When Quitting is Good: Guest Post by Brent Hortze

I used to be a manager in a large box home improvement store. I thought life was going great, I had finally found a job where I was making a lot of money and my department was ranking in top 5-10 each month nationally. I was on what seemed like the fast track to being promoted. This perceived happiness was short lived. I found my overall happiness in life going down and at a pretty fast pace. The money was a false sense of joy and didn’t offset the fact that I was working anywhere from 60-80 hours a week depending on the time of year, having no holidays off, only every other weekend, and no time for friends, family, or a life outside of work.

I found myself getting frustrated at work, realizing that the money wasn’t worth the time I was putting in at my job and my quality of life was pretty low, I began to look at other options. As my search for a new career continued, I received a call from the Boy Scouts of America. Something clicked in my head when I was preparing for my interview. I had always enjoyed working with people, helping people, and wanted to find a job that cared about me and my life outside of work. Going in I knew this would be a perfect fit for where I wanted to be, I nailed the two interviews and accepted a new job my new work schedule is flexible, they care about how I am doing with my career and are very flexible and understanding when it comes to family.

I have been with the Boy Scouts of America for the past 3 years and haven’t looked back or regretted my decision to quit and move on once. In the process there were times when I was questioning my decision to possibly leave, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

If and when that should happen to you: fight through it, change isn’t always easy and allowing yourself to have the courage to take the road less traveled almost always has an extremely rewarding outcome. The main take away for me was, following your strengths and passions sometimes means quitting for the right reasons. Everyone deserves to be truly happy and have a high quality of life, find your strengths and GO FOR IT!

Brent and fiance Kimberly

Brent and fiance Kimberly

So What Do Strengths Have to Do With "The Art of Really Living?"

So What Do Strengths Have to Do With "The Art of Really Living?" (and, what is that anyway?)

WHAT: We all have had moments that were so intense, so memorable, and so full of life, that they created indentations in our memory. I describe these time-expanding experiences as moments of “really living.” The Art of Really Living (TAORL) is a movement and a philosophy to help people design and live strengths-focused resilient lives by designing powerful experiences that slow time and help you live (almost) forever.

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." (Abraham Lincoln)

WHY: Because TIME is the most valuable commodity we have as human beings. Life is short, and thanks to a cognitive bias in our brains that causes our perception of time to accelerate, life is actively getting shorter. People around the globe miss their chances to expand time and “really live,” while they helplessly watch their lives accelerate and race by. They are stuck below their level of capability, trapped by stifling routines and a relentless focus on weaknesses, mired in careers noted by small risks and small rewards, and leading lives of quiet desperation. They are not really living. I want to change that and through TAORL play the role of the chrysalis, breaking the clay of grey men, revealing the colors of the sleeping poet, painter, musician or hidden genius within.

Everyone dies. Not everyone really lives.

HOW:

By designing our lives to reverse this cognitive bias we can slow and expand the ticking of the clock which gives us back the most precious of all currencies: time.

  • S + R x T = TAORL
  • Strengths + Resilience x Time  = The Art of Really Living
  • The Art of Really Living helps people to create these moments by:
  1. Aiding people in designing strengths-focused lives full of willpower, confidence and motivation to pursue these moments that often feature a state of “flow” and create memories
  2. Developing resiliency to weather the intensity and stresses endemic to “really living” moments
  3. Understanding the non-linear nature of experiential time and learning how to design more "really living moments" that will lead to time expansion

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 1.09.58 PM

So why is a strengths-focused life essential to "really living" and expanding time? In the end it all comes back to myelin - that mysterious substance in the brain that wraps neurons and increases the speed of impulses and communications in the brain.

Living a strengths-centered life allows for two things to take place simultaneously:

  1. It increases resiliency and the ability to withstand stress and persevere in pursuit of those things that "really matter."
  2. A strengths centered life focuses your time and activity on the myelinated circuits in your brain: those that can communicate up to 1000 time faster than unwrapped circuits - meaning that the amount of data being shared and recorded is orders of magnitude greater than in areas of weakness. Translation: a strengths-centered life records more data, has more moments of "flow," records more memories. More memories = more time.

