Ok. So, I opened the proverbial can of worms, yesterday. When I brought up all those words and their definitions, I will acknowledge that I may have introduced more confusion than I helped. Sorry about that. Let me back up just a little today and try to clear something up.

Yesterday I defined “talents” as “naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that can be productively applied.” This is essentially straight from Gallup. I didn’t make it up. It may not be exactly word perfect, but it’s pretty close.

I also defined “theme” as “a similar group of talents.” Again, that’s from Gallup, more or less.

But, so what? What am I really talking about?

Keep in mind that Gallup has spent almost 60 years studying people, their success, and how they can be effective in their chosen industry, walk of life, or experiences. Through the course of their research they identified thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of talents people possessed. They defined talent as that which came naturally to people. It was a way they just naturally thought about things. Or it was the way they just naturally felt about what was going on around them. It could even be their natural ability to do things.

The key was talent was what people naturally thought, felt, or did. They didn’t have to “work at it,” or “struggle,” or “dig deep” to think, feel, or do. It just happened. Now, the degree to which they were good, or effective, or successful at those things depended, according to Gallup, on how much they had invested in them. That is, how much they had acquired additional knowledge around those talents, or how much skill they had developed in relation to those talents. So, it was possible to have talent – a natural inclination to think, feel, or do something – without necessarily being masterful at it. Mastery came through additional knowledge and skill.

So, what about “themes?” Well, themes were nothing more than a way to group similar talents together. Remember I said that Gallup identified thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of talents? Well, when talking about them all, it’s really not very useful to talk about thousands of them. It’s much easier if we could categorize, or group them, under a fewer set of labels. Hence the term “theme,” or “themes.”

For example, it seems some people are natural-born storytellers. Others seem to be naturally gifted at speaking in front of hundred, even thousands, of people and inspiring and motivating them into action. Still others come across as tremendously capable of writing really, really well. Each of these are different talents. Yet, they are also easily recognized as different forms of communication. So, we could categorize them, or label them, under one similar theme, “communication.”

In Gallup’s research they took the thousands and thousands of talents they had identified and they grouped them into 34 different “themes.” Thus, we have the 34 themes of talent, sometimes referred to as 34 Strengths. But, if I say it that way, I would be misspeaking. (See yesterday’s blog post for more details about that.)