If you really want to get to know someone you should ask them this one question…

If you could have one super power what would it be?

There have been two times in my life that I have been asked this question that I will truly never forget:

  1. This was the topic of the first paper I remember writing in school in probably third grade…
  2. It was the last question that my Command Sergeant Major asked me during my promotion board for Sergeant (SGT) in the United States Army…..

Needless to say, there were much intentions between when my third grade teacher giving me this question as a writing prompt and when I was asked this question to make or break my advancement through the ranks of the United States Army.

When I was a kid, I wanted to fly or I wanted super stretchy arms so I could reach the T.V. remote without leaving the couch. But when I was asked this question during my promotion board, it required a deeper sense of thinking.

I wasn’t asked this question as a “freebee”.  In fact, I quickly learned I was asked this question by my leadership team with a precise result in mind.

For months after my promotion board I tried valiantly to understand why this question was so valuable to them.  I wanted to know how this question, out of any other question in the world, could have provided my leadership team the information they wanted to know and here is what I came up with:

  1. Most adults who are asked this question wouldn’t take it seriously which may mean they lack creativity and the ability to think outside of the box.
  2.  This question is strange and likely often catches people off guard which quickly shows how capable someone is of thinking on their feet.
  3. For those who do take this question seriously and answer it honestly, it will provide you with insight into how they think.  Are their answers self-centered for their own benefit or focused on the greater good and team oriented?

My leadership wanted to know the type of soldier I was and if I would make a great leader or not.

The wording in this question is very important though because I wasn’t asked which superhero I would be because that would be easier.  Superhero’s have multiple powers.  The question I was asked, which superpower, only permitted one answer which must be carefully considered.

But during my promotion board, they didn’t give me time to think before I answered so I spit out the words that came from a special place in my heart.  I wanted to be invincible so I could lead forever.  If I was invincible that meant I could take on the burden of those who relied on me without fatigue or failure.  I wanted to be able to withstand the most wicked of storms so those whom I led would be fearless in following me.

Who knows if that was the answer they were looking for but it was true and remains my answer to this very day.  I would be invincible so I could put the world on my shoulders.  Not for fame or recognition but because it would allow me to show everyone watching me that I would never give up.

I truly believe this question should be asked in every job interview, on every first date, or in any setting where you want to truly understand how someone thinks.

By: SGT Timothy A. Natale

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