Living a strengths-centered life allows for us to design and weather the kinds of experiences where "really living” moments take place, and it ensures they are recorded in a high definition camera for a huge databank of time expanding memories.

—————–

Want to learn more about finding your strengths and designing a life for them? I would be so pleased if you would join us for our Strengths 2.0 Summit February 13th in Chicago – details below:

Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Subject: I'm Quitting...

> Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 12:41 PM> Subject: I'm quitting

> I took the day off work today and turned on the tv... Connected to YouTube And looked for your first TED talk.....

> It's been two years since I started working for ******, and I have accomplished many things.... But inside it quite feels like something is missing.... Perhaps the intrinsic satisfaction has not happened the way I expected and like you mentioned it is not as cool as it was supposed to be.

head

> So I am quitting, of course not today but like in two months, I have been looking for other horizons and I want to work on my strengths. I am so stubborn that I have tried so hard not only to be good in what I am weak, but to be perfect in overcoming my weaknesses, of course that is not only stupid but exhausting and pointless and it only took me 16:58 minutes to realize it (that's the duration of your speech).

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MfZ6Rkk-oI[/embed]

> No wonder I feel mentally, emotionally and physically fatigued, wanting to get away and be somebody else, and not because I don't like who I am ( I love who I am) but I don't like this person I am forcing myself to be.

> Did I make any sense?? > Thank you so so very much > Thelma

quitting

———————-

Want to learn more about your strengths and how to leverage those of your team? Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Stop Playing Whack-a-Mole With Your Weaknesses

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 8.53.41 PM
What happens when you let go of your weaknesses and focus on your strengths?
Naturally, with any change in direction in life that involves "letting go," there is an associated feeling of failure, of "giving up," of being a "quitter," words trained into us since we were young children as BAD.
An entire future post will be focused on how to know when to quit, but today's post is about what happens when you finally make the decision to let go of a weakness and move on. Maybe that weakness was in the form of a sport, a career path, a job, a relationship, a hobby: whatever it was, odds are there will be a lot of hand-wringing and anxiety before you finally decide to let it go. But then what happens?
For most people, the first feeling is one of relief. Indecision is a major hidden stress and just the act of deciding is a major release. The second feeling that emerges is a sense of additional willpower, bandwidth and energy emerging. It is a well published fact that human willpower is in limited supply: we use it up. Relentless focus on weakness eats up willpower like Pac-Man eats glowing dots. Letting go of a weaknesses and designing around them can feel like getting half your brain back. Third, refocusing on strengths creates greater resiliency. When less and less of your day is spent playing whack-a-mole with weaknesses and instead is spent building momentum on areas of passion and capability then when the inevitable obstacles emerge, a strengths focused individual will be better able to clamber up and over them.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 8.59.09 PM
Examples: David Rendall was a high strung kid who found himself regularly in trouble with school teachers and officials because he couldn't sit still, talked too much, was the class clown and didn't like to be told what to do. Years of remedial discipline and training to "fix" these weaknesses had little to no effect. Later, however, David decided to let them go... as weaknesses, and instead embraced these same traits for what they are in the right environment: strengths. Now Dave's career is spent talking incessantly, telling jokes along the way, while never sitting down or sitting still, and working for himself as a highly regarded public speaker.
When I (John K. Coyle) was an aspiring olympic athlete, the coaches had me focus incessantly on my weaknesses.  In so doing I went from 12th in the world to not even making the team in two short years. After I let go of my weaknesses, and instead began "racing my strengths," a year later I not only beat my own personal record by more than 5 seconds in a sport where improvements are measured in 1/100ths of a second, but skated faster than the world record and earned an Olympic silver medal.
Gillian Lynne was labeled as having a learning disorder - as artfully told in his excellent TED talk by Sir. Ken Robinson.
[embed]http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?language=en[/embed]
She couldn't concentrate, was fidgety and a poor student. Fortunately someone intervened and recognized a hidden strength, "Gillian isn't sick; she's a dancer. Take her to dance school." And they did. Gillian went on to become a dancer for the Royal Ballet and a choreographer for shows including Cats and Phantom of the Opera, becoming a multimillionaire in the process.
Letting go is never easy, finding your strengths is no small task, and finding the right environment for your strengths to have natural resonance may be the hardest part of all. But... when the rule of (Strengths X Environment(squared)) plays out, world changing performances result.
Have you ever let go of a weakness? Is it time to "quit" something and place your energy elsewhere? Please share your story.

