Strengths and Weaknesses

We all have our strengths and talents but, as nobody is perfect, we also have weaknesses too. Conventional wisdom tells us that we are only as strong as our weakest link, and must address our weaknesses in order to live life at its fullest. That makes sense, but what about our strengths, though? Surely, if we devote all of our attention to our weaknesses, there is a chance that our strengths might start to go a little rusty. Work on both then, I hear you say.

The first thing we need to do is determine which of our strengths and weaknesses we should work on, in which area and why. There are two areas in life, in which we have both strengths and weaknesses. How we work on these not only determines our quality of life but also how much value we bring to the world and enrich the lives of others. The first of these areas is our character. Character is who we are as a person and how we relate to others and the world around us. The second area is related to our skills and abilities. Our skills and abilities determine the value which we provide both for ourselves and others.

Traditionally, we focus on our weaknesses when it comes to our skills, and our strengths when it comes to our character. What if there was a better way, though? While this tried and tested approach works, I strongly believe that if you want real transformational change your focus needs to shift.

When we focus on our skills- related weaknesses, it takes time and during this time our strengths can go rusty. It’s far better, then to use this time and focus on our strengths when it comes to our skills. Invest in your strengths, work on them daily and watch them grow. This is how to provide greater value for others as well as yourself. Working on your weaknesses takes time and attention away from our strengths, which lose a little of their power. The result is a varied skillset in which you are between average and good at many, but excel at none. Better to have a few skills in which you are particularly strong and can make a real difference.

The opposite is true of our character. We focus on our strengths when it’s our weaknesses which need our attention. Focusing on improving our weaknesses while maintaining our strengths will help us to become the best version of ourselves. When you work on your weaknesses, you become more empathetic and compassionate towards other people and the world around you. At the same time, you also evolve and develop a more rounded character. This is what will help you to forge more meaningful and deeper relationships with people, both personally and professionally.

There is so much advice out there on strengths and weaknesses that it’s confusing. Here are a few pointers to get you started;

  • Determine your character and skills strengths. Reflect on where you believe your strengths lie in both areas and write them down. On a separate sheet of paper, ask family, friends and colleagues where they feel that your strengths lie. Write these down too, and compare both lists. Decide which ones you will take from both lists, and compile a final list.
  • Determine your character and skills weaknesses. Follow the same steps as you did for your strengths.
  • Draw up a plan of action. Now that you know where your skills-related strengths and character-related weaknesses lie, how are you going to work on both? Is there a book you can read? A seminar you can attend? Somebody who could coach or mentor you?
  • Take action daily to become the best version of yourself and provide value to yourself and others. 

So, if you feel that you are doing all that you can but making slow progress, turn conventional thinking and advice on its head. Work instead on your skills strengths and your character weaknesses, and see where that leads.

Good luck!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Substance over Style

Fake it until you make it. Dress like you already have the job or lifestyle which you want. Copy these 5/ 6/ 10 habits of highly successful people if you want results. Dress this way. Read this, watch that...The list goes on. If, however, you are serious about becoming the best version of yourself and achieving great things, then this is advice which is to be avoided.

The problem is that this advice is superficial and cosmetic. Furthermore, it’s a waste of time. The time which is wasted on dressing a certain way to impress others, for example, could be better spent working on yourself. This definitely does not count as working on yourself, because all you’re doing in this instance is putting on an act. Copying the behaviour of famous people won’t actually help you to become more like them. It won’t make you rich or famous. It won’t get you any closer to your goals, either. Instead, it could derail your progress.

If your ultimate goal is fame and fortune, then you are doing it wrong. The journey which you embark on should be one of self-discovery, learning and growth. The aim should be to achieve the big goals which you set yourself, while also growing personally and professionally along the way. If all you crave is money and status, then there is a very real danger that you will neglect your principles and forget who you are as you sacrifice everything in the hope of becoming rich.

This is why the current advice, like the above, which is being peddled by all the leading personal development speakers and authors is so very wrong. It misleads people into thinking that all they have to do is copy a celebrity to become more like them. Style over substance. Don’t worry about knowledge and experience, just dress like Steve Jobs and you can follow in his footsteps. Ok, so i’m over-simplifying but I hope you get the idea. When you prioritise style over substance, it’s like having a large double-fronted house with 4 cars on the driveway, but nothing of any value inside. It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, the clothes and nice watch, but what’s inside. Your values, drive, determination and character. The things that make you…you. Those are important.

Rather than focusing on material gain, I strongly believe that the ultimate goal of a personal and professional development journey should be to become a person of value. If you are self-aware and can provide value to others, then good things will come your way if you continue to work for them.

This is why it makes no sense whatsoever to simply copy famous people and hope for the best. It seems to me bizarre to simply dress a certain way, then sit back and wait for success to come and find you. This will never happen. If you want to progress in life and achieve great things, then you have to put the work in. But you also need to be self-aware, knowing who you are and what you want to achieve in life.

