Peter Whatling’s life changed on November 16, 1992, after he discovered a treasure he didn’t know he possessed.


A long-time farmer near Suffolk, England, Mr. Whatling lost a hammer in his field. In order to retrieve it, he asked his friend, Eric Lawes, to bring a metal detector and help search for it. While scanning for the tool, the two men discovered the remains of an oak chest. Inside the chest were smaller wooden boxes and fabric bags. As they examined the items more closely, the two men realized that they had just uncovered a bona fide ancient treasure!

Buried in Peter’s field were late Roman gold and silver coins and jewelry – nearly 15,000 artifacts in all, now known as “The Hoxne Hoard.” The reward for the find, which the two men shared, was more than 1.75 million pounds sterling. Never before had the British government paid so much for a buried treasure.

And to think – I would have just bought another hammer…

But don’t miss the most interesting part of the story: Peter’s life changed not because he acquired something new, but because he discovered something that was already in his possession.

More importantly, chances are that we are each in a similar situation.

Though it’s unlikely that any of us have a treasure worth millions buried in our backyard, it’s highly likely that we each have intangible treasures buried in our lives… Treasures that we can unearth for increased opportunity and greater satisfaction.


Start Searching for Your Treasure!

I believe that each of us has treasure waiting to be unearthed in at least three different areas of our lives: unexploited talents, unharnessed passions, and unappreciated relationships.

More importantly, it’s possible for us to find and dig up these treasures! Let’s talk about each, in turn:

1) Unexploited Talents – Marcus Buckingham has been a key figure in the ground-breaking strengths-based approach to work, education, and leadership. Buckingham defines ‘talent’ as an action you can reliably duplicate with consistent, near-perfect performance. Contrast this with a skill, which does not come naturally but can be improved (though not perfected) with practice.

The fact is, many of us don’t make the most of our natural talents. We either fail to notice them because they are inherent, or we discount them because they come so easily to us. Surely, something that’s so natural can’t possibly be valuable – can it?

Yes, it can.

When you engage a talent, a sort of resonance results. Though you expend energy you also feel recharged, like an alternator charging a car battery. Applying a talent results in a marked and unique satisfaction. Most notably, chances are you enjoy your greatest successes when you’re working in an area using your talent.

Take note: I’m not saying that you’re currently making money with your talents. Rather, when you employ a true talent, you are successful in whatever ends you’re working toward. That’s why talent can be a buried treasure and learning to cultivate your talent intentionally can open doors to new opportunities.

If you want to unearth your treasure in the area of unexploited talents, here’s where to begin:

  • To start, try to identify some of your talents. What have people regularly complemented you on throughout your life? Maybe, like me, you write and speak well, and you enjoy these activities. Or, perhaps you’re more tactile or a good listener. Take some time to reflect, and you’ll start to get the picture.
  • Next, look for ways to apply your talent in your current position. What do you do that you could do differently, utilizing your talent? Watch how applying your talent changes the dynamics of your work.
  • Finally, apply your talent with increasing frequency. To the extent it’s possible, build your life around your talent. For some, as you gain further understanding of your talents, it may be appropriate to change jobs or even careers to reach your full potential.
  • I also recommend spending some quality time with Buckingham’s materials and taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder. I have worked through this with leadership groups several times and it always proves enlightening and equipping for participants.

“Talent is the multiplier. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield.”

– Marcus Buckingham

2) Unharnessed Passions – For many of us, the word passion connotes sexual love but that’s a narrow interpretation. Understood more broadly, passion is a highly expressive emotion, an intense enthusiasm. Thus, passion is like jet fuel, and it’s capable of launching you to great heights.

Passion helps you pay the price for your dreams. Once ignited, passion can fuel early mornings and late nights. I’ve seen passion harnessed to start non-profits, build ministries, write books, build businesses, start rock bands, sell screenplays, fight lawsuits, and climb corporate ladders.

People are passionate about many different things, but like talents, passion is often taken for granted. As a result, it goes unharnessed. We may realize that other people don’t care about the same things we do, but we often miss the next steps and inadvertently waste our passion. We fail to explore the root of our passion and never allow ourselves to be challenged by the question, “So, what?”

Here’s how to dig up your treasure of unharnessed passion:

First, passion must be identified. Dr. John Maxwell offers an interesting strategy for gaining insight by asking three questions:

  • What do you dream about?
  • What do you sing about?
  • What do you cry about?

His point – what moves you deeply? What keeps you awake at night? And why? The answers to these questions go beyond curiosity, interest, and frustration. Their tendrils wind their way to your core. Answering them honestly takes many people a great deal of time and effort.

Next comes the hard part, the “so, what?” As Andy Stanley elaborates in his excellent book, Visioneering, the ball is in your court. When your passion smolders with a sense of what could be and what should be, the onus is on you to take action.

It’s your duty to investigate by reading, observing, asking questions, and learning everything possible about the object of your passion.

Doing so will either (1) bring further definition to your passion so that it starts to crystallize into a vision; or, (2) result in a loss of interest. Thus, investigation equips us to move forward or frees us to focus our time and energy elsewhere.

“Before you can find your way, you must discover your why.”

– Michael Hyatt

3) Un-appreciated Relationships – It’s easy to overlook the wealth of knowledge and experience, insight and wisdom accessible in the people around us. Friends and acquaintances are, perhaps, our greatest resource and the buried treasure that is most often overlooked.

I first realized this several years ago while working on my MBA. The companies I studied all had teams of talented, experienced individuals to help them make decisions and navigate life’s uncertainties. I wanted this same thing for my life and set about developing a ‘Personal Board of Directors,’ which I’ve written about at length (you can check out the series, if you’re interested).

In sum:

“There really is no such thing as a self-made person. People who are successful have had help along the way from others – whether or not they want to acknowledge it. Knowing this truth can free you to admit you need help and begin looking for it. And that’s a crucial step in the process of achieving success.”

– Dr. John Maxwell

Don’t forget – unearthing these relationships is not just about what you can get. It’s equally about what you can give, and that may even be the greater blessing!

Take a fresh look at your life.

One other notable point about Whatling’s story: He needed help to locate his treasure.

We do too.

So grab a friend or mentor with some objectivity to act as a metal detector! Let that person help you look more closely for talents, passions, and relationships, unearth them, and share in the results.


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