Stop Trying to Be Well Rounded...

“If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything" “Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.”

(Tom Rath, "Strengths Based Leadership")

———————-

Want to learn more about your strengths and how to leverage those of your team? Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Strengths-Based Leadership: Creating the Right "Enclosure" (Guest Post by Stosh Walsh)

Strengths-Based Leadership: Creating the Right "Enclosure" (Guest Post by Stosh Walsh) stosh1 stosh2

As I read John’s last post, my first thought was, “An important part of a leader’s job is to decide what kind of ‘enclosure’ to create.”

But before we get to that, we have to understand the 2 factors that inform the decision.  First, direction—where are we going?  And second, culture—what kind of environment must we have to ensure we arrive there?

Leaders can do this in one of two ways.  They either build their team according to the desired direction and culture, or shape the desired direction and culture according to their existing team.  In both cases, a consideration of strengths is paramount.

This reality gives birth to change management, evolution of teams, building and perpetuating a legacy—in short, these things happen over time, not instantly.  Leaders who elect to build a team according to the desired direction and culture have greater margin when selecting the team, but must face the stages of team development.  Conversely, leaders who pursue a new direction with an existing team might enjoy a greater understanding, but face changing the status quo and all that endeavor entails.

Though they face unique obstacles, both approaches can work if the leader employs a strengths-based perspective.  For the leader who chooses to build a team toward a new or existing direction, selecting the right strengths is paramount, after which those strengths can be shaped, over time, into culture.  For a leader with an incumbent team, the key is to understand the team’s strengths and then choose a direction that will see those strengths maximized.

For example, if a basketball coach wants to play an up and down the court transition style, he must select athletes who can perform the tasks associated with that style.  He will likely prefer players who possess the strengths of speed, agility and passing, as opposed to patience, decision-making or rebounding ability.  However, if that same coach has a team full of tall, strong, patient players, he is better served to understand the existing strengths and choose a more methodical style based on ball control and scoring close to the basket.  If, in the first scenario, the coach fails to select the right strengths, his direction will fail and his culture will deteriorate.  Similarly, if the coach tries to take the team in a direction that does not suit their existing strengths and culture well, he will lose games even if his players are more talented.

Why?  Enclosure = Culture + Direction.

Now, if at this point you are thinking, “That sounds too easy,” you are right.  But most of the difficulty leaders face in trying to determine the right enclosure is self-inflicted—they insist on a direction that does not suit their team’s strengths, or they choose teams full of people who are talented in the wrong areas, and therefore unable to further the direction.

So how can leaders avoid this?

They can GEAR UP for strengths:

Grant autonomy—people who are working in an area of strength will exceed your expectations.  Give them the why of their work, and let them figure out the how.

Encourage effort—tell people what you’ve seen them do well and ask them to try it again, or in a different setting because of your confidence in them.

Assess—discover the strengths of people around you by asking, “When was the last time you lost track of time?” or “What do people come and ask for your input or guidance on?”  The answers will provide clues to their strengths.  Put people through assessments that can help them put vocabulary to what they do well.

Reward and recognize—few things on earth feel better than doing something we enjoy and then having someone acknowledge it in a way that is meaningful to us.

Understand motivations—some people work for money, others for enjoyment, still others for mission—whatever their motivation, it will be informed by their strengths.

Position for success—help people do less work in areas they don’t perform well, and more in places where they excel.  We all have to do some things we aren’t very good at or don’t like, but we shouldn’t have to do more than is absolutely necessary, as that serves neither direction nor culture.

As a leader, what strategies have you employed to choose the right direction, shape the right culture—create the perfect enclosure?

