everybody knows there’s not a mover to jump into the void and pull things together and move it ahead.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Oh my gosh, that is a big a-ha there. Because you’re right. From the time you get into school, especially when you’re working on team projects, everybody wants you on their team. So you’re getting used to coordinating everybody and doing all those pieces of the work. What’s your natural core nature, but you’re getting the ability. You’re increasing your ability literally by default. And keep in mind, Allen, we’ve only been talking about individual achievement and this ability to dump into, because you have to figure out the individual aspect. What most people want to do is to apply it to a team aspect before they’ve figured it out individually.

  But when you do apply this to a team aspect, it’s like … everyone knows that cliché, which kind of irritates me. But everyone knows this one, which is “one plus one equals eleven.” Well, I can agree with the premise of that. If you haven’t been shown how to identify your affinity and master your ability, one plus one equals disaster, negative zero. It can completely blow up. As in previous podcasts you can listen to … We have our Red Light, Green Light, Yellow Light Relationships. You could have two people that are going to drive each other crazy, cross out their work, and not get anything done. And 100 plus years of research proves that you need four different people on your team to work at the team’s highest level.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, absolutely. The key is having the right people at the right place doing the right thing at the right time. And this is so critical. Imagine, we’ve all been there, where if you put the wrong two people together, they cancel each other out regardless of how brilliant they are. And that’s especially true with the red light relationships, the shaker and the prover. Shaker says, “I’ve got an idea.” The prover says, “That’s not going to work.” Shaker says, “You don’t like my idea, you don’t like me.” And then we’re off to the fisticuffs.

Karla Nelson:  I can hear the blaming outside. Just you saying that. You know when you sit in a room, and everyone’s like, “Well, they did that. They did that.” And as we know, 97% of failure is not people failure. It’s process failure.

Allen Fahden:  It’s process failure.

Karla Nelson:  But everybody wants to point the finger at the people.

Allen Fahden:  Absolutely. It’s amazing what can happen when you do put the right people together in the right order. One of them when you don’t, and we’ve talked about this before, the meeting that had 37 ideas raised and 36 of them were shot down. And the idea that wasn’t shot down was the very last one at the end of the meeting, because everybody wanted so desperately to get out of the room, they were willing to buy anything at that point. That’s the way it usually is.

Then contrast that with the large auto manufacturer, who was actually put the right people in the right place doing the right thing at the right time, and got everything done with so much ease. All you do is remove the resistance, remove all the things that don’t work, and you have something that does work. When asked about it, the head of the team was asked, “How do you contrast with the way it was before? Is this any different? Is this any better?” And the team leader said, “Gosh, I don’t know. We’ve never gotten this far.”

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. It reminds me of a story, too, when Steve Jobs came back to Apple. You know, Steve Jobs was a mover-shaker. They had all the brilliant people, all the operations, everything they needed. They were missing the mover on their team that had to leverage all those ingredients.

Allen Fahden:  Absolutely. And that was Steve Jobs. They had everything there, and he looked at the computer, and said, “Well, we’ve got a big opportunity here. Everybody’s doing beige-colored boxes and they’re nerdy, and they’re boring and dull. Let’s do the opposite.” And he made computers-

Karla Nelson:  Let’s be different.

Allen Fahden:  Into the iMac. Fashion, colors. Brilliant colors, and unusual shapes that look like TV sets on a rocking chair. And the thing just took off. And that’s what started bringing the company back. They had all the resources, they just didn’t have a mover.

Of course, in that kind of a culture, Steve Jobs didn’t have what we have. So what did he have to do? He had to be dictatorial. He had to say, “This must be insanely great.” And, “Get out of here if you can’t do it right,” and so forth. He had to yell at people to get things done, but he got it done.

Now, it’s easier. You don’t have to have somebody screaming. If you just put the right people together and fit them together in the right sequence, finish to start, and get the hand-offs right, boom. You got it.

Karla Nelson:  Yup, you got it.

  That brings us to the conclusion of today’s podcast, Affinity Plus Ability Equals Achievement, and really focusing on it’s imperative to have an affinity for something, and then diving down into that ability. What are the things that you can do to train, to increase your knowledge base? And then to ultimately get where we will be going next week, which is talking about the achievement. We have a fantastic podcast where we’re going to lay out the four-part matrix that will identify the four areas when you have a high affinity or a low affinity, and that four-quadrant matrix of how you can identify what will happen in each of those areas.

Any last comment, Allen, before we sign off?

Allen Fahden:  Happy happy.

Karla Nelson:  Happy happy. Awesome. So we’ll see you next week for the achievement part of the three-part series, Affinity Plus Ability Equals Achievement.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work! Please upgrade today!