Strengths vs. Weaknesses

by Nick Velasquez

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Have you been working mostly on your strengths and ignoring your weaknesses? You are making a terrible mistake.

It seems like the general consensus these days is that you should work on developing your strengths instead of minimizing your weaknesses. This thinking is probably holding you back more than you might think.

At first glance, it seems like good advice, why would you spend time and energy leveling up some areas when you could dedicate that effort into excelling at the ones you are already good at?

The theory goes that if you work on your weaknesses you will merely bring them up to a point where they are no longer weaknesses. In other words, you turn them into neutrality, they become neither strengths nor weaknesses. If instead, you focus your energy on improving something you are already good at, you can achieve greatness with the same amount of time and effort.

“Wouldn’t you rather be excellent at a few things rather than mediocre at all of them?” Is what they ask us. The flaw in this advice is that it’s founded on the premise that we have a certain amount of “skill points” to spend in just one place, and ignores the relationship between different skills. They are basically telling us that we can only use the “skill points” in one area, and that improving this area will not affect any other one.

Let’s use some numbers for better understanding. Let’s say that skill levels go on a scale of 1 to 10, and let’s use only two skills for this example to make it even easier, skill#1 and skill#2. We are going to assume that you are a 3 on skill#1, making it a weakness (it’s quite low on the 1-10 scale) and a 7 on skill#2, making it a strength.

If you had two “skill points” to spend, would you spend them on raising skill#1, your weakness, from 3 to 5, or would you rather raise skill#2, your strength, from 7 to 9? If this was everything there was to know, most people would probably go for spending their skill points on their strength (skill#2) because it would make them more competitive. I would probably do the same if this were the case.

The main issue with this model is that it’s two dimensional. It doesn’t assume the relationship between the skills and how they interact with each other.

Some weaknesses actually cap your strengths and won’t allow you to improve your overall performance, regardless of how hard you work on your strength until you deal with them. Other times, as we’ll discuss below, improving some weaknesses will maximize the use and the results you get out of your strengths.

 

All this sounds very abstract, I know, let’s make it into an analogy. Say you are a Mixed Martial arts fighter. You are an amazing striker but your wrestling and ground skills are your weak point.

If you want to focus on your strength, you would dedicate most of your training to keep improving your striking. This will make you an incomplete fighter and will also make it easy for your opponents to devise strategies to beat you -You could be the best striker in the world but there’s not much you can do with your back against the ground!

On the contrary, If you chose to improve your wrestling and ground skills you’ll improve your chances to defend takedowns, scape locks, and stand back up when taken to the ground.

All those improved skills will help you get the best results out of your strength (striking) because your opponents will be forced to fight you on your own territory. Imagine how much your overall fighting will improve by investing strategically in those points of weakness.

We’ll get the most out of our skill-set once we begin to treat them as an interconnected group -Each skill in the group influences the other ones and has an effect on the outcome we get. Our greatest strength in isolation is probably useless, just as the most valuable player in a team won’t do much on his own. We’ve been neglecting the team and the goal at the expense of one single player, our strength. Keep in mind that this principle applies to anything in life and not just sports.

Our focus should always be on improving results and getting closer to our goals. We are moving then from a strength-oriented approach, to a goal-oriented one. We still have to identify our strengths, sure, but just as important, we need to identify what supporting skills could maximize that strength and achieve the best results.

We can see that choosing to work solely on our strengths could be a huge waste of time and energy. But it should be clear also that I’m not advising to ignore our strengths and just try to make our weak points our new great qualities, that could be just as counterproductive.

The right approach is to dedicate our energy on what gets us closer to our goal. Sometimes that means working on a strength itself, other times it means working on a weakness that is capping our strength, and other times it could even mean learning something entirely new to add to the synergy of our skill set. Whichever the case, our strategy to balance strengths and weaknesses should be based on our goals first and our talents second.  

In the upcoming articles we’ll be discussing Goals, Mastery, Learning strategies, and more. Don’t miss a post, sign up below to get my newest articles in your inbox.

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