Should we Focus on Strengths or Weaknesses?
Have you read the title of this post? Well, I don’t know the answer. I want you to answer this question for me.
This is what Gary Vaynerchuk says: “You need to bet on your strengths and not give a fuck about what you suck at.” Watch here.
In another video he says the same.”Legacy is better than currency”. Watch here.
Now, Peter Ducker in a popular Harvard Business Review Classics (Managing Oneself) says the same: The reason people don’t succeed is that they don’t know their strengths. He suggests that we can only find out what our strengths are by looking at our past successes and failures (he calls that feedback analysis). Then, we should only invest in those strengths every single day. Also, we shouldn’t try to change everything at once. The key is in getting rid of the bad habits and continuously investing in our strong areas.
Here is an excellent summary of the book Managing Oneself written by the successful entrepreneur Tai Lopez.
On the flip side now I have to say the following:
- What if you have built your strength to such an extent that any marginal improvement towards your strength is not that important as opposed to an improvement in an area that you have always neglected.
- What if your strength is not as enjoyable anymore as it was before? OK, you most probably enjoy things that you’re good at but what if you don’t find something as sexy as before anymore?
- What if you have multiple passions and want to live a diversified life? What if you are a mathematician in your 30’s and a degree in history is now more interesting than a PhD in mathematics?
My dad used to be a teacher in primary school. He was a really good teacher. All the kids loved him. I’ve probably got some of his talent and done lots of teaching myself too. I’ve taught mathematics, languages, music and the feedback I’ve been getting all these years is really exceptional. However, I haven’t always enjoyed the process of teaching. Why? Because teaching sucks all your energy. 3-4 hours of real teaching can leave you dead. Does the fact that I can be a good teacher means I should become one? Not sure.
Two years ago I wrote a book about how we can become better learners and memorise better what we learn. I spent six months reading tons of research in cognitive psychology. There is no evidence that we should learn according to our preferred learning style (visual, acoustic, verbal, kinaesthetic) if we want to learn more effectively. On the contrary, there are studies that have shown the opposite. For example, visual learners learn better if they start reading or listening.
In another recent Harvard Business Review podcast, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor at University College London and Columbia University says there is no scientific evidence that focusing on your strengths guarantees success.
The problem he says is that we usually compare our own strengths between them instead of comparing our strengths against the same strengths in our peers. Well, I don’t fully agree with that either. Let’s say that more than half of the population is better at something we like and are best at. Giving that something up and looking at something we’re not good at doesn’t sound like a good strategy either.
Professor Chamorro-Premuzic says also that overdeveloping a strong area can become a liability rather than an asset. For example, a really ambitious person can become greedy or someone with good social skills can become a manipulator. But that’s again something you can’t control. Here we’re talking about people who want to get better and achieve the most of life like you and me. I don’t find convincing the reasoning here. Read for yourself. Tell me what you think.
My gut feeling as I’m writing this article is that we should do what feels right and not what we think is right. We live in a “KPI and ROI” society where productivity and optimisation are everything. We put our mind first and our heart second.
I think you shouldn’t follow anyone’s advice. Do what feels right to you. Do you want to explore something new? Do it. Do you find challenge in improving a skill that you thought you were not good at? Do it! You may find out that you’re good at it in the end.
Can you leave a comment below? I want to know your opinion.