In my last post I wrote about our blindness to our faults, weaknesses, and bad habits and how others can see them with clarity.
Today I will write about how we can be blind to our own strengths and natural talents.
If we clearly saw our own strengths and desires books about finding purpose and meaning in life would disappear.
You can know what you want, but you can fail to use your strengths to create what you want, because you can’t see your strengths. Sometimes you deny your strengths because you are afraid. Other times what you think are strengths, aren’t strengths but weaknesses.
Do you know a person who is wasting tremendous talent? You can see it, but they can’t. Sometimes you can see talent in another person and when you mention it to them, they will deny they have talent or start making excuses for wasting it. You can see they aren’t happy and you know they will be happier if they follow their talents, but they don’t.
Is it possible that others see you the same way? Do people (other than your mother) ever tell you that you are great at X and ask why you spend all your time doing Y. If so… how do you respond? Do you search your heart and ask yourself… Are they right? Can they see the bright shining star that you really are? Or are they trying to shape you into their vision of you? Can you tell the difference?
Do you fear success? Do you fear failure? I ask these questions because, in the past, my fear has kept me from doing the things I love, things I love that are valuable to others.
Are you afraid of applying your greatest strengths?
A personal story
Just after I turned thirteen I wanted to be an athlete. I was motivated to become an athlete for two reasons – I wanted respect and girls. But it didn’t work, the problem was clear – I didn’t have any athletic talent and I didn’t like athletics. I desired the value people gave successful athletes but I was never mentally engaged in athletics. During football games I day dreamed. During practice, I didn’t study the plays, instead I watched the girls play tennis. I couldn’t pay attention to the coach or the game. They weren’t as interesting as the girls bouncing up and down in little white dresses.
My parents, friends, and siblings saw that I had little athletic talent. They could see that I wasn’t harnessing my natural talents and innate desires which would have provided far more value and produced satisfying results.
At that time, I loved Dungeons and Dragons, Heavy Metal, computers, video games, science fiction, movies, music, and reading. In other words, I loved girl repellent. After the pain of failing at athletics, my desire to gain respect and meet girls remained so strong I found a different path – I became a rebellious, burnout, musician, and the nemesis of a few suburban fathers in Bloomington Minnesota. This worked far better because it played to my strengths, but it didn’t make the adults happier.
Don’t misunderstand… I’m not saying you shouldn’t work your weaknesses… I’m saying that you may find far better results sharpening your natural desires and talents to a razor sharp edge instead of trying to be somebody you aren’t.
Another personal story
For most of my career I’ve experienced intense fear when asked to white board; a fear more intense than a normal fear of public speaking. I do it, but it is uncomfortable.
A talented software developer (who I worked with for years) asked me to white board a concept and I told him that I hated white boarding. He asked why and I said, “I suck at drawing.” He said he loved my whiteboard diagrams of abstract systems. He said it was a strength. I still think he was full of shit. But what if he wasn’t?
I thought about what he said… and while I still don’t see white boarding as a strength… I searched inside myself and discovered the root of my fear of white boarding. As a school boy I daydreamed and doodled while the teacher lectured. When she noticed my disinterest and inattention, she ordered me to the front of the classroom and told me to summarize her message on the blackboard. She attempted to publicly humiliate and shame me into paying attention to her lectures. It didn’t work. Her tactics built feelings of resentment and alienation, but today I re-live the feelings of shame and humiliation when asked use the board. My developer friend may be right, white boarding may be a strength, but it doesn’t feel like a strength.
Do you have strengths which do not feel like strengths? Does your emotional response blind you? Can your emotional programming be beat?
Can you see your strengths? Do you apply them? Sharpen them? Capitalize on them?