I’ve written about this before, but one of the most widespread misconceptions in writing is the idea that you become successful by focusing on your weaknesses. By identifying every single thing we do wrong and correcting it, we’ll be perfect at writing! Right? Most writing workshops and critique groups operate from this point of view.
Career development and performance reviews at companies sometimes make this same mistake of disregarding people’s talents. Managers identify their employees’ weaknesses and ask them to focus on improving them, sometimes assigning them to projects that will get the employees to do more of what they’re naturally bad at so that they can improve.
In our day-to-day lives, we get messages all the time about identifying and fixing our weaknesses. For one thing, it’s a common strategy companies use to sell things. They remind people that they’re overweight and that it’s a big problem in order to sell them weight loss products, or they point out that their living room doesn’t look like one in a home décor magazine in order to sell them furniture.
Many of us, unfortunately, often fall into the bad habit of focusing on the weaknesses of the people closest to us and trying to reform them. The people who love us may be reminding us of our shortcomings all the time.
Focusing on weaknesses leads to mediocrity.
The writer who only concentrates on eliminating their mistakes may end up with lifeless, technically correct stories.
The company that only focuses on developing its employees’ weak spots will be like a track and field team on which the hurdler does the pole vault and the shot put thrower runs the sprints. That’s not the way you win.
The person who only fixates on their shortcomings neglects all of their natural-born charms and talents.
There’s a popular quote, frequently and incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein, that expresses it really well:
Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Focusing on your strengths leads to distinctive success.
The most important way to improve your writing is to figure out what kinds of stories you love, and what you excel at in prose, and do more of that.
The best way companies can succeed is by identifying their employees’ strengths and encouraging them to do more of that. (There are managers at my workplace right now who do this, and it’s so smart.)
On a personal level, knowing what you’ve got going for you and working it will make you irresistible and unstoppable.
But here’s the most important thing:
Focusing on your strengths will give you a happier life.
Of course, it’s always good to improve at things, and learning new things throughout our lifetime keeps our brains sharp and clear.
But when we focus too much on our weaknesses, we fall into the trap of thinking we won’t be worthwhile until we are perfect in every way, which is pure insanity.
When we spend time doing the things we’re best at, and we highlight our best qualities, that’s when we feel good, and no one can resist our sparkle.
And while we’re at it, we can help other people recognize and focus on their unique talents and their best qualities, too.
I may do a few posts in the future to encourage you to think about your strengths: as a writer, in your day job, and as a person. It’s important stuff to think about, and it has the extra advantage of being really fun.
Do you feel pressured to dwell on your weaknesses? Have you seen great results from focusing on what you’re best at? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Thanks for reading!