A few weeks ago I was at the zoo with my nephew. He is 13, and like most 13-year-olds he still knows things that the rest of us have forgotten but at the same time he doesn’t have enough experience at life to know much.

He was watching me take pictures and asking questions. I explained to him what the pictures would be used for and why I love to take them. He told me what a shame it is that I didn’t get "good" at photography earlier in life.

A few weeks ago I was at the zoo with my nephew. He is 13, and like most 13-year-olds he still knows things that the rest of us have forgotten but at the same time he doesn’t have enough experience at life to know much.

He was watching me take pictures and asking questions. I explained to him what the pictures would be used for and why I love to take them. He told me what a shame it is that I didn’t get "good" at photography earlier in life.

He seemed to feel that it is a waste for someone who is even older than his father to learn something new. I told him that learning is something that should never stop, and that it isn’t about going to school. He doesn’t understand the difference between school and learning yet.

He wasn’t buying it but maybe he will when he is 14. He doesn’t always like school because his teachers spend a lot of time emphasizing his weaknesses instead of encouraging his strengths, which seem to be in math. He should be doing something fun with math.

As for the photography and my advanced age, he has a point. If I had taken the time 10 years ago to work on it a bit, or take a class or two, my real estate career may have advanced more quickly than it did. When I started in the business I had no idea that photographs would become one of my main ways of meeting people, or what we call prospecting.

Our educations are focused on learning the basics. As adults, when it comes to learning the emphasis seems to be on improving our weaknesses. We spend far more time looking at our weaknesses and improving them than we do working on improving our natural abilities.

In the real estate business, when we don’t have enough business we focus on what we are doing wrong. Our managers or brokers may suggest that we get better at open houses or learn scripts and dialogues as a way to get more business. We may end up doing something that we are not good at or that we don’t like doing. We push ourselves to do things that don’t come naturally, always believing they are the answer for winning business.

Most people don’t take the time to look at their natural talents and some don’t even know what they are because we spend so much time looking at our weaknesses. It takes less energy to use natural abilities, and we can go beyond mastery and reach excellence.

Yet when I take training or go to classes I end up taking something that will improve my skills in some area that I don’t excel at, and still have not taken that photography class. The coaching I have had for real estate has always emphasized improving my weaknesses and has never addressed how I can use my talents.

When I use my natural abilities and play to my strengths I am happier and I make more money. Much of my business comes to me directly or indirectly because of my photographs. I get free advertising because of them and some of my sellers choose me to list their homes because of them.

I have heard that when we do what we love to do the money will come. I believe it because the things we love to do are usually the things that we are good at. When business is slow maybe we should think about what we are good at and figure out how to use that talent to win business rather than taking classes to master scripts and dialogues, or participating in the next cold-calling night at the office.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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