———————-

Want to learn more about your strengths and how to leverage those of your team? Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Finding Resonance: Strengths x Environment(squared) = Performance

Finding Resonance: Strengths x Environment2 = Performance What’s Your Frequency? A good number of entries in this blog have been about how important it is to find your strengths, and for good reason – only by knowing your true talents can you design a life to maximize them. That said, strengths are actually a relatively small part of the equation for peak performance. Clearly identified, strengths are just a data point unless they are utilized in an environment where they are needed, wanted, and resonate. We have all known a talented co-worker – engineer, accountant, creative director – who just wasn’t “a fit” with the people, work or culture of a company and floundered, eventually leaving or being “exited.” Yet, we all know of situations where a few months later in a similar role in a similar company, this same person with the same skillset is suddenly flourishing. What gives? I would assert that the subtle and unique combination of skills, talents and capabilities of this employee (or leader, athlete, or musician) were out-of-tune with the resonant frequency of their environment. To explain, let me introduce a metaphor from the world of audio.

I have a fascination with subwoofers. For me, there is something compelling about the super-low, even subsonic, bass notes from the kick drum, tympani or pipe organ that cause standing waves in milk, and your insides, to curdle. Sadly, my neighbor, Dolores, does not feel the same way, and these days I have to switch the subwoofer off unless I’m sure she’s not home.

I used to have a 3000-watt subwoofer that was capable of 95 decibels at 20 hertz (the low end of human hearing) which would rattle the windows in the living room. Now, I have a 300-watt subwoofer that is capable of 105 decibels at 20 hertz. By way of comparison, the lower the frequency, the exponentially greater the power required to create the same volume level. 10 additional decibels requires exactly 10 times more power. Yet, this new subwoofer has 1/10th of the power. So how is it possible to achieve 10 times the volume with 1/10th of the power, a 100-fold performance improvement?

Resonance.

The old subwoofer was crammed into a tiny cabinet to save space. The new subwoofer has a large (5’) cylindrical enclosure that allows standing waves to build inside before escaping through a specially-tuned port. Now, I can rattle the windows of the neighbor’s house 100 feet away without even turning the volume up half way.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 2.23.13 PM

The subwoofer came disassembled and it was a fascinating experiment to run a low bass tone through the speaker absent the enclosure, and to hear essentially nothing other than a rubbery whooshing as it emptied its power into the cavernous emptiness of the room. The contrast upon moving the speaker into proximity with the enclosure was startling, as the whole house would begin to shake with the bold power of resonating bass.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 2.24.20 PM

To complete the metaphor: Your strengths are the power driving the speaker (yes more power is better), but your environment is the enclosure that can either amplify your strengths 100-fold, or stifle them to nothingness. Of the two, the enclosure/environment is exponentially more important in determining output and performance.

Are you in the right “enclosure” to amplify your strengths? Are you vibrating at a resonant frequency with your career, your home, your hobbies, your friends, or your relationships? Or are you out of tune with your environment, wasting all your power vacuously shaking in place with no impact on the world?

What about your teams, your children, your family and friends – what kind of environment are you creating for them? Are you helping them find their resonant frequency, and designing the kind of space, culture and environment that allows them to achieve peak performance and output? Or are you cramming them into the predetermined architecture of your world, traditional schools, traditional rules and expectations, stifling them in the process?

----------------------

Want to learn more about your strengths and how to leverage those of your team? Join me and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Guest Post by Michael Ziener: If You Had Superhero Powers...

If You Had Superhero Powers..., Would You Need to Ask What Am I “Supposed” to Be Doing For The Rest Of My Life? - by Michael Ziener

In a recent article, John Coyle asked a very good question: what are your superhero powers? I want to echo that question. To clarify, I am not asking if you can morph into any shape to camouflage yourself from the evil villain or leap tall buildings in a single bound. Rather, what differentiates you from the group? Every single one of us is unique. I can quickly think of some people who had incredible “superhero” strengths that altered the course of history. Who was the first person that popped into your mind?

  • Michael Jordan
  • Mozart
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Einstein
  • Ben Underwood

You’re probably asking yourself, who is Ben Underwood?

“Ben Underwood was diagnosed with retinal cancer at the age of two and had his eyes removed at the age of three. He was able to detect the location of objects by making frequent clicking noises with his tongue. He used it to accomplish such feats as running, playing basketball, riding a bicycle, rollerblading, playing football, and skateboarding.” www.benunderwood.com

Ben Underwood’s superhero strengths of listening and making sounds gave him the amazing ability to see with no eyes, no guide dog and no cane. But, he had to lose his sight before he could find his path.

