Did you know Tiger Woods is ranked 61st on the PGA tour when it comes to chipping from the sand? His entire short game for that matter is “middle of the pack”, in sharp contrast to his #1 status. So, if you were Tiger, practicing with your coach five to six hours a day, what element of your game would you be working on? Counterintuitively, Tiger’s practice regime is focused almost entirely on his already world class driving and putting. Why?
Authors Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, armed with data from interviews with over 1.8 million successful individuals, explain.
Play to Your Strengths
“We want to help you do the same – to capitalize on your strengths, whatever they may be, and manage around your weaknesses, whatever they may be.”
Now, Discover Your Strengths, page 27
Bestseller Now, Discover Your Strengths, offers this one, fundamental piece of insight; while most of the world is focused on identifying and repairing flaws and weaknesses, the truly successful among us are doing virtually the opposite. Regardless of age, sex or nationality, successful people from all walks of life are focused on capitalizing on their strengths and managing their weaknesses.
Focusing on your strengths sounds like an obvious strategy when stated so bluntly. Yet in innumerable cases in society, we do just the opposite. Your child brings home a report card; 3 A’s, a B and a C-. Which grade do you focus most of your energy on? Certainly, the C- needs to be addressed. Buckingham and Clifton humbly suggest that greatness comes from focusing on the strengths however, not the weakness.
There are sixty other, better, short game golfers than Tiger Woods, but I doubt that fact keeps him awake at night. He’s got the best drive in the game, and he’s working every day to make it that much better.
Top athletes, entrepreneurs, artists and executives understand that true excellence is the result of spending as much time doing what you are naturally inclined to do, while minimizing your time and energy spent on everything else. The expression “Jack of all trades, master of none” has never been more true; excellence comes from a laser focus on developing your strengths. Nothing but mediocrity comes from becoming “well rounded”.
Identify: The First Step
If you’ve ever witnessed someone do something with almost magic like ease, and wondered in awe, “How does he do that?” (Tiger, on the 18th tee-box, comes to mind) then you’ve witnessed someone living their strengths. As Buckingham and Clifton explain, a “strength” is the combination of three elements; talent, knowledge and skill. They define each term as such:
“Talents are your natural recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior.
Knowledge consists of the facts and lessons learned.
Skills are the steps of an activity.”
Now, Discover Your Strengths, page 29
Knowledge and skills can be taught. It’s talent that’s the tricky one, and virtually unique to each of us.
As it turns out, by your sixteenth birthday, your “recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior” are locked; from that point forward you are destined to have the same dominant personality traits in everything you do. By learning and acknowledging those traits, you can then choose the activities (professional, recreational, community, etc.) that best utilize and showcase your dominate characteristics. Doing so will fill your days with purposeful fulfillment, make you more productive, and allow you to live aspects of your life with such a sense of ease that people will marvel, “How does she do that?”.
So how do you identify them, these “dominant talents”? The authors suggest keeping aware of “yearnings, rapid learning, and satisfactions” (pg. 69) as key indicators that you’re utilizing your natural talents. More tangibly, however, each copy of the book comes with a code to access an online, 20 minute test that will identify your five dominant traits. You do have to buy your own copy (there’s only one, unique code per book), but I can say with absolute certainty that it is the best $30 I have ever spent on personal development. Based on extensive interviews with over 1.8 million participants, the survey is easy, thorough, and incredibly insightful. I’d highly recommend it.
Run Damage Control Sparingly
“confess that you lost the battle with your unfixable weakness, and you may well win the trust and respect of those around you.”
Now, Discover Your Strengths, page 158
We all have weaknesses. We don’t need to dwell on them, but from time to time we do need to manage them. Even a 400 yard drive couldn’t save Tiger if he didn’t have at least an average short game. So he worked on it, brought it up to a satisfactory level, and then focused his time and energy on his strengths. “Get a little better at it” is just one of the five methods that Buckingham and Clifton suggest for managing your weaknesses.
Perhaps one of the reasons that we, as a society, are so focused on “areas of opportunity” rather than capitalizing on strengths is because of our fear of admitting our weaknesses. And yet… we all have them. Plenty of them. Which is probably why we respond positively when someone admits a weakness to us. By saying “I acknowledge this weakness, and here’s my plan for managing it”, those around us show strength of character, and we usually respect that. The key word is “manage”, not “fix”. Your time is much, much better spent honing your strengths.
Discover your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. Run damage control when necessary. Pursue brilliance regularly.
Now, Discover Your Strengths offers brilliant insight in easily digestible terms. Full of rich examples from contemporary figures we can almost all relate to, this book is a must have for all managers as well as anyone who feels they may not yet be living the life they were meant to lead.