Now, Discover Your Strengths: How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage

Now, Discover your Strengths

Authors: Marcus Buckingham,Donald O. Clifton

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Most people focus on their flaws and focus excessively on fixing them. Buckingham and Clifton give you a new approach to a better life — focus on your strengths instead. Their program will help you identify your true talent and hone it until it becomes your biggest strength.

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Back in the 1930s, Carl Jung, the eminent thinker and psychologist, put it this way: Criticism has ‘the power to do good when there is something that must be destroyed, dissolved or reduced, but [it is] capable only of harm when there is something to be built.

Personality

The ‘big five’ factors of personality are neuroticism (which reflects emotional stability), extroversion (seeking the company of others), openness (interest in new experiences, ideas, and so forth), agreeableness (likability, harmoniousness), and conscientiousness (rule abidance, discipline, integrity).

Focus on your strengths

From this point of view, to avoid your strengths and to focus on your weaknesses isn’t a sign of diligent humility. It is almost irresponsible. By contrast the most responsible, the most challenging, and, in the sense of being true to yourself, the most honorable thing to do is face up to the strength potential inherent in your talents and then find ways to realize it.

In Martin Seligman’s words, ‘Psychology is half-baked, literally half-baked. We have baked the part about mental illness. We have baked the part about repair and damage. But the other side is unbaked. The side of strengths, the side of what we are good at, the side…of what makes life worth living.

You will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses. This is not the same as saying ‘ignore your weaknesses.

De-focus from weaknesses

As soon as you find yourself in a role that requires you to play to one of your nontalents-or area of low skills or knowledge-a weakness is born.

The point here is not that you should always forgo this kind of weakness fixing. The point is that you should see it for what it is: damage control, not development. And as we mentioned earlier, damage control can prevent failure, but it will never elevate you to excellence.

Identifying talents

While your spontaneous reactions provide the clearest trace of your talents, here are three more clues to keep in mind: yearnings, rapid learning, and satisfactions. Yearnings reveal the presence of a talent, particularly when they are felt early in life.

Rapid learning offers another trace of talent. Sometimes a talent doesn’t signal itself through yearning. For a myriad of reasons, although the talent exists within you, you don’t hear its call. Instead, comparatively late in life, something sparks the talent, and it is the speed at which you learn a new skill that provides the telltale clue to the talent’s presence and power.

Satisfactions provide the last clue to talent. As we described in the previous chapter, your strongest synaptic connections are designed so that when you use them, it feels good. Thus, obviously, if it feels good when you perform an activity, chances are that you are using a talent.

There is one sure way to identify your greatest potential for strength: Step back and watch yourself for a while. Try an activity and see how quickly you pick it up, how quickly you skip steps in the learning and add twists and kinks you haven’t been taught yet. See whether you become absorbed in the activity to such an extent that you lose track of time. If none of these has happened after a couple of months, try another activity and watch-and another. Over time your dominant talents will reveal themselves, and you can start to refine them into a powerful strength.

Skills

The bottom line on skills is this: A skill is designed to make the secrets of the best easily transferable. If you learn a skill, it will help you get a little better, but it will not cover for a lack of talent. Instead, as you build your strengths, skills will actually prove most valuable when they are combined with genuine talent.

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