Your Greatest Strength Is Not What You Expect
Take a moment to think about what your greatest strength is. Logical reasoning? Mathematics? Compelling speech, hot dog eating contests, organization?
Now, allow me to tell you that you are wrong. Any one of your strengths and skills can only take you so far. At some point, other people always get in the way of your success, whether by jealousy, condescension, or plain greed.
But what if those people were rooting for you?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Your greatest weapon is not you, yourself, or anything you own or have — it is your peers. Public opinion.
“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.”
— Abraham Lincoln, Debate at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858
“My weapon is ‘non-co-operation.’ No one can thrive without the collaboration, willing or forced, of the people.”
— Mohandas Gandhi, Interview with Charles Petrasch, Published in The Labour Monthly, Vol. 14, April 1932, №4 pp. 217–224
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
— Michael Jordan
It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.
- Anonymous (Not attributed to a specific person, see details here)
Surprised? Maybe even appalled? But think about it — even with all of the skill and knowledge in the world, there isn’t much you can do if enough people join forces against you. On the other hand, you can become one of the most powerful people in the world simply by garnering enough public support, even if you wholly lack the qualifications, demeanor, and indeed, the entirety of skills ‘preferred’ to hold such a powerful position (look no farther than your own world leaders…).
Now, you may look at this advice in multiple ways — the optimistic viewpoint is that we ought to be making more friends and allies. This is the standpoint from which I intended to share this. But the not-so-optimistic viewpoint is to better make use of the people around you. As much I as I would hope you wouldn’t see it that way, it would be a lie to claim some of the most famous and influential people in history didn’t use people in some way or another to further their own agendas.
Examples? Look no farther than two icons of the last century: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandh — they are not the saints history portrays them to be. Indeed, the impact of what they did ultimately led to great outcomes years later, but then this becomes a debate of, “Do the ends justify the means?”
You may call into question the author’s qualifications and credentials, but regardless, the attached document is a compelling critical analysis of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, complete with qualified and sound bibliography. Read it here. More articles detailing specifics of MLK’s systematic protests and Gandhi’s viewpoints are here, here, and here.
As you climb the ladder at your job or ascend the rankings of any organization, even society, bear in mind that your greatest allies are, quite literally, other people. Knowing the right people lands you jobs — it provides you otherwise-unavailable mentorship. If nothing else, garnering support from the masses gives you the momentum to move farther than you ever could have alone.
And while being beloved is certainly not the only way to move forward, it’s certainly a lot easier. You’d do well to make sure people at least don’t hate you.
We are all human, so many of us have the same perks and quirks. But what separates the successful from unsuccessful, the happy from unhappy, and the effective from ineffective, is self-awareness. Are you aware of why you feel this way? Do you recognize the cause, the underlying root, the origin of an event?
Can you leverage that knowledge for the benefit of yourself and the world?
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