Your weaknesses are your strengths: Changing our mindset for a brighter future

The following is the translated transcript of the original Spanish TEDxCharacato talk. The video is here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA33KGMVopo&t=17s

Allow me to share with you all the things I don’t do well:

I am terrible at following up on my finances. Open deadlines are my biggest enemy. I really don’t enjoy debating. And if you ask those who know me, they would probably tell you that I am very unorganized — personally, I like to think of it as organized chaos.

Oh, and above all, I have no intention of improving.

I’m sure that, on the other hand, there are several of you who can do those things easily and you probably don’t see it as any big deal either. But, it is. Now, can you imagine the possibility of living your life just doing what you do well?

So, how do you know what you do well? Often these talents are hidden. When we do something easily, we do not realize that that is a talent. On top of this, our talents are also our filters and how we understand others. So, what may seem like a weakness to others could be an undeveloped talent or could just be a misunderstanding.

For example, the first person I had the pleasure of working with as a coach here in Peru was not satisfied with her career and could not understand why. She had studied and she was good at her job. Working with me, she discovered she had the talent of “Restorative.” Restorative means you anticipate problems to avoid them. When she discovered that this was a talent and not a weakness, I saw a sparkle in her eyes. This had caused her great pain for most of her life. She had mostly been seen as a “Negative Nelly” by most of her family and friends. When she understood that this was a strength, she changed the way she expressed herself. She had more confidence and began to take opportunities she had not considered before. And now, she’s in Spain obtaining her Masters in marketing and above all, is so much happier.

The things we do well are our innate talents. These talents are our most natural way of thinking, feeling, acting and behaving. To illustrate, let’s do a little exercise:

Please raise the hand that you use to write. Your dominant hand. Perfect. Suppose I tell you that you can no longer use this hand, it’s tied behind your back. Now, you must do everything, with your non-dominant hand. Writing, dressing yourself, cooking, knitting … could you do it? Sure, with a little practice. But how would you feel? Stressed? Anxious? Angry? Frustrated?

Unfortunately, this is exactly what we do every day with our employees, with our children, with ourselves. It seems that we demand improvement in areas that do not come naturally to us. Sure, it’s possible to improve, but quite difficult to achieve excellence. It is only when we work from our strengths, with our innate talents, that we learn to fly.

I am 43 years old and had a midlife crisis in 2015. It was certainly not my first life crisis, but it was one of the most profound. My marriage was failing, I was a new mother of a 1-year-old little boy and I did not have a job that made me excited or feel fulfilled. I was successful, but I was definitely not happy. You could say, I was not living with my dominant hand. Like any person in this situation, I started to reflect and ask, “How did I get here? I am not happy. I’m not doing what I want. But right now, maybe it just doesn’t hurt enough to make a radical change, because well, the known is more comfortable than the unknown — even if we are unhappy, dissatisfied, discontent.

But if you don’t decide to change at that moment, then another moment arrives, the moment of a second chance. A moment that hits us hard, like a brick. It’s cancer. It is the death of a loved one. It’s a serious shock. It is looking directly at the face of death and surviving. It’s at this moment we realize what we really care about and there is nothing left to change.

That’s exactly what happened to me.

For me, the message that came was a cancer scare. I spent a week waiting anxiously for my results, considering all the possibilities, and knowing that if I only had a month or a year or who knows how long… my life had to change. I was forced to think about what I really wanted out of life. What made me happy. What made me get out of bed every day wanting to fulfill a purpose. I reviewed my innate talents and what people always said I did right. Fortunately, it was only a scare, but it was enough to make the necessary changes.

It was at this point that I decided to certify myself as a strength coach. And honestly, I’m definitely in my zone.

I discovered my talents in 2003 when I took the Clifton StrengthsFinder; it was like I received a user’s manual about myself for the first time. It was my A-Ha! Now my personality made sense. I understood “why” I like talking so much with so many different people. Why my mind is filled with so many ideas. Why I’m so emotional. It was a powerful and meaningful moment for me. One that I still remember clearly. At last, I understood how to explain myself to other people. At last, I saw what made me unique.

What does it mean “to fly” when we invest in what we actually do naturally well?

During the 1950s, Dr. Donald Clifton began his research with the idea that living in the “strengths zone” would translate to better performance, less stress and above all a better quality of life. He decided to test his theory with a speed-reading experiment with his students. Most read with an average of 90 words per minute, but some showed above average skills and read 350 words per minute. Dr. Clifton taught them a new speed-reading method and everyone improved. But there was a surprise. The readers of 90 words per minute, they improved to 150 wpm.

But in the case of those who already had a natural ability, they went from 350 wpm to an impressive 2,900. To make that a bit more relatable, that is a 200-page novel in 15 minutes! Not bad, do not you think?

