The key to human development is building on who you already are.
I got this book as part of a team project at work. Each team member took the test to find out what our top strengths are. What’s funny is that I think I took a similar test seven or eight years ago and I have no idea what the results were. I remember thinking at the time that the findings were super interesting and surprising and that I would continue to check and see if I changed over time by taking the test every other year or so. Considering that I barely remember it seven years later shows how meaningful that exercise was.
The premise of this book is that, in general, we devote more time to remedying our shortcomings than honing our strengths. It asks the question: Why do we spend so little time working to further improve the skills at which we excel?
Throughout our lives, we face challenges and must develop new skills in order to to obtain a college degree or become proficient at a new job. We embrace this myth, this inherent part of our culture that says, “Never give up. You can be anything you want to be.” This, the book argues, is false and even harmful. Even if you practice basketball for six hours a day for years, those born with more natural ability will usually surpass you with a fraction of the effort. It doesn’t say “don’t try.” Instead, it asks us to consider where slightly more effort will yield the most powerful and meaningful results.
You may be wondering how this skills assessment is different from the test you took in your high school counselor’s office. The test gives you an overview of what you, an older and more experienced you, have a natural affinity towards.
This time I wasn’t really surprised by my top five strengths. Seeing my order of strengths (1-5) made me think of the areas at work and in my day-to-day life that energize me. It also forced me to pause and consider ways in which I can actively focus my energy to get better or improve at skills I take for granted.
For example, I am comfortable with public speaking and coaching people. But I have a fear of data sets and spreadsheet work. I had a job that required me to do a lot of it and it was stressful because I felt so incompetent at it. It completely drained me. But I had to learn how to do it. There was no way around it. In my mind, I always thought, “I’m going to take a course and become a master at this.” But why do I feel the need to master something I do not enjoy, do not need on a daily basis, and that endlessly frustrates and depletes my energy? I have retained enough skills to do it when the time comes. If that is what I need, then what am I trying to prove by becoming a “master” of this particular shortcoming?
On the opposite side, I rarely feel the need to improve my “soft skills” because these are considered less valuable.
- Even if you don’t take the test, you probably already have an idea of where your strengths lie. You can read the book and learn more about ways in which you can continue to enhance and use your talents.
- Also, for people who have strengths different from you, you can find tips on what they value and what you can do to better understand and work with them.
- You have to buy the book to get the unique code needed to take the test.
- This is not rocket science, not that anyone should expect it to be so. Take the top strengths and the bottom strengths with a huge grain of salt.
For what it’s worth, my strengths are: