Find your Talent with Eugene

Find your Talent with Eugene


If you’re watching the series The Walking Dead and you haven’t seen episode 5 from season 5 yet, please be aware that this scene shows an unexpected twist!

What is it all about?

The walking dead is an American post-apocalyptic horror drama television series based on the comic book of the same name. The show tells the story of a small group of survivors living in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. While the context (undead) is not that important, the survival genre is very interesting to study as it reflects the best and worst in humanity. When things go wrong, the quest for survival gets to be the primary objective and all the rest becomes inconsequential; that is when we can better grasp the importance of leadership and the uniqueness of each person. Today, we’re going to study a character that will show us exactly that.

What do we see in this scene?

This specific scene happens in the middle of the fifth season. Our survivors met another group which is on its way to Washington D.C.. This other group has the particularity of being gathered around professor Eugene Porter, who as a scientist worked on the Human Genome Project and knows how to solve the Walkers (undead) dilemma. Eugene Porter pretends to know what caused the epidemic, and that he is on a mission to go to the capital, where he can reverse the effects of the plague. During their ride to the capital, the group stops in front of an enormous undead herd. Not knowing how to proceed, tensions are running high till Eugene divulges the truth about his personal quest. This particular scene can be studied through multiple angles, for instance to compare Abraham’s very directive, macho style leadership to a more inclusive leadership type. We will however use the video for the more refined version proposed by Eugene.



We determined in the previous articles that a talent is an innate ability that let us do something well. A talent is a blend of competences and other abilities which is unique to each of us. Tapping into our talent(s) helps us develop skills and competences with a strong foundation. An amazing voice doesn’t make an outstanding singer, but it certainly helps. Nurturing our talents and our strengths may lead to excellence in a specific field. Having opportunities to use our talents effectively puts us into flow and what better than experiencing it in survival mode?

How does this scene relate to finding our talents?

During the conflict perpetrated by Abraham who wants to go straight through a herd of hungry undeads, Eugene decides to explain his stratagem and reasons supporting it. It helps soothe the group and bring a new important fact to the heated discussion: he’s not who he pretends to be. By telling the truth Eugene becomes vulnerable and by using his implacable logic he explains who he is, what he did and why he did it.

Who is Eugene?

Little is known about Eugene, suffice is to say that the talents he mastered in this survival from the undead context were honed specifically to survive and he provides us with a full description.

Let’s unravel his story piece by piece.

I’m not a scientist!

Eugene starts by stating he’s not a scientist…multiple times.
As explained in my previous article we tend to put a lot of stress and credibility on our professional titles – what we are instead of who we are. As such, by unraveling the fact he’s not a scientist, Eugene crumbles in one go everything people thought of him. The shock arrived and quietness followed… In order to have people following him, Eugene had to create a plausible scenario for his mission. Being a scientist gave him an aura of credibility and trust. People put trust in the intellect and the capacity of a scientist to come up with solution they can’t. A scientist is educated and has vast knowledge in a specific field – he’s an expert. Whereas scientists are already uncommon today, they become a rare breed and important resource for our survival when 99% of the population has gone for good. If people are the most important resource, scientist and physicians are then indispensable. Selecting the right label or title to use in a specific context can thus bring you very far.

I just know things

This is where Eugene starts talking about himself. By stating he knows “things” he delivers a message with a double meaning. Eugene distorts the meaning of “knowledge” by expressing this sentence in a degrading way. He diminishes his position by saying he “just” know things and therefore can’t be as good as a real scientist. And yet, at the same time he states that he actually has vast knowledge in topics that may be less relevant in day to day life. To obtain a lot of knowledge, one must invest time and have the intellect to not only memorize, but also understand it and know how to use it – and this is where we get to the second part.

I know I’m smarter than most people.

It’s actually not hard to figure out that Eugene has a very high IQ by the way he talks. His speaking rate, intonation, patterns, complexity, structure and logic all indicate he is indeed more intelligent than most. Eugene knows it and realizes that by combining it with his general knowledge he can easily influence people and sway them to his side. At the same time Eugene is aloof and seems to lack empathy like many highly logical people. Though this is a stereotype and Eugene could also be affected by an emotional or behavioral disorder, based on the scene we can indeed discern his difficulties to relate to others emotionally. While this would normally be perceived as a weakness, it actually strengthens his image of very smart scientist.

