Let me ask you a question: What are you good at? I mean – if I grabbed 99 people and you, and stuck you all in a room – what would you be better at than almost any of them?
If you’re struggling to answer that question – don’t panic, that’s normal; MOST people have a low awareness of where their greatest natural talents lie. We’re usually pretty good at identifying what we’re BAD at, but when it comes to areas in which we excel – not so much. (There’s a couple of reasons for that, but mainly we don’t realize because it’s just our ‘normal’. )
This lack of awareness has a rather unfortunate flow on effect – which is that MOST people don’t actively develop their natural talents. This makes sense. If you don’t know you’re actually really good at X – you’re not going to deliberately and purposefully try and develop X.
Instead – because we’re so much better at identifying what we’re BAD at, the vast majority of us spend most of our time deliberately and purposefully trying to fix those things.
This is a huge mistake. STOP DOING THIS.
Classic example: Let’s say we come home with a B in History, a C in Math and an A in English. What does everyone say? “You need to work harder in Math!” We all fall into that same trap of pouring time and energy into our weakest areas. We think that’s what we’re supposed to do.
But here’s what we know: if we have to work our butt off to get anything better than a C in Math – guess what? We’re probably NOT going to be the next Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein.
What would happen though – if we poured that same amount of time and energy into our strongest area? Maybe we could be the next William Shakespeare or Sylvia Plath – who knows?
Focusing on our strengths seems counter-intuitive, until we understand that the potential return on our investment is exponentially greater than if we focus on our weaknesses.
There was a very famous study done in the 1950’s by a guy called Don Clifton; Don was chair of the psychology department at Nebraska University, and he had a student doing a research project with high school students around the topic of reading.
Here’s the gist: They split the high school students into groups; one was ‘Gifted Readers’ and one was ‘Normal Readers’. The ‘gifted’ readers were already reading with a high level of comprehension, and averaged 350 words a minute. The ‘normal’ readers were around 90 words a minute. The researchers decided to put both groups through a Speed Reading course – to see what would happen.
What happened was this: The ‘normal’ readers improved to 150 words a minute (with comprehension) – that’s a 66% improvement, well worth the effort! However the ‘gifted’ readers, who went through the exact same course, improved to 2900 words a minute! That’s an 828% improvement!
What’s the lesson here? There is FAR MORE ROOM to grow when we focus on our strengths than we realize, and when we DO, the return on our investment far outweighs the return when we focus on our weaknesses.
So – the first question has to be: “What am I good at? What comes naturally to me? What am I doing when people say ‘I wish I could do that’? What do I enjoy the most?”
The next question is: “What can I do to get even better at this? How good could I be?”
STOP focusing on what you’re bad at. STOP wasting time trying to improve something you’ll only ever be ‘average’ in. START focusing on what you’re good at, what you’re good at without even trying. START looking at how you can improve that.
When we focus on our strengths, the sky really is the limit.