But this example, still isn’t what excites me the most. When I think of the value of focusing on our talents. I see a bright future. And it’s a well-known quote from Marianne Williamson that always inspires me and motivates me with the greatest hope:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are more powerful than can be measured. It is our light, and not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask, “Who am I to be brilliant, magnificent, talented and fabulous? Actually, the question should be: who are you not to be? It’s no use for the world to be small. It does not have anything illuminating to reduce us so that others do not feel insecure by your abilities. We are all destined to shine like children. We are born to manifest the glory that is within us. And it is not just some; But all. And when we let our light shine, almost without realizing it, we are helping others to do it too. To free ourselves from our fears, we also end up releasing those around us.”

Would you believe me if I told you that “you are enough?” That you have everything within you that would be necessary to achieve all that you want? That you are an incredible, unique person and there is nobody like you? Would you believe me?

Have you ever wondered how unique you really are?

There are 34 talent themes according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder. My top 5 are Strategic, Activator, Maximizer, Communication and Ideation. The odds of finding someone with these same talents are 1 in 278,000 people. And if we found them in the same order, we would be talking about 1 in 33,000,000!

Still don’t believe you are unique? That you have nothing special to offer the world?

Just in case you’re wondering, you don’t need an assessment to identify your talents. Our talents are displayed in 5 consistent ways:

  • Yearnings — what attracts you naturally, what you long to do
  • Fast Learning — what you do easily
  • The ability to flow — when you lose track of time
  • Excellence — when you do something you did not even have to think about the steps to fulfill it
  • Satisfaction — to feel not only pride, but anticipate next time to do it again

Would you like to try and identify some talents now? Stand up if …

  • You need to make a list of the things you want to do / accomplish — your strength would be Achiever
  • You talk to everyone — you’ve never met a stranger — we have found our WOOs
  • You need time to think and process information — Let’s greet the intellectuals!
  • You don’t know how to say no — no doubt that you have Responsibility
  • There is no second place, only first — I present to you our Competitors

There. A glimpse of possible talents.

Back to the reason this information excites me and how it might affect our future.

Generally, the direct effect of knowing and appreciating our talents gives us higher self-confidence, self-esteem, less stress, greater satisfaction in life, better communication, better relationships, a more positive well-being.

Now, imagine the power that this knowledge could give our children, our youth, the leaders of tomorrow. Creating a path of least resistance for their development. Changing the “chip” in their brains to one which only sees the possibilities that exist, that recognizes the best of people, that takes advantage of the specific gifts of each person.

How could bullying exist if everyone believes in themselves? How could teenage suicide prevail if they know what makes them unique and how to value it? How could we fight with others if we recognize our differences as good rather than bad? How could we feel small and insignificant, if we are busy letting our light shine?

There is a current example which inspires me greatly. Actually, when I think about it — combined with an education more focused on strengths — I get goose bumps from the possibilities this has for our future. This example is from Rhode Island, a state of one million people that is on track to be the first strength-based state. Three years ago, Rhode Island came out as the lowest state in job satisfaction — number 50. After implementing the state-level strengths, in just 3 years they have reached 39th place. (Since the release of this TEDx, RI is now #15, and in the category of whether workers use their strengths at work, they have gone from #49 to #1. With numbers like this, my dream is absolutely possible!)

I have a 2 and a half year old son, I have a lot of fun being a talent scout for him. Our children are the future. As parents, we have not only an opportunity, but a responsibility, to create a better future through them; because our children would only know how to see the good in the world — and in themselves — solving problems with an optimistic eye, thinking of the long term and in a sustainable way.

We are at a tipping point. We have an opportunity with this technique, this language, these tools, that did not exist 20 years ago. It is time to focus on what we do well. To live with our dominant hand.

The greatest lie you’ve ever told yourself is that you don’t know.
You don’t know what you want in life.
You don’t know what your purpose is.
You don’t know what you are meant to do here.You don’t know your value.

You. Do. Know. There’s a sense that you know. A tickle deep within.

But the voices get in the way. The ones in your head. The people around you. Those who think they know you, and only want the best for you — but they don’t know. All you hear is:

You’re not smart enough
You’re not strong enough.
You’re not rich enough
You’re not creative enough
You’re not brave enough.

You. Are. Enough.

And you don’t need me to tell you this, but I can help you see the truth. The truth that has been hidden away by fear, insecurity, a lack of resources, the “unknowing”.

When you tap into your talents, your true essence is revealed. In that essence, is the revolution that ignites your evolution. It’s your A-Ha! Your compass. Your validation. And it was in you all along.

I don’t want to just help you recognize your voice, I want you to serenade the world with your song.

If you would like this speech in Spanish, please message me. I am happy to share.

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Jo Self is Peru’s only Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and is on a mission to disrupt the status quo. As a mompreneur & expat living in Peru, she understands the challenges and rewards that both entail. When she’s not helping others create extraordinary lives, she can be found at the sewing machine, at the movies, enjoying a glass of wine with friends or horsing around with her terribly precocious little boy, affectionately known as O. Contact her through her website.