“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid.” – Albert Einstein
This classic quote from Einstein reveals an important lesson in both business and life: everybody has different strengths, and in order for all of us to perform our best and excel, we must recognize and utilize our strengths. Gary Vaynerchuk, serial entrepreneur and host of the Daily Vee on YouTube, is also known for his forthright comments on the importance of understanding strengths:
“Bet on your strengths and don’t give a fuck about your weaknesses. You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.”
At Launchbox, we tell all our clients: “In order to know how to build, sustain, and maintain great relationships, we must understand the strengths of ourselves and others and how to leverage them effectively. Focus on your strengths—not weaknesses!”
Ok, so you get it now: knowing your strengths is super important. But the reality is most people don’t stop and take a moment to identify their best strengths. Do you know yours? If so, take a moment and write down your top five strengths. There are great online assessments that can help you identify your strengths. (Gallup’s groundbreaking Clifton Strengthsfinder is one that I’ve used and highly recommend. Based on decades of research and experience, Strengthsfinder is an inexpensive yet highly evolved tool for helping people discover their unique combination of strengths.)
If you don’t feel like taking the online test, a great way to find out is to ask the five people closest to you. Text or call them and ask if they’ll tell you what your top five strengths are. Make sure to ask them individually, so they aren’t influenced by each other’s answers.
While my strengths have evolved over the years, when I recently took the Strengths finder assessment, these were my top strengths:
- Activator: I make things happen by turning thoughts into action.
- Communication: I find it easy to put thoughts into words and am a good conversationalist and presenter.
- Strategic: I create alternate ways to succeed and find relevant patterns and issues in any scenario.
- Significance: I want to be very important and recognized in the eyes of others as making a difference.
- Command: I have presence and want to take control and make decisions.
Once you understand your strengths, you can be conscious of them and make the choice to lead with them. This is how you kick ass. This is how you deliver value to yourself and others in a way that makes a real, quantifiable difference to everyone you interact with. Here are three questions you can ask yourself to leverage your strengths as much as possible:
- Where do I kick ass?
- I could kick more ass if . . .
- Where do I wish I kicked ass?
It’s important to get comfortable with your strengths so you are not going against your true nature. If you kick ass at filming and editing and love it, but you feel like you “should” be good at engineering because that’s what “everyone else is doing,” stop and do some self-reflection. Remember what Einstein said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” You are more valuable to your peers, a company, and the marketplace doing video and editing. Why? Because you excel at it and enjoy doing it.
Naturally, people prosper in areas they enjoy (a.k.a their strengths.) Don’t judge yourself based on anyone else’s Instagram or Snapchat or what seems cool. If you are a fish, stick to swimming. If you are a squirrel, stick to climbing trees. Look within yourself, identify what you enjoy and excel at, and lead with those strengths. Not only will your peers benefit, but you will feel much more passionate and motivated about work you enjoy doing.
Curious to know more about discovering and leading from your strengths? Stay tuned for the next article in this series, geared to help you kick ass in work and life. In the meantime, you can check out Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace