How our weaknesses can become gifts and treasures through looking deeper
What is it with all this obsession over winning and becoming better? It creates many things we don’t want too. Like fear of failing, no risk taking and less sensitivity. It creates less compassion for self and others and blinds us to the gifts that lie within our weakest spots. So this is my call: Develop your weaknesses, become even better at them. And let us herald the losers as part of the whole, for brave losers help the winners to shine and help themselves to change faster and adapt better to new realities.
The personal aspect: turning weakness into gift.
I made much of my income by focussing on the possibilities within my weaknesses. Yes, I got paid to create chaos, for being an asshole, for being lazy and for being stupid. School wants you to do away with those weaknesses, for this is how they call these gifts. School only rewards certain types of behavior. But each persons greatest gift lies in who they already are, including their weaknesses! Their deepest quality lies much more within, then it does with learning the same knowledge and skills as the rest of class.
So how are my weaknesses actually qualities? Creating Chaos can also be seen as unfreezing rusted structures, to create space for transformation. Companies at times need to confront their people that the old ways don’t work anymore. They paid me to make that experiential, often in a kick off towards the innovation process they were entering. By showing my inner asshole I helped people to develop assertiveness in trainings, as the actor playing an asshole they could practice on. I ended boring bits as MC (see photo) by becoming a monster. Laziness is the mother of all inventions, and it boosted my creativity like no other weakness. The wheel wasn’t invented by the guy who loved carrying rocks. I once turned a three day working process into a 10 minute one, just by rethinking how the job was done.
Being stupid is the power of daring to ask those simple questions that reveal the core of the topic in conversations. The best coaches and consultants are very good at ‘not getting it’, until you can be very clear. So as a coach I get paid to be stupid. Not ‘getting it’ also helps people to become better speakers. Like Einstein once said, ‘great scientists know to make make children understand what they mean.’
Get paid for your therapy. :)
So research, get help, to find out how your weaknesses can work for you! Don’t pay to get rid of your weaknesses in therapy. Get paid to turn them into gifts in your and other peoples lives as a contribution to the growth of our society.
How to do that? How did I do it? Indeed self acceptance is part of this. As is understanding that you don’t have to be ‘ready’ to start. With this you’re in luck; your weakness will always be there, unlike your best self. This is who you are. But reframe this ‘you’ as a talent. I’m not lazy, I’m creative. Studying boring facts didn’t work for me. No wonder I was bad at school and great at play. I wasn’t stupid, I had a wild artistic mind. Sadly education isn’t interested in your real talent, it ranks you against a set of limited norms. If you believe a negative thing about yourself, seek deeper. What is the talent in it? What effect does it have on them? And where is that effect a talent? Who might pay for that? This reframe your ‘weakness’ so that those in need of your quality can find it*.
*) see bonus at the bottom.
The cultural aspect: accepting loss helps us to adapt to new realities.
This focus on winning is also damaging finding solutions for huge problems. We should learn to see how the ‘obliging’ losers in history helped to make change happen. Thus far we only herald Nelson Mandela and the people of the former DDR that brought down the wall as winners. We should also applaud the losers that didn’t fight back, those that, in the end accepted they lost, like De Klerck or Gorbatjov. The men and their generals that didn’t shoot, that prevented an ugly escalation into the use of violence, they too made a peaceful transition possible, unlike Saddam, Assad or Khadaffi. So when everyone would be more trained to give up or support those winners, that the world needs to win, we might have a better society. Seeking to win or protect at all costs will shift at some point from winning to hurting others and yourself.
The educational aspect:
Sadly education does not support this idea. Compare school to the moment we learn to walk. No kid ever got an ‘F’ for falling over too many times while learning to walk. A child tries and tries. No parent will shout: ‘Stop it, you’re too bad at this to even try!’ It’s stupid and silly to damage this learning drive and demand good scores at tests to count as successful. Here it seems to me, that most schools don’t understand life. They are a big part of the problem. They think explaining how it works, must prevent you to fall over. After they explained, you get only very few tries before you’re tested. And then you better make no mistakes. Thus we fear trying in front of others. Failing is bad. We better try in the dark and come out when we know it’ll be a success. How awful is that: Failing is learning! Applauding the amount of mistakes a kid by trying again might be a better way to grade.
