Build your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. This two part formula will take you a long way toward becoming the best professional you can be. (Yes, I did say weaknesses, not challenges. More on that here.)
Our innate abilities express themselves through hard-won skills. A college roommate of mine was a classical guitar major. An incredible talent, Mike would practice his instrument for hours on end (which drove me a little crazy, by the way). He would toil in frustration, and occasionally erupt in anger. Even an untrained listener like me could feel the powerful difference that Mike’s efforts yielded, though I could never in million years pick out the technical flaws he had been ironing out with all that hard work.
Or think of a world class athlete who works tirelessly to perfect technique, building the strength, endurance and flexibility required to transform her God given gifts into competitive triumph. The same is true for you and me in our nonprofit leadership roles. When we seek out professional and personal flaws and address them, we create pathways through which our natural abilities are manifest in the world of action.
Addressing weaknesses is part and parcel to maximizing strengths. Proponents of positive psychology get it right when they guide us toward focusing on strengths more than deficiencies. But once you recognize your inner greatness, identifying and addressing weaknesses can be an incredible strength building exercise. This uncomfortable work is an unavoidable ingredient in making the highest and best use of our whole selves.
A powerful formula for building strengths by working with weaknesses can be teased out from the groundbreaking work of Tara Brach. Her simple but powerful notion of “RAIN,” which stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate & Nurture, is well worth your attention.
“Play to your strengths,” the old adage goes is powerful advice. But it is only a half-truth. Strengths and weaknesses are inextricably linked. Both are part of the whole human being you are, and the truly great professional you are becoming.