#24: Focus on Your Strengths

Follow Up

Last week, I asked for your suggestions for reducing the activation energy for your work. Here’s a few of the replies:

”One technique I’ve found useful is chaining. This article covers it and some other useful things pretty well.” —Steven

”One I use is telling myself I can stop after 5 minutes, since the hardest part is starting. That usually works, and I end up having to pull myself away from the task later after doing it for an hour or two.” —Matt

”I found out that for me it is really important to be frequently doing something that I like. In my case it can some exercise (mainly running, martial arts and/or some dynamic fitness program, like crossfit), playing guitar, watching movies, doing zazen (buddhist sitting meditation, although this one can be really difficult most of the time), etc… Finding some balance in between leisure and work, for me, is really important, even when I’m working on something that I love.” —Liordino

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their suggestions!  


I recently got an email from a reader who was feeling a bit stuck. She was in the process of launching her lettering business but was held up trying to finish her website redesign. She had the skills to code it herself, but the idea of doing it wasn’t appealing at all. So, she kept putting it off. She wanted to focus on one her strengths: lettering. But she couldn’t get past one of her weaknesses: coding.

I talk a lot about pushing through those “stuck” moments and beating procrastination. But I’ll you what I told her: focusing on your weaknesses too much is the wrong move, too. She could have spent 10 minutes making a landing page with Squarespace and gotten back to what she really cared about: her lettering projects. In the end, she traded some lettering work for a friend’s coding skills and launched a simplified version of the site. And it looks great.

As a society, we spend way too much time worrying about the things we struggle at. It leaves a lot of people feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, and stuck. What if we spent time figuring out our strengths and focused on them, instead?

We all have limited time, money, and energy. Slightly improving one of your weaknesses doesn’t strike me as a good use of your day. Instead, focus on something you’re good at, and take it from good to great. You may never overcome a weakness, but you could make a huge impact on your life and career if you focus on your strengths.

So, how do you figure out what your strengths are?

Talk to the people who know you best: your coworkers, friends, and family. Ask them what they consider your strengths to be. Tell them to be brutally honest. Where do they think you excel? Be ready for these conversations to sting, a little.

Don’t discount any of the feedback they give you. If your inner circle loves the way you write, for example, think about all the ways you can leverage that strength. Can you adjust your career path to incorporate more writing? What if you started a blog – or a weekly newsletter – where you could practice and refine your writing skills?

Examine the times you’ve done your best work; the kind of work that left you feeling happy, energized and fulfilled. What are the commonalities? Which your skills did you employ? How can you re-create those moments?

It can be a lot of work, to be honest. But if you can figure out where your strengths lie and put more of your effort into those areas, I bet you’ll be happier, more productive, and – ultimately – more successful in your work.

What do you think? Is laser-focus on your strengths the right move? Reply to this email – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers,

–Brian

Brian Gilham Engineering leader, husband, and father-to-be from Toronto