This is all part of the reflection process, which comes before you even set your goals. Doing the reflection first, and becoming self-aware, is crucial because it ensures that throughout the journey on which you will embark, you will never forget who you are and what is important to you.

This is substance over style. Instead of compromising who you are, you stay true to yourself. This helps to forge and strengthen relationships with other people who will feel themselves able to trust you, and more inclined to help and support you. Moreover, it ensures that the goals which you set, the decisions you make and the actions which you take will all lead you to become the best version of yourself.

Forget about what others do, say, wear or eat. Nothing can be gained from merely copying them. Instead, aim to become a person of substance and someone who is self-aware, honest and trustworthy. This, along with determined action in the direction of your goals, is what will bring you success. The world needs more substance, and less mimicry.

Money and material wealth is not the answer

“I wish everybody could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so that they will know that it is not the answer”

Jim Carrey

Too many people view the money as the key to leading a more successful, fulfilled life. The reasoning behind this is that the more money they have, the more comfortably that they will be able to live. The truth is very different though. Money doesn’t bring happiness. It can’t, because money itself is simply a tool with which we exchange value. Money is either given or received in return for services or goods. Simply put, we provide a service to an employer (otherwise known as work) for which we are paid. This money is then exchanged for goods and services which can range from mortgages and household bills to cars, holidays, clothes or whatever else takes your fancy.

Far from bringing happiness and satisfaction, the pursuit of money can often bring the opposite. As we earn more, we crave more. This is because our tastes change. For example, a person may be earning £30 000 and living comfortably within their means. They have a house with an affordable mortgage, a decent car and enough money to live well but also save a little. All in all, life’s good but they feel that if they earned more, life would become a little easier and they would be able to do more.

Later, an opportunity arises for professional development which is taken advantage of, and now they are earning £50 000. In theory, if they continue to live within their means, this extra money will make life a little more comfortable. Some do adopt this approach and live well. However, too many people get seduced by the images of luxurious living which they are bombarded with in glossy magazines and on social media outlets. They then decide that, as they are earning more, they can buy those things and that lifestyle, and when they do they’ll be happy. When happiness doesn’t come, after all, they chase more money with which to buy more. And so it continues…

It is worth repeating that fame and fortune do not bring happiness. The more we have the more we want, so are never fulfilled.

Rather than chase financial gain and the lifestyle which it can buy, you need a goal, a purpose or something which you strive for and gives your life meaning. In setting goals and chasing after them, or leading a life driven by a sense of purpose you will learn, grow, develop and bring value to the world. Fame and fortune may very well come to you, but as a consequence of the value you provide. As I stated before, money is a tool with which we exchange value. So, if you find yourself in a position to provide value to others, they may well be prepared to pay you for your time and services.

Aim not to earn the highest salary possible, but rather aim for continuous personal and professional development. Pursue an increase in knowledge, not your bank balance, and do your best daily to become the best, not richest, version of yourself.

 

The art of building relationships, and why it matters.

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people”

Theodore Roosevelt

In today’s connected world, those who get ahead tend to be those able to forge strong relationships both personally and professionally. The problem is that this ability doesn’t come naturally to all people. Some of us are introverts and can often find social situations challenging.

There is plenty of advice out there with more appearing online and in print daily. That said, it’s something that was written a very long time before even my parents were born, that I found to be rather helpful.

“How to make friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie was first published in the 1930s, but much of the advice whuch it offers is still relevant today. 

The book gets a lot of mixed reviews, but this depends on how you approach and understand it. If you experience a level of anxiety in social situations or would like help in networking or forging professional relationships, you will be introduced to some techniques that could make meeting new people a little easier.

Critics argue that there are techniques introduced which could be viewed as manipulation but I disagree. You will read about ways in which you could influence others, but there is also an underlying emphasis on being respectful, sympathetic and genuine in your approach to others. The aim is to forge a relationship or exchange value with another person, not to take advantage of them.

It’s an easy read, dated in places and if nothing else, will give you some timeless advice to reflect on and experiment with. As with everything else which could potentially help you in your personal or professional development, any success really depends on whether you are prepared to adopt some of the approaches and see where they lead.

Good communication and interpersonal skills are essential for forging relationships with people, and here is what has worked well for me;

  • Listening. When somebody is speaking, actually listen to what they are saying. Rather than waiting for them to stop talking so that you can make your next point, make a real effort to understand what they are saying. This will lead to richer conversations.
  • Empathy. Try putting yourself in another’s shoes, so that you might better understand their views or needs.
  • Give. All to often people enter into conversations with others as a way of seeing what value they can get from them. Be different, and aim to give to others without expecting anything in return, even if that just be advice. This will help build trust with others and could lead to an exchange of value for both of you.

