In a heartbeat, it feels like, has life run past you with no intention of ever slowing down or letting you catch your breath. Indeed, life is so short we don't even notice that time has passed. The literature on how to make most out of one's life is so extensive that it would take several life times to even read the books printed in one year on the subject. But it's not as complicated as we would like to make it out to be. It's one thing: Your Thing.
"Yawn! Another one of those..."
Nope. Because while your thing is what you enjoy, it will never reach its zenith in potential. Unless, of course, it is done efficiently. The point is doing things efficiently and not meerely doing it. Because just "doing what one enjoys" is done by quite a lot of people who never seem to fully reach as far as they could have, had they known. Simply doing what one enjoys is all fine, but it will be incredible only once it is taken to the next level - and all without ever losing grasp of the genuine plesure that came from doing it.
Deliberate practice is necessary!
Da Vinci, to take a worn out yet well established example, enjoyed himself a great deal - but he didn't just paint. Never did he just paint. He created. He mastered his plesure to such a degree that he is talked about to this very day.
Peter Drucker presents strength as one key feature in being efficient. For if a person does not know his strenght, the strength of his superiors, the strength of his subordinates, and strength of his co-workers, he cannot possibly be effective at all.
An industry shoe-maker will be chastized for the amount of shoes he produces. The more the merrier, thinks the boss. A designer, on the other hand, is a "knowledge worker" and will be chastized by her client based on the quality of his work. This is obvious, of course, but the idea is to take this knowledge and convert it into every day life. This quality, that is so important for a designer is very much related to a designers strength. But to find one's strength one needs to produce quantity.
For example, if a designer decides to create at least one non-work related item every day - something that lies outside what is usually done (perhaps something quite unfamiliar) - then the designer might stumble upon things they find interesting and fun (a strength!). Hold on to these findings, they define your strength and underlying character. Because exploring potential areas of strength would be a continuous process, the designer narrows his/her niche and thus becomes stronger and yet more differentiated.
Build on strengths, not on weakness - what you cannot do. Your own strength, strength of co-workers, subordinates and superiors, and on the situation. Don't start with things that you cannot do, instead find someone else that can do it better and focus on your strength.
The key is basically to make our weaknesses irrelevant, simply by building on our and other's strengths. It does not matter how few weaknesses a person has if he is employed for his strength. If you try to avoid weakness you will end up with mediocrity. But if you ignore weaknesses and simply build on strength, then, and only then, will what you are building become an A-Level subject - and you, an A-Level Player. In the words of Drucker: "Strong people always have strong weaknesses too. [...] The executive who is concerned with what a man cannot do rather than what he can do, and who therefore tries to avoid weakness rather than make strenght effective is a weak man himself."
A good artist that is a bad people person should not focus all his energy on developing this weakness and, at best, become mediocre at handling other people, but should instead get someone to handle people for him, so that he can focus on his strength - simply that of being an artist.
If you want to communicate with someone then it is a good idea to find out how he/she process information. In this lies a person's strength. There are generally listeners, readers, and an extreme few who get their information from talking and by watching the reactions of whoever they are talking to. It is usually a great waste of time to talk to a reader, who will only listen after he has read it. Equally wasteful is it to write an essay of what you want to say, to a listener.
Our strength lies in our habits. It is as if our body is already well aware of our strengths but our mind has yet to put it into logical statements and plans. Looking at one's boss one easily see his or her strength simply by observing in what environment they behave most naturally in. It may be harder to know one self in such a way. But usually, our abilities and habits hint of our potential strengths. If you write best by throughly going sentence by sentence then are probably more prone to details, working yourself up into a context, than if you write best by creating several drafts, where you perhaps work yourself down, from a context. These attributes of how we prefer to work or live are not as superficial as might be assumed, but actually show a great deal of a person's personality and thus outline his or her strengths.
Some personalities, or strengths, have been romanticized and others looked down upon in society, but the strengths are true and will not change. What is false is society's judgement of what types or strengths are better - simply acknowledge your strengths and disregard your weaknesses. Do not try to cover up your weaknesses, or be someone who you are not - that is called being mediocre. The world today has no place for the mediocre, so better for the one who manage to find her strength than the one who tries to please everyone with their lack of weaknes.
What to keep in mind when talking about strengths is that it has nothing to do with a certain discipline of knowledge - these are cultural and what is a discipline today will not tomorrow. Your strenght lies not in "journalism" or "tax accounting", but in behavioral characteristics that makes one job easier than another.
We are not born into a certain job - for if it was true, what were all the aircraft pilots doing in the dark ages? And how dreary life must be for all the explorers who have mapped most of the world we live in and must wait until space technology is sufficient enough to carry us to other worlds!
A constructive habit is to always ask about another person: "What can this person do?". By asking what a person can do we get into the habit of finding people's strengths - a definite prerequisite for putting the person to constructive use! By asking what other people's strengths are, one will eventually learn how to ask it to oneself.
Remember: "only strength produces results".
Focus on the areas where you can outperform. Set priorities of where you can excel and stay with those priorities and do others not at all.
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