I saw American Short Track Speed Skater John Coyle speak the other day and one of the main topics he spoke of was regarding strengths and weaknesses.
“You will excel only by maximizing your strengths, not by working on your weaknesses.”
He went on to explain how we are all so focused on our weaknesses and how to correct them, that we miss the other side of that awareness entirely. Strengths and weaknesses go together, like the different sides of a coin. Strengths and weaknesses are different perspectives of our talent(s).
In John Coyle’s story, as he was training to make the U.S. Olympic team, he seemingly failed at the tests that they gave him, consistently fall below the average. But, as the coaches tried to “train him out of his weaknesses”, he realized something when taking a good long look at the test results. He acknowledged that no, he could not go faster for longer like any of the others, but he was faster than most in a shorter interval of time. Eventually, he quit the team and quit working with the Olympic coaches because the training still was not focusing on that discovered strength. It was in quitting that he gained perspective (quitting the team, not the sport). Mr. Coyle trained on his own to maximize his strength in speed skating, was eventually able to make the Olympic team and win the silver medal in speed skating during the 1994 Olympics.
As hard as he trained, Mr. Coyle could not skate faster for longer and most people, when being compared to the rest of the group, would think themselves a failure. Instead, he realized that he could skate faster than the rest in a short amount of time. It was in that realization that Mr. Coyle was able to acknowledge and accept his strengths and
design around the weakness.
So many of us fail to acknowledge and accept our own strengths because we are focused on acknowledging and trying to change our weaknesses. We try to fit in and be normal or average. And like Ms. Janet Mock said, “Normal is so basic.” Ha! We should all really begin trying to be more than normal, more than average.
The focus on our weaknesses overshadows our obvious strengths that are just in reach if we are only willing to look in the other direction. An exercise that Mr. Coyle had us do during the seminar was to list out our top 10 weaknesses. We then listed out our top 10 strengths. After creating both lists, we were asked to review them both and notice if any of the weaknesses listed was a direct opposite to a strength listed. The reason why? Finding the other side of that coin. It was definitely a good exercise. Now, I’m focused on finding and working on my strengths. There was a ton more insight in that seminar but the biggest take away for me was:
“Don’t try to become someone you are not. Instead partner with someone who is what you are not. Find the Yin to your Yang.”
*Image from loopholesonlife.com