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After reading the book Strengths Finder, Jim asks if it is better to capitalize on strengths or improve weaknesses

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Are you a well-rounded person? Maybe you shouldn’t be.

I had the chance to read a book called StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, and the entire book can be summed up with one theory: People spend too long trying to improve their weaknesses, when they should be capitalizing on their strengths.

Listen to the podcast for the full review, but here are my highlights:

How I found out about the book
Love when this happens:
– Co-worker walked in with it, and it sounded familiar
– Then I remembered that the Internet Business Mastery guys had talked about it, and I had it in the back of my mind to check it out
– Of all people, my hand therapist perked up when I mentioned it, as it was required reading for all the employees at her business
– When I walked in to Barnes and Noble, there it was prominently being displayed – at 30% off

The crux of the book
Story 1: If a student brings home three A’s in English, writing, and history, and three B’s in Spanish, communication, and geography, but a C- in algebra and a D in geometry, what is the first thing a parent or teacher does? Get those math grades up! Of course math is important, but what if they doubled down in the language and writing categories?
Story 2: The movie “Rudy.” Here was a guy with unbelievable determination, who worked so so hard to make the team and practice with them, enduring hardships and ridicule, only to get in for 1 play in 1 game. Sure, we love the underdog, but what if he had applied himself to something he was really good at?
– They’ve developed series of questions that analyze thousands of data points, grouping them into 34 themes that tell you what your strengths are
– Each book comes with a special code for one user, which you then go online and take

Downsides of the book
– It’s really short – just 30 pages of content before setting you off to do the test. Maybe that’s a positive in that you can read it pretty quickly and get results, but I was looking for more juicy findings
– The test only tells you your 5 top strengths. On one hand, that emphasizes the whole theme – just work on what you’re good at. But on the flip side, it would be super valuable to know what you are BAD at, so that you can partner with or hire those people that compliment your skills.
– My skeptical friend poo-poo’d it, saying that it amazes him that this guy will make millions of dollars stating the obvious. I definitely did think about the fact that the people most likely to buy this book, are people that are honed in on exploiting their strengths, and thus buy into it, but I didn’t care.

What we can learn from it
Start with what it told me. Found it incredibly insightful. Here were my 5 traits:
– Significance
– Focus
– Maximizer
– Individualization
– Achiever

Then it goes into how you can use each one and learn from them.

Let’s break those down:

Significance
– People with this theme want to be very important in the eyes of others.
– You help individuals be stronger in the face of life’s challenges.
– You sometimes sense you are a bit overzealous making a name for yourself, advancing your career, or promoting your projects.
– Perhaps you wonder if your zeal displeases certain individuals.
– You derive much satisfaction from doing whatever you can to help people prosper.

Wow, this sure made sense. What better venue than a blog and podcast to try to look important? And yes, I constantly worry that I over promote myself, and if people are saying ‘this guy is so full of himself.’

But look at that last one. I do whatever I can to help people prosper. So it sounds like I am completely locked in with my strengths, considering that I published a book that literally does exactly that, helping people make more money through negotiation.

Focus
– Document goals, take direction, plot your future, and follow through
– Leave very little to chance when outlining goals and push yourself
– You let little, if anything, distract you from your goal
– You might expend more physical or mental energy doing your job than your peers
– Need to make progress toward one or two goals to feel successful

Again, they nailed it. I always have a detailed plan around life, career, and other projects, and I’m relentless in achieving it. Yesterday I didn’t get a lot done, and it killed me.

Maximizer
– Concentrate energy on what you know you do well
– Being average at best and mediocre at worst is unacceptable to you
– You honor due dates and work well with deadlines
– Punctuality is a trait for which you are known
– People who have little or no sense of time’s importance often frustrate you

Examples:
– A friend tried to get me to take classes in English literature and French painting, but I always wanted to double down on speaking, software, technology.
– Another friend noted all the books on my shelf were about the same three topics: business, money, and sports.
– Competitive in sports I do well… running, biking, soccer. But not in darts or swimming.
Time important explains my rants for concession stands or checkout lines

Individualization
– You enhance your own quality of life each time you reach out to someone in need of assistance
– You help individuals acquire knowledge and gain skills
– You are a fine instructor, trainer, and tutor.
– You delight in helping all kinds of people.

What can I say? Isn’t that what this podcast is? It helps explain why I do this every week for free… because I get so much from helping people. That’s why I love mentoring interns. That’s why I teach classes. That’s why I love speaking and educating. It delights me. And how crazy is it that on the day I read my assessment that I am a fine tutor, that I got my copy of the final version of my book, called Salary Tutor?

 

Sorry for the plug. Didn’t you hear the part where I’m overzealous about talking about myself?

Achiever
– People in this theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard; they take great satisfaction from being busy and productive
– You go out of your way to stay informed about newsworthy topics
– Numerous people count on you to tell them about information updates
– You have a gift for living in the moment, and thus need to produce meaningful results each day
– You expend mental energy thinking about data and measurements, and aim to understand what the numbers really mean.

I definitely consider myself a hard worker, and hey, I stay on top of all the newsworthy topics and marketing trends so you don’t have to. It’s good to know you’re counting on me. The part of analyzing numbers and understanding them really relates to my job. Just today I was breaking down analytics for some ad banners that we ran this month.

What it means for you
OK, so how can taking this test help you out?

1) Always keep learning
I really believe that life should be an ongoing series of learnings. Never stop improving yourself and learning new skills. By finding out what you’re good at, you life can be more productive and you’ll have a better chance of liking your work.

2) Learn what NOT to do.
For a short time, management at Wired wanted me to take on more of a Business Development role. It was a good step up, but I knew in my heart that touchy feely networking, schmoozing, and big picture strategy wasn’t my strength. In a way, I was lucky that it fell through, so I could go back to the numbers and what I do best.

Don’t let yourself get sucked into a position where your skills aren’t being utilized. In fact, you could use this data to appeal to your boss that you would be better suited elsewhere.

3) Make smart partnerships
If you have a business, don’t try to do everything. You see this a lot with entrepreneurs. I find that most successful modern startups are paired with co-founders where one person is the organized, tech-heavy, process person, and the other is the outgoing, salesy-marketing type.

4) Know thyself
So go ahead… think of this as just another new-age, feel-good business book. There are certainly plenty of them out there. You can take the mantra of ‘focus on your strengths, not weaknesses’ and apply it as you see fit without buying the book or taking the test.

But for me, even just gleaning a few take-aways was well worth it. My gut feeling told me that I should pursue more educational opportunities, like speaking, writing, and teaching. The results confirm it.

And I liked learning that it was in my DNA that I keep obsessive to-do lists and love nothing more than checking them off, and am so disappointed when I don’t get to everything I wanted. Actually knowing that I am wired that way, helps me almost take a step back and laugh at myself and try not to be so caught up in it.

And I guess hey, if I wasn’t the type to be keeping up on the latest topics, analyzing the trends, and delighting in helping others, you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast or reading this post right now.

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