I know I’m a very good liar.

Here we come to a more pragmatic part of his skill-set. While intelligence and knowledge can be measured, they remain rather abstract concepts. Lying on another note is an actual verb of action which is directed outwards (though one can lie to oneself); which means that Eugene has done it more than once and has a tracking record of success.
Being a highly logical person, Eugene analyzes every step, every part of his actions and other people behaviors and therefore, when he says he’s a good liar, not only does he believe so, but it also is highly likely to be true.

I want to survive

We all want to live, that’s at least biologically true. Some people however want it more than others. Whereas true leaders will often put their life on the line to save others, Eugene is the opposite. His value for his own life stands much higher than the rest and his survival instincts guide his decisions. There is no shame in that. Most people don’t really know how they would react in a case of high emergency, Eugene knows that he comes first and plans vehemently to succeed.

If I can cheat some people to take me there

Cheating is influencing and influencing may be seen as a form of leadership or at least having control over someone. By putting his morality aside and focusing all his energies on survival Eugene learned to cheat people and as the saying goes It aint cheating til you get caught.

I’m a coward

Knowing one’s weakness helps build strength. By fathoming his cowardice, Eugene can put the stress on the aptitudes he requires to compensate. He’s weak, he has limited communication skills and he’s a craven. By sharing a lie about him being a “savior” without any spiritual or religious connotation, he brings hope and provides a way out for his companions.

As stated before, we don’t know much about Eugene’s past. While his personality traits and skills should have been the same, it is possible that his strong will to survive has pushed him to go and do things he wouldn’t do during his normal life.

So, what is Eugene’s talent?

By analyzing his monologue step by step we managed to find a couple of skills and personality traits that make him stand out. However, none of them are actual talents. Moreover, none of them are related to leadership and yet he became a leading figure in his group. Not due to his leadership abilities, but due to his label – the “all-knowing savior” aura he created.

Eugene’s magic is that he can read the flow, not only his flow but also his surrounding flow. By analyzing almost instantly the situation, relating it to multiple possibilities, he knows where to be or what to do. He has a unique thinking pattern that combines convergent thinking, divergent thinking and systemic thinking and that is why the group decides to keep him even after all what has happened. All these converge to another single talent which is make-belief. Eugene is astounding at making people believe that something is real when it isn’t. A capacity to lie on something very complex and keep it real long enough for others without flinching. This resembles to the capacity of a leader to come with a vision that will inspire others. Of course we all have our limits and during this scene his fear took over forcing him to stop the charade. By being honest about who he is and why he did what he had to do, again he managed to sway almost everybody to his side. Did he do that last part on purpose? I’m not so sure, but then again, that’s his magic and what kept him alive long enough.

What can we learn from Eugene?

Finding out about our own talents is not easy and often requires firsthand experience. Wikihow provides a simple yet exhaustive list of actions to explore your natural abilities and find your innate talents. Many other websites provide a list of steps that may help find our talents and strengths, so what is so special about Eugene?

Eugene, through his monologue, adds some important details:

1. Know your strength and weaknesses which include physical and mental skills, competences, as well as personality traits and more importantly, learn to embrace them!
It’s hard to embrace a strength you have and don’t like and it may be even harder to embrace a weakness, and yet this is what makes you you. French writer Jean Cocteau used to say:

2. Be mindful, take the time to realize what’s happening around you and inside you at a given moment. Learn to measure the pro’s and con’s of a given situation as it will help you develop awereness about your perception and your possible actions. Be aware as Jean-Claude Van Damme would say.

3. Get out of your comfort zone. Talents are often found when experiencing something unexpected or that we never thought we’d like doing. Travel, go to places you’ve never been before, use different transportation means, try cultural experiences and mingle with different groups. Strangers may notice things about you that your close relations can’t. You never know when your eyes will open. Don’t fear expressing you talents, and learn to tame them. Benjamin Franklin said the following:

4. Realize when you’re in a state of flow. It often means you’re doing something you’re competent at and that you like. Not only Van Damme, but also Bruce Lee said wise words: “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” If you’re talent is being like water, then find out how you become the teapot and what it makes you feel.

