Affinity and Beyond – Episode 1

Henry Jacobs was called the talent whisperer by those who knew him well. But the rest of the business world knew him as an incredibly successful entrepreneur who charted a very different path to success than what was conventional. Henry had a pipeline into universities which had high numbers of first generation students. He was especially interested in hiring students who had unfulfilled potential. He took a special interest in helping young people discover their talent and then give them the opportunity to prove themselves. The landscape of the American business world was populated with Henry’s talent finds.

Henry had decided to change the course of his life when he was 50. He loved the discovery and nurturing of talent but wanted to expand his work beyond the business world. He created a foundation which would work with troubled youth to help them explore their why in life. The foundation was established as a “live and do” facility where young people live on the premises and be engaged in a number of “projects”.

Henry’s foundation quickly became known for its success stories. While Henry was reluctant to call attention to his foundation, he did agree to a series of interviews with Brianna Hopkins, one his talent discoveries and fast becoming known for her in-depth explorations of important but little covered stories. Henry did have one requirement for his agreeing to the interviews. Brianna would need to create five stories of talent development and nurturing for each interview he agreed to do. Henry wanted to use the stories in his foundation.

BH:     When we say a person has talent, we often mean that they have an outward facing talent such as music, sports, or anything that is in the public sphere. But one of the first things you did when I came to you was to tell me that talent can come in many forms. Could you share with others, your more expansive vision of what talent is?

HJ:      That’s right. I like to think of talent in a much broader way. Talent can be expressed in many different ways, not just in the ways that we normally think of.

BH:     Can you give us some examples?

HJ:      You’ve already mentioned athletics and physical talent and artistic talent. But there are a number of people talents. For example, we identified early on that you have a talent for getting people to open up to you. Some of the young people that I’ve worked with had intellectual talents that were largely unrecognized by our educational systems. Others have practical skills talent. There is a wide range of creative talents. The list could go on, but the point is that talent is something that we all have, but it takes some effort to discover it.

BH:     I remember that you told us we could have more than one talent. Can you explain how that works?

HJ:      Most of us have a talent that leads to our life’s work. You have the talent that led you to become a journalist. Often we also have a talent that keeps us energized outside of our work life. As I recall, you loved to cook and made some delicious meals for us.

BH:     I’m impressed that you remembered. How else might we think of our talents?

HJ:      Your talents often change as you get older. Certainly athletic talents only last for a limited number of years and athletes need to think of their “what next” talent. All of us find that our ever-evolving talents keep us energized through our life’s journey.

BH:     Is that how you shifted your career from entrepreneur to talent nurturer?

HJ:      It is, but it wasn’t a sudden shift. I’ve always been interested in helping discover and nurture talent. But now, it’s my passion, not just a byproduct of my job.

BH:     Let’s stop there, but I want to schedule another interview soon.

HJ:      That’s fine, but remember, you owe me five talent stories before we meet again. I would like you to send those stories to me as you write them. Make sure to include a reflection on what you learned about talent discovery and nurturing with each story.

BH:     Will do. I’m excited about learning more about talent.

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“Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.”
– Bob Ross (painter, art instructor, TV host)


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