John Wooden, one of the most revered coaches in the history of basketball, summed up one of the most powerful takeaways in strength management in one simple sentence: "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." That gem of an observation extends far beyond the court and deep into each of our lives.
As the head coach at UCLA, Wooden won 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years, including an unprecedented seven in a row. No other coach or school has won the NCAA tournament more than two consecutive years in a row so I’m sure we can all agree that the guy knew talent! He knew how to spot it, recruit it, and he certainly knew how to coach it.
John Wooden understood that we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. And for every one of us, our weaknesses greatly outnumber our strengths. Whether we are talking about sports superstars, famous musicians, groundbreaking scientists, successful entrepreneurs, or people in your sales department, our weaknesses comprise the mountain that looms large over the tiny molehill of our strengths.
No one ever became famous for their weaknesses, of course. Those we admire and celebrate became famous because they found that perfect little niche in life where they could exploit their strengths and avoid spending time on their weaknesses. The difference between Blake Shelton and the cute guy down the street that sings and plays guitar is that Blake has found a way to focus all of his time and attention on maximizing his strengths, essentially making his weaknesses irrelevant.
In a perfect world, we would all find a way to do that: spend time on the things we are naturally good at so we can become great! And avoid areas of our innate weakness like the plague.
The Benefit of Focused Practice
Did you know that you can get 10 times better with focused practice in an area of strength? Sadly, that same amount of effort in an area of weakness will only bring you a paltry 10% gain (and significantly less happiness!). A great argument for why you will never see me involved in accounting.
Challenge yourself to identify the things on which you should be spending more time and focused practice. What are your innate strengths and how can you find ways to do them more often, practicing them to the point of near-perfection?
Then ask yourself, what should you avoid doing as often as possible? What is on your plate that could be better handled by someone else, freeing up your time and energy to do more of what you are great at?
Certainly for most of us, our days will have to include a few of the things that probably won’t make us famous. But the more we are able to recognize our strengths and concentrate both our time and energy in developing those innate abilities, the more productive and the happier we will be.
How do you know what your innate strengths are if you haven’t taken one of our talent assessments? Here are a few hints that might help:
- There is something deep inside of us that make us want to try some things and steer clear of other things. The things you are drawn to are likely your strengths.
- When we use our strengths, it tends to feel satisfying. We enjoy ourselves, and we look for ways to do that activity more often in the future.
- We learn quickly in areas of our strength, usually catching on to a new activity faster than others.
- We also tend to have unexpected success very early on when we are using our strengths. Those glimpses of excellence that can’t be explained before we’ve really had the training or the experience.
What is it that fits all of those categories for you?
Find one way today that you will apply John Wooden’s advice, and do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.