A rare talent that I have that most people don’t know about it is the ability to serve as a bridge person. I didn’t become aware that I had this ability until my early twenties but once it was pointed out to me, I knew instantly that it was one of the things I was put on this earth to do. The easiest way to explain this is to first tell you what high school was like for me. Everyone can remember that high school has different groups of kids, the nicknames for each group change with each generation but basically the groups are the same. There are the “jocks” of course, the athletic types that include football players and cheerleaders. The jocks are tight with the “Preppy” crowd who are usually huge fans and in my day wore polo shirts with those tiny little alligators on the collar and were able to realistically expect a new car for their sixteenth birthday. Most schools also have their version of the “Burnouts” which are the kids that are perceived as spending their time smoking cigarettes and other things in the bathrooms or behind the bleachers. In reality the Burnouts don’t really rebel or party much more than the other groups, they just don’t go to such extremes to hide it from the world. Every high school has another group, in my day they were the “Nerds”. This was the group that everyone knew were ultra smart. Members of this group in my day could be identified by plaid shirts, pocket protectors, and in a lot of cases the glasses with heavy black or brown frames. Many of them learned how to program computers before other people even knew how to turn one on. Okay so now you’re remembering the different groups of kids in your school and you can probably remember pretty clearly which group you identified with in school. Maybe you were a jock, a nerd or a burnout. In most cases your friends would have all been part of the same group. So now on to what a bridge person is so you can figure out if maybe you have this ability too. A bridge person can float, not literally as in up in the sky, but metaphorically they can float from one group to another. For example in high school, I could name friends from each of the groups I listed above. Not only did I have friends in each of these groups, I made it known that I expected everyone to get along and that I wasn’t going to choose between friends. I’d like to think that my stubborn refusal to be pigeonholed way back then actually contributed to opening some eyes about stereotypes but who knows. My eighteenth birthday party is a good example. I grew up in one town and went to the same school district until I was a Freshman in high school. Because my parents had divorced, I ended up graduating from a nearby rival school. So now not only was I bridging cliques within the same school, I had friends in each of the two rival schools. I sent out my party invitations to kids from both rival schools. Friends in both schools told me I was nuts. They warned me that there would be fighting and drama because the kids from these two rival schools would clash. I just kept repeating that I wouldn’t tolerate any fighting. Guess what? Not only were there no fights but several friendships and couples relationships began that day. If you’re one of my high school friends, I’d love to hear whether you felt I was truly a part of one group or the other because I never really felt that I was at the time. It’s not as prominent, but the workplace is often very similar to high school only in the case of workplaces, the groups are often dictated by job titles. Executives stick with executives, laborers stick with laborers, secretaries with secretaries, etc. I found that I was able to serve as a bridge person in this arena too. Maybe it was my ego, I’m not sure, but in my mind everyone was valued and everyone’s opinion was useful and it just didn’t matter to me what someone’s title was. What mattered most to me was solving whatever problem we had at the time or meeting our goals, etc. and I would talk to whoever I felt could help and enlist them on the project. So a bridge person is someone who not only declines to be labeled themselves but is comfortable and accepted as they move in and out of different groups. More importantly, because they truly know the ins and outs of more than one group, they can help to bridge the gap between different groups for other people as well. So much more can get accomplished when you take into consideration all the opinions of those who are involved. So the next time you think “I can’t talk to that person”, take a deep breath and remember that old saying “he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like I do” and forge ahead for the good of the project. And for the parents out there, let’s do what we can to create a generation of bridge people to carry us through the future.