The world has a love affair with pointing out a person’s strengths and weaknesses.
They just adore telling us that to get ahead (whatever that means) we need to learn to maximize our strengths instead of focusing on our weaknesses. People say it a lot, they write it a lot, and it irritates me…a lot. Not because it’s not true (it probably is), but because it’s not the point of the whole endeavor.
Let’s consider my own weaknesses: I am afraid to take chances. I am afraid of rejection. I am terrified of judgement and I will do anything to avoid failing. On the flip side: I can read others in an almost superhuman way, I can act as a bridge between people who cannot communicate with each other, I am insightful, highly competent, and conscientious.
Now, let’s forecast two different scenarios for my life going forward:
Path A (or “Strengths for the win!”): I learn to leverage my strengths to the maximum possible extent. I work hard, I use my talents to help others do hard things (while I continue to do things that come relatively easy to me) and at the end of my life, I know I have done the best possible with my innate talents without failing or disappointing anyone. This seems pretty okay, right?
Path B (or “Meh, you’re wasting your time, but whatever”): I accept that my weaknesses will never come naturally to me, but I focus my attention on them anyway, and almost exclusively. I take chances, I do things that put me in the path of rejection, criticism and failure (my writing, for one). I do this over and over again. I do not worry about nurturing my strengths, because they flourish like weeds, through drought, flood, heat or neglect. My life feels like magic because I am doing the things that scare me, that make me feel pain and pleasure in equal amounts, that make me feel alive. At the end of my life, there are no dark corners unexplored, no regrets for not taking the leaps when I had no strengths to catch me.
Which of those stories do you think has a better ending?
We all have SO MUCH potential. But it’s not calling to you from your talents or your gifts. It’s hiding in the things that make you feel small or weak or less-than. I can tell you that every monumental moment in my life has come from staring my weaknesses in the face and seeing an opportunity instead of an enemy.