While many websites suggest using online tests and quizzes I have a very hard time believing any one of these can help you discover a talent. Rather than that, they can help you find strengths and weaknesses, preferences, personality traits but talents are too personal to be discovered by standard questionnaires.

Eugene’s personality is a complex one and though I wrote my personal opinion about him, some of you may perceive it differently? If so, what would be your take on it?

How about you? Would you have suggestions on finding our talents? Or maybe you can share a personal experience in finding your our own talent?


Related training and consulting companies
Gloabl NLP
Wide Circle
Geerkens Consulting
Inside Out Coaching & Training
Tangram Management


Interesting links

How to become a more inclusive leader
Inclusive leadership excellence club
National urban fellows
Organizations lacking inclusive leaders
Ken Robinson at TED


Learn about the Flow with Nightcrawler

Learn about the Flow with Nightcrawler

What is it all about?

While there are many movies with incredible scenes to learn from, I decided for my first post to start with this specific section from Nightcrawler. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to watch the movie, it is most definitely worth your time. The story revolves around a driven and desperate man named Lou Bloom (played by Jake Ghyllenhaal) ready to do anything for a job.

Throughout the movie, we discover more about Lou’s sociopathic tendencies and there are many scenes that would provide valuable insight into negotiation skills and people management. That being said, I decided to focus on what is probably the most positive act in the movie, which directly relates to a concept I’m very fond of called flow.

What do we see in this scene?

This part happens more or less in the middle of the movie. Lou decides to tell a little bit more about himself to Nina (played by Rene Russo). Lou chooses to surround himself with an aura of credibility and openness by deliberately showing a weakness and a strength. Whereas Lou doesn’t have any formal education, he’s a quick learner with a passion for television news – something he believes to be competent at.

What is the flow

“Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, pg. 73).

The flow is a concept named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi referring to a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a specific action. The flow characterizes complete absorption in what one does. Remind a moment in your life when you felt everything was right, you were doing what you wanted to and you where doing it well. Time seemed to move differently; all your energies were focused on the task and you enjoyed doing it. It’s like a water current carrying you along the way. You were in flow.

To simplify, we could say that being in flow means that you do what you like, you like what you do and you do it well, which makes you feel happy.

Csíkszentmihályi and Nakamura (2001) identify the following seven factors as encompassing an experience of flow:

1. Focused concentration – completely involved in what we are doing
2. A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality
3. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing
4. Knowing the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task
5. A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego
6. Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes
7. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward

All these aspects may appear independently and only when all of them apply can we talk about a so-called flow experience.

To measure the flow for a person in a point in time Csikszentmihalyi compares the skills a person has while dealing with a challenge.


Skills and challenges have to be adapted for a person to be in a state of flow. Low skills facing high challenges may bring worry and up to anxiety; whereas high skills facing low challenges can convey boredom and laziness.

For a person to be happy, they must be able to face challenges that are not too high, yet challenging enough to learn from and get motivated by.

How does this scene relate to the flow?

Flow isn’t positive or negative in the sense that a person can be in a state of flow doing morally wrong actions. Some might even insinuate that criminals may more often experience flow than the average person, for they’re driven by passion. This movie shows exactly that! A cunning and morally loose person living the flow.

Lou Bloom has a strong desire to learn and be successful. And yet, his lack of formal education, his age (30+) and lack of empathy don’t provide him the right tools to access interesting and challenging jobs that will engage him for a long time. In addition, his financial issues drive him to become opportunistic and take whatever job he can, well beneath his real aptitudes. At the beginning of the movie we find out that Lou is a thief, stealing metals to resell them. By getting into the video news he starts stealing video-shots where most people will refrain themselves. Basically, he replaces he working tools with a camera, but at the bottom, little has changed in his modus operandi. Two human traits that differentiate him from his competitors, his lack of empathy and his cold-blooded logic, provide him with the resources to film what others would deem morally wrong. His first success becomes an opportunity to open a door he didn’t know exist: the flow door. By his next shoot he realizes he can go beyond competition and starts enjoying this new endeavor as a game. Up till today he worked to make a living or even survive. From now on he will start to live for the job or more correctly to be in flow and that is what he concisely expresses to Nina in that specific scene.

