Dan Sullivan: Unique Ability

Dan Sullivan is the founder and creator of The Strategic Coach. He offers successful entrepreneurs a unique process for extraordinary growth, higher income, and exceptional quality of life. He’s the first person (that I’m aware of) to coin the term unique ability.  If you’re struggling in your job, business or life direction then be sure to read through Dan’s concepts on unique ability.

Dan has been in the coaching business for more than 30 years. He’s worked with big names in the personal development arena including people like Jack Canfield and David Bach. He’s helped many successful entrepreneurs increase their income and their time off.

Dan believes that everyone spends their time in one of 4 areas:

  1. Incompetent
  2. Competent
  3. Excellence
  4. Unique Ability

These four areas are your life. You really want to go through each area and understand where you are. Treat this as an exercise and be open to learning something about yourself. Answer the questions at the end of each section.

1. Incompetent

Everyone has an area in their life where they are incompetent. It may not be glaringly obvious at first but it’s all a part of us. This is an area in your life where you are easily frustrated.

An area where I’m completely useless and easily frustrated is in planning. It’s tough to execute and do great things when you don’t have a plan, and I hate planning.

Dan Sullivan is incompetent in accounting and finances. He actually went bankrupt twice in two different businesses because of his own incompetence in finances. Be aware of an area where you are incompetent.

Where is an area in your life where you are easily frustrated? Write it down.

2. Competent

An area of competence is an area where you compete with others. It’s an area in your life where you do your best to come out ahead of the pack, but regardless of how hard you try, you’re still average.

I used to compete in engineering. When I was in University I used to compete with the other engineers over who had the best project, the best grades and who could do the homework the fastest. Despite all of this I was still average in the class.

Competition is healthy but don’t let it run you. You won’t aspire to be a great leader or win a Noble Prize with this strategy. If you want super success, keep reading.

Where is an area in your life where you compete? Write it down.

3. Excellence

Excellence is a skill with no passion. This is an area that you’ve perfected and become very good, but there isn’t any passion.

I’m excellent at organizing things. I’m also very good at organizing teams and identifying resources. My office space is always cleanly organized.

Most people end up in a career or job in an area of excellence. Where do you excel? What do you do for a living?

I became such a good organizer that I got a job as a project manager. Now 90% of my day is spent organizing schedules, information and people. I’m a super organizer. Although I’m very good at what I do, I don’t love it.

Where is an area in your life where you have a high level of skill but no passion? Write it down.

4. Unique Ability

Dan Sullivan explains your own unique ability is effortless because you love to do it.  It happens naturally because it’s what you love to do.

I love to teach, motivate and inspire others. My vehicle for doing this is my website, one-to-one coaching, and teaching. I love to do these things because they come the most natural to me.

My unique ability is to be able to teach and explain complex ideas in a simple way that anyone can understand. It’s also to be straight with people when I communicate.

Dan Sullivan runs a company called The Strategic Coach.  Dan points out that most entrepreneurs start out in a business with their unique ability. Then as time goes by they tend to move towards other areas of the business that need attention but don’t bring them any passion. This is fatal to any business.

“If you’re not in love with what you do, then don’t do it” ~ Jennifer Randive

Where is an area in your life where you love what you do? Write it down.

The point is to spend more time in your unique ability. Grow and nourish your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Dan Sullivan claims that he spends more than 95% of his working time in his unique ability. He also claims that any entrepreneur (or working employee for that matter) will be more successful and increase their quality of life by spending more time in their own unique ability.

To finish reading this article, see: 9 Questions to Unlock Your Unique Ability


  • T Edwards

    Reply Reply August 6, 2008

    Wow. This is a really profound thought because so few people (myself included) live by these observations. If we applied ourselves to those things that come easily to us and that we enjoy, we would be infinitely successful and happy. Instead, most of us (again, myself included) spend 90% of our lives focusing on the things that we are at best MERELY excellent at. The sad thing is we’ve been taught since we were children to “strive for excellence” in every thing we do. The world would be a better place and we’d all be happier if we practiced instead, to “strive for our unique abilities”.

    I love this post.


  • Steve

    Reply Reply August 6, 2008

    thanks T!

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply October 10, 2014

    This is fantastic stuff. I’ve started by delegating the detailed work to employees instead of doing it myself. Hopefully it helps.

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