“Race your strengths. Design around your weaknesses.”
This is what world-champion speed skater John Coyle‘s coach ingrained in his mind from the time he was 12 years old. Focus on what you’re good at, and get even better at it. Figure out workarounds for the areas in which you don’t excel.
This gives you permission to not be good at everything. To not feel guilty for your weaknesses.
You can acknowledge your weaknesses, and set up a system to accommodate for them. For example, Coyle has a partner with strengths in his areas of weakness.
People told Coyle, you’re fast, or you’re a good communicator.
But those are broad-brush-stroke comments. There was more nuance to his strengths than that.
Coyle, in an interview with John Lee Dumas, talked about how he realized these are his specific strengths:
“I’m fast at short events that require generating a boatload of power for short intervals with a short rest, while balancing, traveling at high speeds, surrounded by a bunch of people trying to kill me.”
“I am good at taking complex matter, and turning it into a narrative that’s approachable for audiences. I’m better with large audiences, and I’m better with high achievers that want to achieve even more.”
This is comforting to me, and I hope it’s comforting to you.
You and I have specific strengths.
For example, there are moments in my life where I come off as reserved or timid. But I actually LOVE public speaking, especially in front of large groups. And when it comes to my work in communications and marketing, there are environments where I thrive, and environments where I don’t.
Do you ever have trouble describing yourself because two opposing things can be true at the same time?
For example, some people might say you’re good at executing an idea, but other people might think of examples where you’re not. Some people could look at your story and find reasons to paint you as a hero, but other people could find reasons to paint you as a villain.
That’s because there is so much nuance to every human being. Before you dig deeper, you might see conflicting characteristics in someone else or yourself. The more specific we get, the more we can understand.
So when it comes to your strengths, you should think about the environments and conditions you thrive in, and the particular audiences or industries you have the power and ability to help.
One thing I hear often is, “The riches are in the niches.”
When you get more specific about your strengths, you can provide more value to the right people. You can be better at living out your purpose.
It’s the difference between saying:
- “I photograph all people and all events” versus “I photograph brides.”
- “I do marketing for all businesses and organizations” versus “I generate leads for small businesses ready to double their revenue.”
When people or you yourself make broad-brush-stroke comments, about you, think again. Stop and dig deeper. And you’ll tap into the value you already have.