So, how did I find my superhero strength? When I was in my 30’s and owned a marketing firm, I thought “This is it! I made it. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.” I had a wife, a son, a home and my own company. Nope. I was the furthest away from where I was “supposed” to be, and I had no clue what was about to happen. My superhero strength was about to present itself.

First, some background. I had lost my entire family to cancer: mom, dad and grandparents. I had suppressed those emotions so deep; it was preventing me from realizing my own strength. Not strengths like being extroverted or empathetic, but something I possessed which ultimately turned into a reinvention of my career and myself. I figured out what I was supposed to be doing: why I am here.

Ziener Family

In 2007, I was looking through the lens of a video camera recording a documentary for “my company” at a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Chicago. I was filming a woman who had stage 4 breast cancer telling her story. As I was watching and listening to her take every breath in my headphones, a flood of emotion came out of nowhere that overwhelmed me. I was mentally taken back to the exact moment my father walked into my bedroom when I was 9 years old to tell me that my mother, age 39, in 1982, had died of stage 4 breast cancer. Drop video camera….

I decided to sell my company and in 2008, I became the CEO of that very same chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure©, charged with driving that organization through massive growth over a 4-5 year period. Through collaboration and my newfound strength of HELPING OTHERS, we went from $700k in annual revenues to $4m in revenues in under 5 years. These increased funds allowed women who did not have insurance to receive mammograms. I was helping. I was making an IMPACT. My pain became my passion.

Screen Shot 2012-11-24 at 1.30.31 AM

I have an undeniable ability or superhero strength to help others. To give more of myself than what I used to believe I could offer. I have found that I possess the ability to give hope and aid through a newly identified “servant heart.” My career serving others was born. I am no Michael Jordan. I may not impact the world like Martin Luther King, Jr. but, that is not the intention of this article. I want each of you to realize that you are unique and possess a strength that is non-traditional.

What differentiates you from the group? What is your remarkable ability that could potentially alter your life and bring you to a place of fulfillment that you never thought was achievable? What undiscovered superhero strength might you hold? What are you supposed to be doing?

-Michael Ziener

_DSC5081

Are You Missing Your Hidden Strengths? What Are Your Superhero Powers?

Are You Missing Your Hidden Strengths? What Are Your Superhero Powers? The popularity of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, and  similar assessments, has given a great deal of exposure to the idea that “discovering strengths” can enhance  productivity, success and happiness.

A quick scan of the field, however, suggests that most  assessments that help people find their natural strengths and talents, tend to focus on cognitive or interpersonal capabilities. Characteristics like “analytic,” “empathetic,” “competitive,” “organized,” “intuitive,” and “extroverted,” have become the language de riguer to describe strengths and talents. Yet, these terms ignore a whole host of other characteristics that clearly play a role in the successes or failures of individuals.

Perhaps we need to expand the strengths playing field.

We know from ample research that people generally make “blink” or intuitive judgments about others based on a host of factors, many of which have nothing to do with their cognitive ability. For example, we know that height is a seriously influential predictor for deciding the next president.

What “non-traditional,” unnamed, or counter-intuitive strengths might you have? Think of other categories of talent and capability:

  • Physical characteristics: height, weight, presence, shape, posture, voice
  • Kinesthetic skills: balance, touch, fine motor control, spacial capability
  • Artistic talents: rhythm, tone, pitch, color sensitivity
  • Physical abilities: lung capacity,  fast twitch muscles,  eyesight, smell, taste

And then there is synesthesia – the mixing of some or all of these elements, where smells or sounds have a color, and people can see feelings or hear a silent activity.

When I think of my super-talented friends and acquaintances, I tend to find a weird intersection of common and uncommon capabilities melded in a counter-intuitive way. For instance, Tina DeSalvo is a tiny, tiny woman. Her physical presence is so diminutive that she could easily be dismissed and marginalized in the business world. Instead, she matches this non-threatening physical aspect with a calm, yet steely, confidence to lead boardrooms of men through exercises of vulnerability that would be nearly impossible with another facilitator.

Steve DeCaspers is the opposite – a large man with a round head and kind features. Steve can make any room in the world laugh and is one of the best MC’s I have ever seen.