Coming back to games and more specifically video games, Csíkszentmihályi doesn’t really consider them to be activating the state of flow. The reason behind it is that flow will make you grow and improve, while TV and games are a substitute or a way out of reality. On the long run, they won’t make you happy and often will make you feel you wasted your time.

If we have become dependent on television, on drugs, and on facile calls to political or religious salvation, it is because we have so little to fall back on, so few internal rules to keep our mind from being taken over by those who claim to have the answers. (M. Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, p.128)

Ironically, flow theory has been widely used within games to instill a desire to be played. Great video games include all the elements for the player to live the flow while playing. Through the balance of skill and challenge the player’s brain is aroused, with attention engaged and motivation high.

One of the key strengths of video games and principally role-playing games such as Skyrim, is that they are immersive and the player can build on his competences. The player gets to choose between different skill-sets and see his hero evolve while playing, adding new skills after each level-increase. The same applies here to Lou; each time he meets a video news character or faces a specific new challenge he discovers innovative means to improve his work. He does what he likes and he is getting better at it!
(More information about games and the flow can be found in the interesting links at the end of the post.)

What can we learn from Lou?

Throughout the centuries individuals and groups have been looking for the magical potion for happiness. As happiness is both a value and a state of mind it is a subjective concept perceived differently by each one of us. Therefore, there is no miracle solution that works and impacts us all. Nonetheless, if happiness is a state of mind, then it means that the source of it is hidden and latent within each one of us and all we have to do is find the appropriate way(s) to unlock and activate it.

In this scene, Lou delivers us two major teachings.

1. “Why you pursue something is equally important to what you pursue.”
People have been searching for purpose and happiness since life exists. Purpose however, requires a more developed brain to investigate. What is our purpose in life, why are we here? While both seem to have a different level of complexity to them, they are unique to each one of us. We create our own purpose (up till the day we have the real all-encompassing answer) and we give purpose to our life by acting congruently. Finding out what makes us happy is a way to understand our purpose and being happy results from experiencing the flow in our professional and/or personal life. Leading our own life can be more fruitful if we adopt the concept of flow and search for activities that provide us this state of mind. Lou is happy because he found a professional path he likes and he’s good at. Moreover, it becomes his personal mission which strives him to be the best he can. He found his purpose. The example of the website Lou talks about would be a good way to start.

In my case, I decided to create this website as I realized I enjoy writing about ideas and concepts and that would also help me professionally. I like making links between different subjects and I become more aware of who I am as a person through introspection and sharing these ideas during conversations. Writing this blog is me being in my flow. How about you? Are there activities that bring you in flow?

2. In a work environment, in order to achieve flow, Csikszentmihalyi lays out the following three conditions:

  • Goals are clear
  • Feedback is immediate
  • A balance between opportunity and capacity

While we don’t see it in this scene, Lou often talks about these points with the other characters he’s working with. He may be a sociopath, but he fully understands the concept of flow.

Leading by the flow, could be a fresh approach for leading a team. By providing each employee with opportunities to experience and express flow, one opens a path to generate more engagement, increase ownership and loyalty, which improves company results (see Gallup’s study).

Introducing a work philosophy adopting the concept of flow may require some changes to the work environment and the work flow.

It could start for example by explaining first to the other colleagues what brings us to flow.
Sharing may open others to talk about what they want and having that knowledge may help set in place a flow-friendly work environment.

In addition, flow may go viral. When a group of people express the same desire to achieve a common goal and consequently succeed in combining their focus and efforts to achieve this goal, they may be in sync with their flow. Professional team sporters should experience it often (when they’re not too focused on their bonuses).

How about you? Do you experience flow at work?
Do you know companies that have flow as part of their business or are interested in expanding the topic?
Or, do you have any knowledge about training and consulting companies in that field?
Feel free to share with us.


Flow related training and consulting companies

Interesting links

1. Ted Talk 2004 – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness
2. 5 Reasons You Need To Be Using Game-Based Learning For Corporate Training
3. Cognitive Flow: The Psychology of Great Game Design
4. flOw – the game
5. Flow in Games (and Everything Else)
6. Fastcompany – Inspiration from video games to get into a flow state at work.