 Any time devoted to improving your interpersonal skills and ability to interact effectively with others is undoubtedly time well spent.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Judgement. We often don’t realise that we are doing it, but using our judgement to make informed decisons is an important part of our daily lives. Every day, we have countless decisions to make, so we use our experiences, knowledge and wisdom to make the best possible decisions or come to sensible conclusions. It’s a shortcut which saves a lot of time and energy in our increasingly busy days. We use our judgement to determine everything from our grocery shopping list to our interactions with others. It is with the latter, however, that judgement can often let us down. Badly. 

Judgement can be positive or negative. A positive judgement, when we apply it to other people, makes us more open towards them, and approach our interactions with them positively. This, in turn, can open the door to countless opportunities to network,  help each other and share knowledge or experiences. In this way, when we look upon somebody favourably the potential for mutual benefit is immense. Of course, you never approach another person with a view to what you may gain but it is in our nature to help others who we look upon favourably and connect with.

Not everyone is looked upon positively, though. Sometimes, whether intentionally or not, we judge other people negatively before we have even met them. People can be judged negatively for a multitude of reasons ranging from their job title to their lifestyle choices. Worse yet, some people are negatively judged simply because a friend, colleague or family member doesn’t approve of them. This is before there has been any actual interaction. When a person is judged negatively, a door is closed on them and opporrunities are lost.

I was on the receiving end of unfounded negative judgement recently. Looking to buy a house soon, I have taken on a second job in security and work on the occasional evening or weekend. During a recent shift, an employee from one of the larger companies mentioned in passing that he faced working through the night because of an urgent situation. This is because of some issues with an overseas client. While reluctant to divulge too much detail, what he described made me curious as it was what I deal with in a daily basis. In my normal role, I deal with similar situations countless times every day. So, I offered to help in any way I can during my break. Without asking as to how I could help, this young man simply looked me up and down and laughed before saying no. I told him that I have the knowledge and experience to help and am asking for nothing in return. I just fancied a bit of brain stimulation. He simply rolled his eyes and walked away. He looked at me and saw a security guard. Nothing more. Had he asked, I would’ve told him about my regular role and how I could help. His loss. I had tried. It was at this point that it hit me how it feels to be judged on sight and not on merit. I felt gutted, almost dirty, but soon picked myself back up as I am not embarassed about taking on extra work in order to take a step closer towards my goals. He lost out on an opportunity to solve a problem and save several hours of stress on a Friday night. 

Hours later, on a patrol, I saw the young man again. He offered a limp apology as to his behaviour earlier and I accepted. This time he asked why I had offered to help, so I explained what it is that I do in a professional capacity and that security was a second job to help with buying a house. I then explained that I couldn’t help now as i’d worked all day and then rushed to my second job, so was exhausted and going home, leaving him to try and solve his problem.

By judging me on my appearance, this young man robbed himself of an opportunity to get help in solving an urgent problem. Of course, I could’ve offered to help again later but this is the downside of treating others badly for no reason; they may simply be unable or unwilling to help you once the moment has passed. This was completely avoidable.

Exercising our judgement is an important part of daily life. It can steer us away from bad decisions or lead us towards good ones. However, we should set our judgement aside when we first meet another person. After all, everyone you meet has something to teach you, and there is the posibility of bringing value to each other’s lives. This won’t happen, though, if you insist on judging others before you have tried getting to know them. Give everyone a chance. Be openminded. Who knows where your next chance encounter with a stranger might lead?

Know your worth..

..and the value you bring to the world. People only respect us to the extent that we value and respect ourselves, and this applies to all areas of our lives from our personal relationships to our businesses. 

When we lack confidence and self-awareness, this is reflected in our body language and interactions with others. We then get treated accordingly. The negative behaviour of others towards us affects our confidence further, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Furthermore, there will be unscrupulous and manipulative individuals who will be looking to take advantage of a weakness which they perceive in us. This is why knowing our worth and having a healthy amount of self respect is so important, as it provides an effective defense mechanism against these situations and circumstances. 

If, however, we think and behave as though we are confident and know our worth, people will behave more positively towards us. “Faking it” has its limits though. If we really want to live the lives of our dreams, we need to work on becoming more confident, more self-aware and having more self-respect. In order to achieve our goals and taste success, we need to know our worth, our strengths and the value which we bring. Then we need to let the world know about who we are and what we can offer. 

How can this be done?

  • Reflect, then take action. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Determine where your passions lie, and define what success looks like to you. Set goals, make a plan of action, and get to work. As you make progress towards your goals, you will become more confident and more aware of your worth which will show in your behaviour and speech.
  • Learn a new skill. As you master a new skill, your confidence will grow. Furthermore, as you master new skills, you become better equipped to provide value to the world around you.
  • Invest in yourself. Read books, attend training courses or go to conferences. However you do it, invest some of your time and money in your personal development.

As you reflect on yourself and identify your strengths, as you learn new skills and take steps towards your goals, your confidence will grow. In turn, there will be a positive shift in your behaviour and how you carry yourself. In turn, people will respond to you in a far more positive manner and you will find more opportunities presenting themselves to live a more fulfilling life.