Wisdom From Young Sheldon

Dr. Sheldon Cooper is a character on television’s long-running hit comedy, The Big Bang Theory, in its 12th and final season. Cooper, played by Jim Parsons, is a physicist at Caltech, a whiz at mathematics, science, and theoretical physics, but woefully socially inept. Young Sheldon is a hilarious spinoff prequel to The Big Bang Theory, portraying Cooper as a geeky youngster growing up with his family in a small East Texas town.

Young Sheldon, age 10, is played by Iain Armtiage with narration by Parsons. Anyone who knows East Texas knows the religion called high school football. Sheldon’s big brother, George, Jr. (Georgie), plays football, is academically challenged, and loves girls. Dad, George, Sr., is the football coach. Sheldon has zero interest in sports, preferring books and science, and dad struggles to understand his gifted son. Sheldon has a deep-seated superiority complex and belittles Georgie. Georgie has self-confidence, but resents his genius brother and constantly rags on Sheldon.

In a recent episode, Georgie confronts his father with a demand to quit football and work after school in a local auto repair garage. Turns out Georgie shows real talent in shop at school, exhibiting mechanical ability. Naturally, dad the coach wants his son to follow in his footsteps and pursue football. The boy insists he doesn’t care that much for football; he wants to work on cars. At the show’s end, the shop owner, a friend of George, Sr., shows up with beer to share, telling dad that his son is an absolute genius when it comes to dealing with tires! Georgie loves fixing flats and working with tires!

In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, mature Sheldon the brilliant physicist but somewhat “underpaid researcher,” needs a favor and goes home to Texas to visit his brother, with whom he has had a strained relationship since childhood. Turns out Georgie is a multi-millionaire, highly successful and confident, the “Tire King of Texas,” with a growing chain of tire stores. That connects with the prequel storyline in Young Sheldon, dad finally accepting his son’s desire to drop football and follow his natural but as yet undeveloped mechanical talents with a focus on tires. Mature Sheldon is happy and confident in his work, but is astounded at the financial rewards reaped by Georgie.

You ask, “What does this have to do with financial planning and personal financial and purpose-based success?” Gallup defines “raw talent” as “uniformed, inexperienced, self-oriented, and often unproductive.” “Mature talent” is “well-informed, practiced, oriented toward others, and highly productive.” In the show, both young Sheldon and young George, Jr., were nurtured and mentored in talent development, Sheldon by his mom, Georgie by the town mechanic.

Over the years each added skill and knowledge to perfect highly productive and rewarding strengths…siblings with the same parents and upbringing, but very different people, successful in different ways. That’s the reality of human capital development, essential to success achievement, studies pioneered by Donald Clifton (1924-2003), encapsulated in the Clifton/Gallup Strengths Finder reports and coaching.

CliftonStrengths identifies 34 talent themes. Per Gallup, talent is “a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. The greater the intensity of the talent, the greater its power and the greater your opportunity for success.” Decades of research show that talents most related to success can be grouped into 34 themes.

The new year is a few “shopping and ‘holidaze’” away. It will be time again to focus on goals and resolutions, plans related to personal, family, business, avocation, vocation, retirement, and spiritual success, and often, beyond self, team success. Success is not always related to money as a metric. There are rich individuals who personally are a mess; teams, companies, and organizations that are a mess.

A strength is talent+skill+knowledge. The goal is to understand and perfect personal and team strengths so as to achieve optimal performance and actualization of  desired outcomes, which includes personal wellbeing. Is that how you would define success?

At myriad academic institutions, thousands of incoming freshman will complete Clifton StrengthsFinder and be coached on innate strengths to guide them in their studies and future careers. All Fortune 500 companies, NASA, World Bank, United Nations, U.S. State Department, and a growing number of churches, use strengths-based development to engage and leverage individuals, teams, and workforces; increase retention of talented people, and achieve and exceed goals. Over 20 million people have completed the CliftonStrengths assessment and discovered their potential.

If you are facing challenges in the new year, you want to confront them in strength. Financial planning and “strengths-planning” are foundational to achievement. The fictional Sheldon and Georgie Cooper found success in their own way because raw talent was acknowledged and allowed to grow in lifelong learning and exploration. Life can imitate art and even television comedy. Amazing!


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