Reach your potential by NOT being a well rounded person
Conventional wisdom asks most people to become well rounded people. Fix your weaknesses, improve your development areas, etc. While that is all true to a degree, you would probably be better served NOT spending the time to round yourself out and focus on your strengths and what you are good at.
Books like Now, Discover Your Strengths are the basis of this view point.
Let’s think about this for a minute. If you imagine that you have an hour to spend to help improve yourself: you could spend that hour on learning something is related to something that you love and are good at (call it a strength) or you could spend that hour on something related to something that you don’t enjoy and are not really good at (call it a weakness). That hour spent on your strength was probably quite enjoyable and you probably learned it quite quickly since it was related to something else that you were good at. During this hour, you would have likely spent pretty much all of that hour on that interesting subject, and you’d probably learn quite a lot relative to that period of time.
In contrast, the hour spent on your weakness was probably horrible if you were even effective in that hour at all and you probably did not learn as much as you could have given your negative feelings towards that weakness. During this hour, you would have likely spent a bunch of time making excuses to not do the work, cursing at yourself for having to do this other work or stressing yourself on why you can’t do this work more easily.
Let’s throw in an example. You are student and you come home with your report card showing grades in 5 subjects as A, C, C, C, F. Which area do you focus on? Almost everyone will say the F since no one wants to fail. And if we did focus on the F subject, we do improve to a E, D, C maybe higher, but that would have been with great effort, a lot of will power and probably a lot of frustration as well.
However, a more effective alternative that would be aligned to reaching your potential would be to focus on the subject with which you received an A (or perhaps it’s a related aspect that you have yet to realize as your true strength).
Many successful people are that way as they have the opportunity more often than not to focus on their strengths. But that does not mean that they ignored their weaknesses / “development areas”. Most had a partner that served as a counter balance where their weaknesses were the other person’s strengths. The Ying to their Yang. Steve Jobs had Wozniak. Bill Gates had Balmer. Hewlett had Packard. Proctor had Gamble (actually I don’t know if this last pair had complementing strengths, but would love for someone to find out…).
For an illustration of what NOT focusing on your strengths might mean, let’s use a little math. Let’s say that doing something that is your strength comes out at 100% efficiency (that is 1 hour of strength work produces 1 hour of productivity). For your “development areas”, let’s say you can do them at 50% efficiency (I know for me, it would be probably less for certain things and more for others, but I picked it for illustration purposes). If we run the math, that means that if you take a normal 8 hour work day and spend half of it executing on one of your strengths and the other half executing on a “development area” then after every 8 hour day, you are only producing 6 hours of productivity. Talk about playing baseball…(you would have had to read the first blog post to get what that means).
Imagine a life where you could always do what you are good at and have others balance out to do what you aren’t good at. Now that’s reaching your potential! Just be careful that your development areas are not dragging your strengths down (we can get to that on another post).
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