The Myth of Strengths and Weaknesses

gifts

I need to come clean about something here. I’ve been guilty of telling a little bit of a lie. I talk a lot about your natural strengths and weaknesses. In reality, this isn’t quite true. There is a myth about strengths and weaknesses that states that we all naturally possess them.

In reality, we don’t.

No human possesses any single strength or weakness. What we do possess are natural talents and non-talents, based on the neural networks and our natural personality. But, these are not the same as strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those who thinks it is too negative to tell someone he or she has a weakness and wants to call it “an opportunity for development.” I actually dislike this phrase, because more often than not, it supports the incorrect view that someone can fix a weakness by developing a new natural talent. If one of my clients is suffering from a weakness, I tell him or her straight up. But the key is that this weakness isn’t natural, it is manufactured.

Weaknesses and strengths don’t exist naturally, only talents and non-talents. If, however, I rely on a non-talent, then I manufacture a weakness for myself. Likewise, if I don’t rely on my talents then they never become strengths.

 

You may have certain talents and non-talents

 

In other words, you are ultimately in control of your strengths and weaknesses. You may have certain talents and non-talents based on how your mind is wired, but you are in charge of whether or not those talents and non-talents are used to become strengths or weaknesses. When you allow your success to depend on your talents, you create strengths. When you allow your success to depend on your non-talents, you create weaknesses.

This might seem like I’m talking about some minor, semantic difference, but I assure you that this is much more than a simple play on words. Understanding this concept requires a total change of perspective.

The thing that controls how these potentials turn out is how you apply yourself. Just as Mom used to say, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out,” so you, too, bring your weaknesses into this world, and you, too, can take them out. But instead of trying to take them out by changing how your mind is wired, you can stop manufacturing weaknesses by simply removing your dependency on them.

Think of talents and non-talents like two boxes. The first box contains a gift and comes wrapped in pretty gift paper with a bow. The second box contains trouble and is marked “Pandora’s Box.” Regardless of the contents, though, each box only contains “potential.” The first box is only potentially good, the latter only potentially bad. Nothing happens until you actually open the boxes. If you never open the gift box, you never receive the gift contained inside. Likewise, if you never open Pandora’s Box, you never suffer the consequences.

 

You manufacture your strengths and weaknesses

 

Talents and non-talents work in very much the same way. Only by creating a role for yourself that depends on your talents (opening the gift box), will you create strengths. Conversely, only by allowing your role to depend on your non-talents (opening Pandora’s Box) do you create weaknesses.

This understanding is important, because once you realize that you manufacture your strengths and weaknesses, you realize that you are in control. You realize that you don’t have to suffer from weaknesses which were given to you and about which you can do nothing. You are in control because, while you definitely have non-talents, nothing in the universe states that you have to depend on them. And if you don’t depend on them, then they aren’t weaknesses, are they?

 

They still exist – they just don’t matter

 

The elder statesman of management philosophy, Peter Drucker, said much the same thing when he so famously told leaders, “Your job is to make the strengths of your people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.” Note that he didn’t say to fix their weaknesses. He said, “make them irrelevant,” which means that they still exist – they just don’t matter.

Your objective is to maximize your dependence on strengths and minimize your dependence on weaknesses… not fix those weaknesses.

What do you need to do to make your personal weaknesses irrelevant? What about those of your team? Are you still building your team?

Build my team