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Get In Where You Fit In

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Get In Where You Fit In

Finding your place to shine.
Tavis  Smiley
Tavis Smiley More by this author
Aug 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

It’s a testament to fortitude when a CEO humbly admits that he isn’t best suited to run a multibillion-dollar company. That’s exactly what John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Inc., did. The best man for the job, he said during an interview with BusinessWeek, was one of the company’s original founders — Steve Jobs.

In 1983, Apple’s board of directors considered Jobs — then 28 — too young to manage the responsibilities of chief executive officer. Sculley, PepsiCo president and the developer of the “Pepsi Challenge,” was selected instead to run the company. In 1985, Apple board members directed Sculley to “contain” Jobs, which led to the visionary’s bitter exodus. Jobs’s departure, Sculley said, almost sent the company into its “near-death experience.”

Of course, Jobs came back, and by 2000, he was once again Apple’s official CEO. It was the perfect fit all along, Sculley said. Way back in the early ‘80s, he told BusinessWeek, Jobs had the “outrageous idea” that computers — which were relegated to the business world at the time — would become consumer products that would “change the world.”

Incidentally, Sculley was no slouch. Under his ten-year tenure as CEO, Apple’s sales rose from $800 million to $8 billion annually. But a few bad development decisions and intense competition from Microsoft and other high-tech companies hurt Apple. Sculley’s forte was marketing. With Jobs, he said, “everything is design.” That successful methodology is evident in products released after Jobs’s return to Apple Inc.: the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad among them.

Had Jobs not come back, Apple would have been “absolutely gone,” Sculley insisted.

There’s universal wisdom in his comments. And it’s not necessarily about the billions Jobs has generated for Apple or himself. To me, it’s about knowing your role, discovering your niche, developing your talent, and multiplying your rewards.

In short, it’s about learning how to get in where you fit in.


In today’s culture, very few understand the value of perfecting their roles. Everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame; they want to be the star. We forget that sometimes the headliner isn’t the scene-stealer in a movie. Often, it’s a secondary or unknown actor who winds up stealing the picture and claiming the spotlight. The point is, if you strive to be the best in your role — particularly when you’re just starting out — you just might become that unexpected rising star.

The key is homing in on your talent and multiplying it with hard work and deeds.

Why is this so important?

I’d like to use my favorite source, the Bible, to answer that question. The Parable of the Talents, found in both St. Matthew and St. Luke, contains variations of a story that emphasizes the importance of recognizing and using gifts to your best ability.

Here’s the condensed version (Matthew 25:14–30): Jesus gives three individuals some talents, according to their own ability. One man was given five; the other, two; and the third, one. To paraphrase, Jesus basically said: “Take these talents and get busy!”

Sometime later, the men returned. One by one, they gave accounts of their gifts. The first man said: “Lord, you gave me five talents, and look at all I have done with them.” Jesus was so pleased the man had used the gifts given him wisely that he doubled his talents.

The second man showed Jesus that he, too, had developed his talents.

“Thou good and faithful servant,” Jesus replied before giving the man more gifts.

The third guy, with one talent, delivered “the poor me” victim’s story: “Lord, look, you gave me only one gift. I was so ashamed, I hid it in the earth. I didn’t do anything with it.”

“Thou wicked and slothful servant,” the Lord thundered. He took the man’s talent and gave it to the one who had ten — someone who was going to do something with it.

So now, the guy who started with five wound up with 11 talents.

The Parable of the Talents, like so many other Scriptures written thousands of years ago, has retro relevance. This particular parable reinforces the popular belief that we all come into this world with talent — a gift, something that we can do better or different than anyone else. But, as the story illustrates, if you don’t use your gifts, you can lose your gifts.

The moral of the story is to find comfort in our differences and to be pioneering. Don’t worry about your neighbor’s gifts or blessings. Don’t envy someone else’s gift. Discover your own. Remember, the men were given talents according to their own ability. Since we all don’t have the same ability, we have to discover the roles we are destined to play. This may involve trial and error, stumbling before we can stand erect in our individual comfort zones, and even falling flat on our faces.

When speaking to young people, I encourage them to find their own way; discover their very unique roles; and go out and give the world something it needs — something that only they can uniquely deliver.

Whenever I use The Parable of the Talents in my speeches, I remind audiences that although the Bible enumerates the gifts — five, two, and one — it never tells us what those gifts are. That says to me that quantity isn’t important. Quality is.

That one wasted gift could have been the greatest gift given, but the third man in the story never used it, never put it to work. Who knows? That one gift could have been the cure for cancer or the answer to poverty and hunger.

Just because it’s one talent doesn’t mean it isn’t the greatest talent. It’s what you do to magnify your gifts that counts. Be you. Hone your unique gift, work your talent, find your sweet spot, and let God do the rest.

About Author
Tavis  Smiley
Tavis Smiley is a broadcaster, author, advocate, and philanthropist. Tavis Smiley continues to be an outstanding voice for change.  Smiley is currently the host of the late-night television talk show Tavis Smile Continue reading