Multiply Strengths vs. Improve Weaknesses

The school of thought goes like this:

“Focus on your strengths to see exponential growth. At best, improving your weaknesses leads to marginal growth.”

The idea’s touted all over the internet. Here’s one or two places. Check your Google for others.

In theory this sounds fine.

By sticking to your strengths, you’ll “produce” (in the broadest definition of the word) more for the world, at a higher quality, with greater satisfaction.

Versus struggling through tasks which require a disposition you don’t have, or skill sets you haven’t acquired.

For example, in all likelihood I will never become a terrific programmer or designer. I’ve tried. I struggle through tiny modules of CSS and continue flailing when I have to conjure what words like “float: right” or “padding: 3 em” do to the Internets.

So if I have to bring skill sets to the table, I’d rather leave these in the car.

My problem with the “multiply strengths versus improve weaknesses” argument…

Is how easy it is to confuse:

“That’s not one of my strengths”

with…

“That’s really hard.”

In this hyper-connected world that’s both uber-competitive and saturated with distractions, it’s easy to let ourselves off the hook the second we run into a barrier. This stymies our development: professionally, emotionally, inter-personally.

And if we constantly let ourselves off the hook when things get difficult, how will we produce anything worthwhile?

Take my own example above: is it that I’m not a good programmer or designer by natural disposition? Or is it just hard… and it’s a skill that requires work?

Which brings to mind a lyric from a song in today’s modern-pop lexicon, Ten Thousand Hours by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis:

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint/
The greats were great cause they paint a lot.

I’m not saying that school of thought is entirely wrong.

I’m saying, there’s a balance: yes, find the opportunities to multiply your strengths.

But don’t use “weakness” as a crutch to avoid “difficult.”

Photo Credit: Hayley-Jean Lochner

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