Being Good at Everything is Holding You Back

I'm constantly having conversations with college students who have no idea what they're doing with their lives. Where they're going. What they want to be doing. Some don't even really know what they're good at. 

While it's perfectly normal to not know what you want to "do with your life," even 60-year-olds joke about not having figured this out yet, do you at least know what you want to do right now?

I think we often ask the wrong question. Just because we haven't pinned down exactly what we want to spend the rest of our lives doing (cause hello, that's a lot of pressure), doesn't mean we should give up on figuring out what we want to do right now or for the next year or five.

When did the pressure of choosing a life-long career give way to folding in to choosing nothing or becoming a "jack of all trades?"

One issue is that we've failed to capitalize on strengths. Think about getting report cards in school. You didn't see the 97 in Literature and Composition and think, "Awesome, I should focus on this strength and develop it into a marketable skill." You saw the 74 in Biology and thought, "Man, I better get that grade up so my parents and teachers don't get mad."

Most of our society seems to operate on this idea. And while, yes, there are certain weaknesses you want to develop in order to maintain competency, if we only ever focus on weaknesses, we create a person that is just... well, competent.

Competency is great. But it's not all that's possible. And it can be exhausting. Imagine constantly working your whole life to just be a competent, average person.

What if you focused more on your strengths and were able to work your whole life to become not just competent... but great!

Seems cheesy but it's true. Beyonce didn't become a great performer because she made sure she understands basic physics and can work a spread sheet and aced her senior lit class. She understood her talents in singing, dancing, and connecting with people, and she developed them.

Bill Gates, while completing two years at Harvard shows he was obviously capable of working at an advanced collegiate level, dropped out to start Microsoft. Why? Because he recognized his strength in understanding computers, innovation, and entrepreneurship. He knew he didn't need to keep developing other auxiliary skills in order to be successful.

Are you developing your strengths to work toward your success? Do you even know what your strengths are in order to do that?

That's the key. You have to know your strengths, and if you don't, you should try to find what they are. How? There are many options.

Some recommend a personality test like this one. But there are so many personality tests out there. In fact, the shownotes from this week's podcast give a link to a long list of options and their descriptions you could check out. 

In the past I've found Strengths Finder 2.0 helpful. It's a very diagnostic analysis of your skills and strengths and how you can use and develop them.

Something I've found helpful is asking around. Mentors, family, and friends can often see things in us that we might not have been able to recognize. The can tell you from an outside perspective what you might be good at, what your weaknesses are, what talents you have. You'd be surprised what you might learn.

Once you know your strengths, then what?

Work hard. Don't sit idle with them. Nothing develops that way. What can you do today that can advance your strengths?

Can you start a project? Take a class? Find a mentor? Practice a skill? There are so many ways to advance a skill. In fact, pretty much the only way to not do so is to do nothing.

The tricky part here is that developing your strengths might take some sacrifice. What are you doing that's merely obligatory but doesn't use your strengths? Are you continuing to work at something you're just not good at? Not that you shouldn't try to improve this, but you should recognize when focusing on a weakness is detracting from the chance to develop a strength.

Sometimes it comes down to just time. What are you giving your time to? Are you giving too much time to the have-to's and the weaknesses to be able to develop your strengths?

The challenge this week is to strengthen your strengths. If you don't know what they are, try one of the listed methods to find out. If you do know them, figure out how to rework your behavior to emphasize them.

But this couldn't just be a week long thing. Developing your strengths becomes a lifestyle choice. It involves decision after decision to become a specialist and to leave the jack-of-all-trades mentality behind you.