Matt Stutzman has no arms, but through his stubborn refusal to consider himself handicapped holds the world record for the longest accurate archery shot, thanks to the strength, flexibility and stability of his legs.

David Rendall was repeatedly rebuked as a child for being a) unable to sit still, b) unable to stop talking, c) being the class clown, and d) unable to take direction. Now he travels the world where he a) never sits down, b) talks for a living, c) tells lots of jokes, and d) runs his own successful business as a public speaker.

Chris Callis was an average student in the classroom. But, one day, when I asked him to help me pack my moving truck, I saw spacial relationship genius of the finest order. It  would have taken me 3 trips to stack, pack and rearrange all my furniture and boxes in that small truck. Yet, Chris managed to reverse, rejigger, scissor and jigsaw into place all my worldly belongings in one trip in a small moving truck. Chris grew up assisting his father, who was an electrician, so he naturally had a talent with 3-D spacial relationships.

I could go on with story after story, but the point is that each of us was born with a series of talents, and has developed a set of skills across multiple spectrums. If we could weave a thread through ALL our superhero strengths and find an environment where we could use them, it would be like being superman on earth – we’d be unstoppable.

What are all your superhero powers?


 Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 2.04.34 PM

Is your current environment full of kryptonite?

kryptonite1

Looking for Your Strengths? Examine Your Weaknesses… (pt. 2 – Guest Post by David Rendall)

By David Rendall: The Rudolph Principle: Discovering Uniqueness by Embracing Weakness Last year I was watching the classic TV version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with my daughters and I realized that the story has a lot to teach us about strengths and weaknesses.

Just let the song run through your head for a minute . . .

“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose, and if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.”

The Rudolph Principle

Rudolph was different. He had a major obvious flaw. This is the same for most of us. We are too impatient or too messy or too silly or too serious.

“All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph, join in any reindeer games.”

Rudolph’s flaw made him unpopular and led to his rejection and isolation. No one wants to be rejected. So what do we do? We often try to hide our flaws and fix our weaknesses. We become ashamed. We wish that we could just be normal, like everyone else. We want to be accepted, so we try to change. This is just what Rudolph and his parents tried to do. They covered up his nose with a black rubber cone. It didn’t work. The red nose still shined through. It looked like Rudolph was destined for a life of pain and misery, but then the situation changed.

“Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight.”

Rudolph’s nose was a weakness, but it was also a strength in disguise. In the right situation, a “foggy Christmas Eve,” Rudolph’s nose was an irreplaceable advantage. That is why he got the call, from Santa himself, to save Christmas for the whole world.

He didn’t succeed in spite of his weakness; he succeeded because of his weakness. What would have happened to Christmas that year if Rudolph had gone to Beverly Hills for a nose job?

“Then all the reindeer loved him and they shouted out with glee, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll go down in history.’”

Rudolph’s legacy, his enduring fame, was a result of his uniqueness.

Do you want more happiness, fulfillment, success and energy? Find your red nose. Look to your apparent weaknesses and flaws. They offer clues to your greatest strengths. Don’t try to hide them or fix them. Just look for the right situation, the one that offers a perfect fit between who you are and what is required. This takes courage, to wait, to endure ridicule, to be rejected by others. But remember the end of the story. Santa called on Rudolph and he saved Christmas.

Looking for Your Strengths? Examine Your Weaknesses… (pt. 1)

Matt Stutzman: IMG_5076

In many ways, Matt Stutzman is just your average guy. A hardworking, married, 33-year old with three children, Matt, like many fathers, goes to work, changes diapers, hunts and fixes cars.

However, unlike most other fathers, Matt Stutzman has no arms. Born with a rare medical condition, Matt has had to learn to navigate life without the benefit of arms, opposable thumbs and everything in between.

Clearly this is a very tangible weakness that created significant adversity for Matt to overcome. Matt had to learn to do all of life’s tasks — mundane or significant — without the benefit of arms and hands. Tying shoes, opening doors, driving, feeding himself, all of this, Matt learned to do with his feet.

