3 Things No One Told You About Weaknesses
“Imagine you had 100 hours to invest in professional self-development this year. Would you invest in what you are good at, what you are average at, or what you are bad at? How would you split up those 100 hours?” This is how Jay Shetty, storyteller and viral content creator, opens his video – The100 Hour Rule.
As Shetty points out, there are many possible ways to invest your time. What would your strategy be?
Many people think that the best way to grow and improve is by investing in our weaknesses and fixing what’s wrong. Our world is keen at finding fault and pointing out our areas of weakness. Early in life, we learn to measure ourselves against set standards and we feel inadequate when we deviate from the norm. We learn that being good at everything is the key to success and that we must overcome our weaknesses by making extra efforts.
Yet, in his video, Shetty shares that the most successful people in the world dedicate more than 80% of their time to what they do best, giving less than 20% to what they are average or bad at.
Gallup, a research-based global performance management consulting company, puts forward a similar idea. In fact, their research indicates that when considering where to invest one's time, energy, and attention, the best place to start is in an area of strength.
So why should we focus on our strengths more than our weaknesses? And is it a good strategy to ignore our weaknesses completely? In this post, I share 3 interesting facts about weaknesses that every person should know.
Strengths will develop to a greater extent than weaknesses
Research shows that for an equal investment of time and energy, strengths will develop to a greater extent than weaknesses.
In fact, a Nebraska study council made this discovery while analyzing rapid reading methods with tenth grade students. During the study, the individuals who read the fastest made the greatest gains, while the students who read the slowest also made gains, but they were smaller in comparison.
This study essentially shows that talents grow exponentially and that investing in something you are already good at will allow you to develop without limitations.
It also shows that "fixing" weaknesses helps you improve, but your gains will be incremental. No matter how many hours you invest in a weakness, it will allow you to suck a little less at something and become average at best. Weakness "fixing" can help you improve, but it will never make you world-class in that area.
This research also demonstrates that a person who has less talent will never improve as much as someone who has a lot of talent. For example, a non-talented singer who takes singing lessons, private tutoring, and puts in many hours of practice will unquestionably improve, but this person will never become a rock star. Conversely, a person who has a talent for singing will reach higher heights and develop exponentially. The investment of time and energy will help this person succeed in that area.
"Fixing" your weaknesses will never lead you to excellence. Your return on investment will always be greater when you focus on your strengths.
Solely focusing on weaknesses leads you to become someone you are not
“Every time you suppress some part of yourself or allow others to play you small, you are in essence ignoring the owner’s manual your creator gave you and destroying your design.” – Oprah Winfrey
In some ways, exclusively focusing on our weaknesses means we are trying to become someone we are not. It means we are trying to "fix" ourselves and work on something we don’t have. All our focus goes into changing who we are to try to fit a standard, regardless of whether that standard is self-imposed or dictated by our environment.
Solely focusing on our weaknesses also means that we are involuntarily suppressing our natural talents by investing all our time and energy into something else. Our talents are an important part of who we are, and when we suppress them, we are suppressing a part of ourselves. We leave ourselves little room to fully express who we really are, and we slowly become someone we are not. For instance, a person wanting to be more analytical and detail-oriented to match a role description might be suppressing their talents for connecting with people and developing close relationships. This person is letting their talent go to waste by focusing on something else. Not only are they missing out on the opportunity to bring value and do great things with their talents, but they are slowly losing touch with their true self. In the long term, this can also leave them feeling disengaged or unfulfilled at work.
Instead of trying to change who you are to fit a role, consider roles where you can leverage what you do best and allow your real, unique and magical person to shine through.
Weaknesses should never be ignored
Although your best bet for success lies in building on your strengths, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore your weaknesses. In fact, Gallup says that completely ignoring your weaknesses is reckless, especially if they are related to skills that are important to your role.
In fact, in order to be successful, it is important to be self-aware of your areas of weakness and develop a strategy to manage them. Managing your weaknesses is different from the conventional approach of "fixing" your weaknesses. As described above, weakness fixing is a strategy that yields minimal results. Managing your areas of weakness means being aware of your blind spots and knowing what comes in the way of your success. It also means having a game plan to overcome your weaknesses such as using your strengths to produce the results you want or partnering with others to reach your goals.
Strengths-building is a powerful approach to achieve excellence, however weaknesses shouldn't be ignored. Your development plan must also include strategies to manage them.
Now it's your turn. How will you invest in professional self-development this year?
Successful people have figured this out, and they have the results to show it. As Shetty explains in his video, successful people invest little in their weaknesses and go all in on their strengths. They have learned to sharpen key areas of strengths and do what they do best instead of trying to achieve perfection in many different areas. Successful people are rarely well-rounded; instead, they are sharp and that’s what makes them exceptional.
As Harvey Crews beautifully said: “Nothing good in the world has ever been done by well-rounded people. The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things, and leave an imprint, a design.”
Start investing in your strengths today. Read my post "How to use your talents to kick ass at work" to get started.
Watch The 100 Hour Rule video here:
Maxine Skerrett is an Executive Coach and a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. Since 2015, she has worked with hundreds of professionals to discover what they do best and unlock their full potential at work.
Learn more about her Strengths-Based coaching programs
Learn more about her StrengthsFinder corporate workshops