advice

On strengths and weaknesses

12:00:00 AM

On a random Tuesday morning, I got a text from my friend Jerry. He asked what I thought of this quote: "Your weaknesses will never develop, while your strengths will develop infinitely." He got this quote from an article he stumbled upon on LinkedIn. Since we usually talk about career and money, he figured he'd pitch it to me. I analyzed the statement in two parts.

Part one is about weaknesses. To say that weaknesses will never develop is a gross underestimation of the incredible human capacity for exceeding the self. I've read lots of stories of people who taught themselves to walk again after their doctors have told them that they never could. My best friend, Joandrea, is an amazing example of how one can overcome weakness if he or she decides to do so. She couldn't walk for a year because of transverse myelitis, a complication from lupus, but now, she not only walks, she even runs!

When I was in elementary school, I was so mathematically inept, it's embarrassing (I still am, actually)! I was genetically gifted with strong linguistic faculties, but when it came to numbers, I must have gotten all the bad genes in the family. But for a brief period in high school, I was actually quite awesome in math. I even perfected several exams in Analytic Geometry and Trigonometry in my junior year.

Push. Go beyond your weakness.
(photo from the internet)
I was good at it at the time because I had awesome teachers who helped me exceed what I expected of myself, who made me want to be great. So if I could do well in math, then it isn't true that weaknesses will never develop. Your weaknesses may be a little harder to develop than your strengths, but they will develop. With effort. With motivation. With inspiration. With guidance. With a catalyst. With your choosing.

Part two is about strengths. If part one is an underestimation, then this section is an overestimation. I believe that it's infinite in the theoretical sense, but I think you always need to consider circumstance when you're trying to assess its potential for growth. Consider Chris Langan, who is considered to be the smartest man in America right now. Langan had all the strengths, but he didn't have access to training and opportunities that could have propelled him to the top of the academe. He ended up working as a bouncer in Long Island.

Another point: the greatest men in history had help in changing the world. Edmund Hillary had Tenzing Norgay with him when he climbed Mount Everest. Michael Jordan would not have gotten six championship rings without Scottie Pippen. Fred Noonan was with Amelia Earheart when her plane disappeared in her attempt to make aviation history. No great feat was accomplished just by a single person. The development of your strengths depends just as much on the people around you as it does on you.

I disagreed with the statement right off the bat, but just to be fair, I still read the article from which it was lifted to see if there's something more to it than what I picked up. He raises some valid points. And for the record, I understand that the quote (and the rest of the article) is actually good advice for people who don't know what they want to do - one's strengths can be his or her start off point. But as it turns out, the article is actually a sales pitch.

But for the most part, I still don't agree with his primary assertion. I felt somewhat offended at how it seems to belittle what a person can do if he or she wants something badly enough. It's as if your career is pre-determined for you, depending on the strengths that you win from a proverbial lottery, like what you want or what you think can make you happy are not factors to your choice.

You can't choose what you are given, and it makes perfect sense to make the most of what you have. But there's more to you than just your perceived strengths. We can chase after what we want, whether or not we're good at it at the start. If you love it enough, you'll do it more, and when you do it more, you will get better, best, great at it.

isawisay

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