I am really good at showing up on time, coaching people, planning jam-packed vacations, coming up with creative gift ideas, and breaking down something complicated into the key points that everyone needs to understand. Those are my talents—the things that I do well. Maybe even better than others. And, if I really thought about it, I could probably even think of a few more things to add to my short list.
Now, ask me to make a list of things I’m not very good at—the things I’ve worked hard at but never seem to be able to do as well as others…. Well, that could go on all day! Playing tennis, building budgets, writing in straight lines on a white board, singing in tune…. Seriously, I could fill the page! While practice might make me a bit better, I will never achieve greatness.
And as much as that bugs me, it’s pretty normal. We all have strengths but we have MANY more weaknesses than we have strengths. And that’s okay, because no one succeeds based on their weaknesses.
Who is the most talented person you can think of?
It doesn’t matter what the talent is. Picture the most gifted athlete, musician, actor, writer, designer, or computer programmer you know of. I immediately thought of Michael Phelps because I was just talking about him in a workshop recently—but whoever you brought to mind was surely also born with an innate ability that they developed to the point of excellence.
While Michael Phelps probably has a list of weaknesses as long as mine, he was also born with an innate ability to swim unrivaled by anyone else in the world today. He recognized this gift at an early age, enjoyed it, practiced often, and sharpened his potential into Olympic greatness. His weaknesses didn’t get in his way.
So, what are your talents? What do you well—maybe even better than others?
Here’s my advice: Identify the gifts you were born with and don’t get bogged down in the fact that you have weaknesses. And whatever you do, don’t spend time trying to become something that you’re not. Imagine if Michael Phelps had spent hours of potential pool time every day practicing chess. He would get better, I’m sure, and I suppose that could be another one of his strengths, but it would have also distracted him from focusing on his butterfly and becoming great.
As Peter Drucker reminds us, “Get your strengths together and make your weaknesses irrelevant.”
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on Mat 13, 2013 and has been updated.