Think strengths, not weaknesses.

This blog post is titled after the second lesson from, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, by Dan Pink. Most people want to focus on their weaknesses. When you have your evaluation at your employer they almost always focus on you areas to improve. Those items usually make up your goals for the following year.

The problem with this approach is many people are focusing on the wrong things. They’ll also be less likely to want to improve on those things if they don’t enjoy doing. Just because someone has a certain major, or work experience, does not mean they enjoy the same type of work as everyone else with that major or experience. People are different. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

When you try to improve your weaknesses your focusing on the wrong things. Gary Vaynerchuk’s talks about this issue a lot. Concentrate on what you do well, on where you can produce the most value. For Gary, it’s business development. He didn’t believe he was the best writer so he didn’t start writing blog posts, he made videos on YouTube because he’s better suited for that format. For me, I recognize that I’m not the best writer but for some reason I have the need to write.  Writing this daily blog allows me to continue to work on this skill.  I write this blog every day because I enjoy it, not because I’m depending on it leading to something else.

I’ve been thinking about my strengths and weaknesses, specifically, what am I using in my current job and what I should be using.

The question could be put another way using a popular Dan Pink word, Flow.

What is flow?

The mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvment, and success in the process of the activity.

What are the areas of my life where I find flow?

  • Writing
  • Coding
  • Exercising
  • Playing with my kids
  • Speaking
  • Conversations
  • Brainstorming
  • Drawing

In the first lesson, There is no plan, Dan writes about the two reason people make certain choices: Instrumental & Fundamental.

Instrumental reasons are when you think it’s going to lead to something else. Regardless of whether you enjoy it or it’s worthwhile.

Fundamental reasons are when you think it’s inherently valuable, regardless of what it may or may not lead to.

What instrumental choices have I made in my life?

  • Not majoring in a hard science or engineering.
  • Taking jobs because I thought they would lead to something else, not because I enjoyed them.
  • Getting my graduate degree.

What fundamental choices should I have made instead?  

  • Majored in science, math, or engineering.
  • Should have tried starting my own company or working for small startups doing something I found inherently valuable, not because I thought it would lead to something else.
  • Started blogging, speaking, and reading consistently a decade ago.

What fundamental choices have I made?

  • Not getting an MBA and instead focusing on technology.
  • Learning to code.
  • Writing a daily blog.
  • Joining Toastmasters and giving speeches regularly.
  • Improving my math skills.
  • Reading a book every week
  • Exercising everyday
  • Waking up early.

This week, I’ll be focusing on how I can continue to make more choices based on fundamental reasons.  Whenever I’m faced with a decision I want to step back and think about whether I’m about to commit to something because of these two reasons.  Do I think this decision is inherently valuable, or am I only considering this option because I think it will lead to something regardless if I enjoy it or it’s worthwhile.