Tying into this is that once schools where the most interesting place in the world. With all the new media and new possibilities in our lives they have become among the most boring. Schools that accept and use new media, movies, creative action and games will be the winners, for they are at the least as interesting as the world outside school. Sadly schools themselves, nor their staff have ever learned to accept their loss, that their system is old and outdated and new approaches are very much called for.
In games we can replay levels to succeed, in schools we only get one shot in exams. In games we fail with direct feedback from our actions, information we need now to achieve the next level. Then we replay the level until we get it, with a exiting hope this time we’ll succeed. The testing is fun. In exams however we get graded by norms on knowledge we may never need. And we get only one, perhaps two tries, before named a failure. So what if schools would become more gamified? They could offer levels that we can replay many times. What if learning was more organized on stuff that is really needed to advance in the game and in reality after the education? Learning would be such more fun and fear of failing in schools would reduce very much . Internal motivation would be so much more easier to reach. And finally when schools and students, like children who learn to walk, would accept stumbling a lot, and for some a huge amount, how much braver would they be in their learning and approaching new things and willing to let go and adapt to new situations in their life? And how much more would they be willing to let go of old damaging systems without a fight to a new and better idea?
BONUS: flip your weakness, often born through unreal judgements, in a gift.
For those that want a first glimpse into the power of their weaknesses, here are some very common flip sides, with each a guiding question. You may approach me to be more personally coached on finding the strong side of what you think is weak.
Doubt, insecurity often means heightened sensitivity. “What do I sense here?” Insecure people often don’t want to hurt others in their actions, because they care for others. How beautiful is that?
Laziness often leads to smartness and creativity. “How can I do this much easier?” If your child is lazy, ask him to find easier or more fun ways to do it, without him letting get away with not doing it at all. Applaud innovations. Laziness also saves you from deadly ambition, buying into the madness of ever seeking to get higher up the corporate ladder to proof yourself. Relax. Be yourself. You are beautiful by being you, not by playing a role you think others love better for the money you bring in because of it.
Arrogance can be a starting point towards boldness. “What will I do?” Arrogance can be the root of assertiveness, you just have to learn to phrase it more polite. Arrogance can also hide insecurity. Rather than fight the arrogance (‘You prick!’) be kind and gentle with the arrogant. And learn them to be more empathic, because an empathic bold person can be a great leader.
Naivety can help to invoke true clarity by asking all questions that come to you. “Why do they really want this?” “Why” “What?” It helps clarify, it helps unmask, it helps to get to the root of what the other wants, claims. Thus journalists, interviewers, coaches, quizmasters, therapists, speechwriters all have this gift to not easily get it and ask for better explanations. They can’t pretend to understand. They get paid to honestly ask onwards.
Anger can be turned into the fire for a cause. “What do I stand up for?” Anger and irritation often speak about your deeper values and norms. A kid angry at his parents, because they embarrass him with their silly hobbies, should hear: ‘shut up.’ It should hear: ‘what would you hope we’d do?’ And then, ‘well if you think that’s so important, how can you create more of that in the world? How can you make it attractive for us to help you with that?’ Thus the fire doesn’t become bitterness. Accepting anger can help it become practical action in the world.
Fear can be the starting point of heightened awareness.“What is my body actually telling me?” is this fear pictures in my head, about what might happen, or it there actually really a danger present I should take notice of?
Note: a lot of fear starts from images in the head and will dissipate when you focus on pure physical awareness. The distinction between thought construct, preyed upon by many politicians and advertisers (beware of the terrorists, beware of your wrinkles) and real physical fear because of present danger is essential to learn.