What is fascinating about Matt’s story is that in his case, his significant weakness is also an extraordinary and fantastic strength. In 2012, Matt became an Olympic silver medalist and he holds a world record…

…in Archery.

IMG_5077

How is it possible that a man without arms holds a world record in a sport for the “armed”? Matt’s legs and feet are nearly every bit as nimble as the average man’s arms and hands, but are two — or perhaps three — times as strong. So, Matt can shoot more arrows in practice than your average archer without getting tired, use a greater level of resistance on his compound bow when shooting, and hold his aim steadier than, well, anyone on the planet.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgEiROtmXwU[/embed]

Consider this: Matt’s greatest weakness, when analyzed in a new light, is also his greatest strength.

Seeking to find your strengths? Sometimes the best place to start is in your weaknesses.

The 1, 2, 3's on Leading a Strength-Focused Life

The 1 / 2 / 3's on Leading a Strength-Focused Life

  1. What are your greatest strengths? Do you know what they are? (If not, why not?)

"Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his/her greatest strength." (Marcus Buckingham)

  1. Is there a strength or talent you have let lie dormant or that you need to focus on in 2015? 

"You will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses." (Marcus Buckingham)

  1.  Have you been pursuing a weakness at work or in another area of your life you need to let go in 2015? 

"It doesn't take a lot of strength to hang on. It takes a lot of strength to let go." (J. C. Watts)

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 4.26.01 PM

Want help finding your strengths?   http://strengthssummit2015. eventbrite.com

Do Your Strengths Have a Color? Synaesthesia and Talents

Synaesthesia is one of my new favorite words and concepts. As Wickipedia defines it, synaesthesia (or synesthesia) "is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes."

Synesthetes often experience this phenomenon in the course of every day life - vowels, for example for many synesthetes have colors where as consonants don't. But I'm particularly interested in the intersection of synaethesia and strengths and talents. What if your strengths and areas of talent have a color or a sound, or both?

For years I've been describing my feelings when in a state of "flow" or deeply immersed in an area of strength as having a color - often a vibrant blue or yellow or orange and conversely moments of weakness as colorless, black or red. What I never talked about and never knew how to articulate is that in these "photisms" or "chromesthesia" episodes I actually SAW these colors, tasted and heard these colors. In fact, my personal form of synaethesia involves color and sound - a hum, or thrumming permeates my brain and I see what I'm doing tinged with vibrant colors of orange, yellow and violet blue that has a fractal nature about it. Examples:

"The pixels of light and darkness captured in the mind’s eye are filled with the pallet of color of the results – hence the memories of winning somehow pull from the yellows, blues and golds, success and color implying a relatively easier effort, while the losses are inevitably painted with the charcoals of those chiaroscuro efforts – blackened, brutish, pain and disappointment closely linked."

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 6.57.46 PM

"I choose to repaint this race differently. And in so doing what I did accomplish was a unique mastery of the instrument of my body. For over two hours, I played it like the first violinist – drawing out of it with every lash of the straight bow every possible note, every emotion, every tremble of resonance the space of ribs and air and bones was capable of producing."

Conversely when I'm suffering or pursuing a weakness, color and sound disappears... an example:

"The halls of pain echo for an experienced athlete. The suffering is nothing and yet is everything. The pain is white. It is black. It lacks color or sibilant sound – just reverberations reflecting off the porcelain tiles of the stony discipline of the psyche. But blood, glittering red-black blood, pulses through hidden rivulets in the gutters of the mind."

As a kid when I would ride my bike - whenever there was a sprint or an acceleration I would hum inside my head. In the early days it was sort of a motorcycle sound and I assumed it was an artifact not dissimilar to putting a playing card in the spokes to sound like a motor, but over time I just realized I did the same thing when skating or when painting or when working certain subjects in school. Now I get it when I'm writing, riding, racing or traveling.

So an oft repeated question is, "how do I know if something I'm doing is a strength?" "How do I know if something I'm doing is a weakness, or just a skills gap?"

Perhaps one way to know might to be to simply ask, "what color is it? what does it sound like?"

I close every speech on finding your strengths with the following advice: When seeking your strengths, "pay attention to your internal hum: you'll know it when you see it, feel it, hear it."

PS: this whole post was a medium blue, tinged with some yellow.