Updated: Jan 12
WORKING ON YOUR STRENGTHS VS WORKING ON YOUR WEAKNESSES
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books on motivation, success and leadership and often times I come across the idea that if you want to succeed, you should focus on your strengths, rather than your weaknesses (“it will create positivity and confidence...”, “you can’t turn a weakness into a strength, that’s why it’s called a weakness...” and so on). Well, that’s a lot of bs if you ask me.
The warm-up from hell
A little while ago when we could still go to the gym like normal people, I went to a new place to do some Muay Thai. The first thing we were told was to grab a skipping rope and do a ten minute warm-up. Piece of cake, I thought. I’ve always loved skipping and considered it a relatively easy and fun way of warming up. I have my own yellow speed rope, one of those thin wire ones you can use for fast skipping, double unders and so on, and I can go on forever. Well, there were no speed ropes in that gym. Only a bundle of the thick heavy rubber ones that really give you an incentive not to miss a skip when you’re barefoot. It took about a minute for my shoulders to start burning like hell and a few more for me to get completely out of breath. So embarrassing.. There were some additional exercises in the meanwhile like push-ups and mountain climbers and I started to wonder how I was ever going to use my shoulders for punching after all that. To make it worse, it was my first time in that gym and I really didn’t want to show weakness, especially during warm-up. So I put on my poker face and after the longest ten minutes of my life, it was finally over. So how did I feel about this dreadful and slightly embarrassing experience? I got excited!
Celebrate your weaknesses
If you know me, you know for sure that I love my running. It’s the one thing that I do wherever I go or whatever else is going on in my life. Running keeps me focused. It keeps me motivated. And the lessons you learn from running apply to all aspects of your life. One of these lessons I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t dread your weaknesses. Finding a weakness is a reason to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to improve. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing! For a while, I tried to ignore this advice. My biggest weakness when it came to running were tempo runs. Those are the ones where you have to keep a relatively hard pace for a longer period of time. It is by definition an “annoying and uncomfortable pace”. How could anyone love that?? After my first tempo run I got so sick, I barely made it home.. I love sprints – short and fast, and I love long runs – long and easy. Everything in between, I’m not a fan. But I was doing the half marathon training plan and tempo runs kept coming up on the schedule. So I had two choices: I could just skip them, as I wasn’t actually planning to compete, nor was anyone checking up on me or, I could face them. And I chose the second option. These days I put tempo runs on my weekly schedule on purpose, because I love them so much. They did not become easy, but I no longer dread them. They are always challenging, but now I enjoy the challenge, and I no longer consider it a weakness.
It’s all about concept
So that’s why in my opinion, this whole “focusing only on your strengths” is a very narrow minded approach. Of course you should work on your strengths, especially if they are relevant to what you want to achieve (if you want to become the next heavyweight boxing champion and your main strength is baking cookies, focusing on that is not going to get you far). But if you have a strength that’s relevant to your goals, then, by all means, focus on improving it even more, until it becomes second nature. But does that mean you can just ignore the things you’re not so good at? Once again, we come back to relevance. Is that weakness relevant to your goals? Because if you want to be a boxing champion and you suck at baking muffins, you can safely ignore that. But if you’re lacking skills in something related to your field, well, you can still ignore it. But it will probably come back and bite you in the ass. Or punch you in the face..
Conquering the death rope
So what happened after that first Muay Thai session? I went on line and ordered one of those death ropes. And now I’m spending my quarantine time out in the garden skipping and I will continue until that whole warm-up becomes child play. Because I believe in working on your weaknesses until they are strengths and working on your strengths until they are second nature.
“Sometimes a weakness is merely an undiscovered strength. It’s often through lack of practice, rather than genuine lack of talent, that our weaknesses hobble us. Therefore, if you actually want to improve your weakness, that might be the best sign to work on it more than anything else”.