I was watching Thor Ragnarok again the other day, and started to think about superheroes, the entire pantheon of characters that fascinate and entertain us. The big kick of watching these shows / movies is the Hero’s Journey, the protagonist being called to a seemingly impossible quest to save something or stop something else. What makes superhero stories more exciting (at least for me) is the fact they are superhuman. They have an ability or skill that sets them apart. And when you bring an entire team of remarkable individuals like this together, they can fight the battles and do the things we could never.
You have a quest, the quest of getting what you want. You are pursuing your goals and desires. They might seem intimidating and far-fetched right now, but you have been gifted powers too, powers to help you. Your gifts are in the form of innate strengths and inclinations. They might be obvious to you, or they may be lying dormant, waiting to be tapped into. They provide a hint to what your purpose is and the gift you must give to the world.
We have discussed the need to know yourself in the quest to getting what you want. On the road there, knowing and leveraging your ‘special powers’ is an invaluable resource. It provides that competitive advantage. And so, you have to ask yourself, what are those things you excel at, or execute easily? The things that come so naturally to you, they are basically second nature. Things you do so well, you take for granted that not everyone can do those things. Those are your powers, those are your strengths. And often, if you think back, you can trace them as far back as your childhood.
Strengths are not activities you’re good at, they’re activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfil a need of yours.
– Marcus Buckingham
In those formative years, there are the things we were inexplicably drawn to, avenues that sparked curiosity and boundless energy to explore. For me, it was arts, I found quick wins learning to draw, make art, write plays and poetry. I was learning to use words, imagery and to express ideas. As time goes on, we gain new abilities, new interests, but they are always rooted in something true that has existed since infancy. For me, everything ties back to the joy of creation and expression.
In the bid to conform and succeed, we are sometimes forced to contort ourselves to fit certain roles, and so we lose core parts of ourselves. Your strengths are your golden ticket, your entry key to the life you have the potential to live. Lasting success and fulfilment comes from understanding that everyone has a unique temperament, a peculiar build and It is important to honour yours.
Your powers are not just the obvious things like creative arts, or skill with your hands, they include even the more obscure ones. Powers like empathy – the ability to feel what other people are feeling and see from their perspective. The ability to look at an idea and see all the ways it could be improved and made better. The ability to organize and make a complex endeavor like a live event run smoothly. The ability to learn and adapt quickly. The ability to encourage and inspire. The ability to make people laugh. The ability to persuade people. The ability to diffuse tense situations and help conflicting parties come to satisfactory resolution. The force of will to persevere in dire situations. The ability to plan and break down a big hairy audacious goal to practical steps.
These are all soft skills, and they are all examples of the kind strengths that you can play up in your life and work. When you make use of them, you increase your level of contribution, and you become indispensable. These soft skills are the sort of things that you are very likely to overlook about yourself because, like I said earlier, it is so second nature to you. But these are the things you should think about what you are considering the direction you wish to take. Whether you are deciding what school to go to, what industry to enter, what role to take in an organization, and so on. You can build a life aligned to your powers.
But your strengths will often not be enough.
In the road to get what you want, in your quest for success, you will not have all the skills and powers you need to achieve your goal. You would need to work with other super heroes. Your powers complement each other and make the team far stronger than any of the individuals. Your job is to understand your strengths and bring that fully to the table.
Now for every yin, there is a yang. The fact that you have strengths means that you also have weaknesses. You might be even more familiar with those. Those things that you are just no good at, or that are harder for you than most people. I’m personally great at mapping out high-level vision, I suck at focusing on the details. I could tell you what the general plot of a book I read was, I couldn’t tell you the specific names of the people or places. I can learn to do it of course; my point is it is not my natural inclination.
What do we do about these? Some people say, go all in on your strengths, don’t worry about your weaknesses. Other schools of thought make the argument that you should work hard to improve your weaknesses, even to the point of turning said weakness into strength.
I would say, your strengths tend to tie in with your natural inclinations and passions, and then with your vision, your reason for being. So, you should definitely go all in on your strengths. You have the easiest potential of becoming great and world class if you work to your strengths. You already have an early advantage, double down on that by building real skill and craft on top of that. Be committed to continually improving and you will reap great rewards.
At the same time, have a balanced and practical idea of what it takes to get what you want. Your weaknesses can be your Achilles’ heel. They can make the process harder or even possible, so you can’t completely discount them. You have two options. You can work to become better at your weakness or you can partner with people who are strong where you are weak.
I’d recommend both, you can choose the relative weighting you would give to each line of action. Working to be better at your weakness allows you to balance out your skills. Working hard to acquire skill does much to increase our self-confidence when we succeed. Engaging with people who are strong where you are weak allows you to let those important things be handled well, while you focus on going deeper and extracting more value from your strengths.
Handle your weaknesses as far as they affect you getting what you want or living a happy and fulfilled life. But otherwise, ignore them. If it has no real impact on your life, why worry about what you are not good at. Go all in on what you are great at. You will have your greatest results along that line.
You have a lot to give, and you would get what you want faster if you embraced who you are. Own your strengths, manage your weaknesses and be a super hero you are meant to be.