Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Greatest Strengths Are Also Our Greatest Weaknesses

I was introduced to this idea by Alan Webber in 'Rules of Thumb".  He framed it as a business idea- that which created your success will ultimately cause your downfall.  It's the idea that for every strength, there is a corresponding opposite attribute which is a weakness.

Here's my example.  I'm an "idea" person.  I am pretty good at envisioning new ideas.  I can usually see things most people cannot.  You may have gotten this from my previous posts. :-)

There is an opposite to this, however.  I suck at execution.  I have very poor planning skills, no organizational skills, and I have a hard time seeing things most people can (i.e.- the logistics of carrying out my ideas).  

All of us have this dichotomy.  Whatever you consider a strength also has a corresponding weakness.  In interviews, we're taught to take advantage of this.  How many people have responded to the question "What is your greatest weakness" with "I care TOO much."

Here's a little exercise to test this idea.  Get a few index cards.  On one side, write the characteristics you consider your strengths on one side.  After you finish, flip each card over and write the corresponsing weakness.
It may take some time to figure out what the weakness is, but it's there.  If you are a great people person, maybe you stink at data.  If you like math, maybe you're a horrible dancer.  Whatever.

It is important to recognize both our strengths and weaknesses.  Ideally, we should use our advantages whenever possible.  Hugh MacLeod, one of my inspirations and author of "Ignore Everybody", used the example of Bob Dylan.  He couldn't sing or play the guitar, so he played up his strength- writing damn good lyrics.  

It is important to also recognize this in our students.  Too often, we get caught up in making the "well-rounded", which is really just another world for all-around mediocre.  Identify your students' strengths and teach them to capitalize on them.  They are, after all, their strengths.

As far as weaknesses, it's helpful to be aware of them.  Manage them accordingly, but don't get caught up in sending all your time correcting the weaknesses.  It's okay to just manage them.  If Bob Dylan spent all his time trying to become a good singer or guitar player, I bet he wouldn't have amounted to much.  Neither will you.  Neither will I.  Neither will our students. 


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