Everybody was laughing at me
Everybody says you’ve gotta know your strengths…
Everybody says you’ve gotta know your strengths. You’ve gotta know who you are. And you’ve gotta be authentic. Talk and write in your own voice. That’s what they all say.
But how the heck do you even know what your strengths are? How do you find your strengths? How do you speak in your own voice when you constantly feel like you don’t even have a voice at all? When you constantly feel like you’re just not good enough.
Look. Here’s something most people won’t tell you. To find your strengths, to find your own true voice, to figure out who you really are deep down, you’ve gotta take a look at your weaknesses first. And not your strengths. I strongly believe that to be able to find your strengths you’ve gotta look at your weaknesses first.
Here’s the thing about your strengths. About the things you’re already good at. Well, you’re already good at it so there’s no real need to put in a lot of work to improve. And that’s the problem. Because you’re already good at it your learning curve will be very flat. Simply because when you’re already good at something you’ve gotta put in a hell lot of work to get just a tiny little better at it.
So you’ll never be able to build up momentum. And without momentum everything is a thousand times harder. When you’re already good at something the effort to reach the next level seems to outweigh the potential benefits. Also, when you’re already good at something you feel like you know everything already and don’t need to put in more work.
Here’s what I mean..
I was always pretty good in sports. I was always one of the best in my class. But I never really continued any of it. Simply because I thought I was already good enough. And I thought I didn’t need to learn more about techniques, training programs and so on. The needed effort to improve seemed to outsize the results. By far. The learning curve would have been pretty flat. Building momentum to keep going would have been just too damn hard. So I never really did any sports when I got older.
On the other hand, if you take a look at your weaknesses it’s a whole different story. It’s so much easier to build up momentum, to see first results and the learning curve in general is a lot steeper. As long as you’re understanding, accepting ad embracing one simple thing.
No one is good at anything when they start. We all suck when we start something new. Your first 100 blog posts will suck. Your first 50 YouTube videos will suck. Your first 20 talks will suck. Your first 10 books will suck. And that’s totally fine.
As long as you keep putting in the work. As long as you keep pushing. As long as you see skills as what they are. They are build over time. They don’t have anything to do with talent. Skills are the result of hard work, persistence and resilience. And never giving up. No matter what.
Most of the people you see at the top right now, no matter what area in life we’re talking about, started from the exact same spot you are right now. Where I am right now. They started from the bottom. And worked their way to the top. And that’s how they found their strengths. Tapped into them and unleashed their potential. That’s how they found their own unique voice. By putting in the work first.
So if you don’t know your strengths, if you don’t know who you are or what you stand for, then take a look at your weaknesses, first. In many cases these things aren’t even real weaknesses. Mostly, it’s just people telling you that you’re not good at it. Your teacher, society, your friends, your family, heck the entire world.
But you know what? You teacher, society, your friends, your family and the entire world, they all believe in the concept of talent. They all believe that to be good at something you need a god given talent. And this is BS. There’s no such thing as talent. There’s only putting in the work. And building skills over time. By doing.
And that’s why all of these people will tell you don’t have what it takes. And when you’ve heard it often enough you’ll believe what the say. And what’s going to happen then is that you don’t even try to put in the work it would take to become better at something you might enjoy doing.
Look. There are no talented singers. There are only singers who put in the work for many, many years and singers who didn’t.
There are no talented writers. There are only writers who put in the work for many, many years and writers who didn’t.
There are no talented artists. Or designers. There are only artists and designers who put in the work for many, many years and the ones who didn’t.
Sure, you might say that you need to be tall to become a professional NBA basketball player or something else where it’s primarily about physique.
And you know what? You might be right. But that’s a whole different story. Because we’re talking about physique here. Being tall is almost like a requirement to become a professional basketball player. But that doesn’t mean that every tall person will automatically be a professional basketball player.
They might have an advantage, but they’d still have to put in the work. Probably even more so than anyone else. Simply because when you’re taller than the average person then it’s a lot more likely that you’re going to have problems with your back or have some other problems related to your physique. Simply because our bodies and the world are made for shorter people.
On another note. Height isn’t a necessity to become a professional NBA player either. Muggsy Bogues, who is only 1,6m (5ft 3) tall played very successfully in the NBA for 15 seasons.
Let’s take a look at some of the folks out there who are rightfully preaching that you need to find your strengths to be able to unleash your potential. It’s always interesting to see how they started. Just take a look at Gary Vaynerchuk’s first videos on YouTube. They were very, very different from what he’s doing now.
I’m not saying they were bad. But they were also not very good compared to what he’s doing now. They were just ok. He didn’t seem very talented. He also didn’t seem to have any special skills. He seemed like a totally regular guy who made a bunch of videos. A regular guy just like you and me who put in the work over many, many years.
What got him to do be able to do the mind blowing type of videos he’s doing today is that he consistently put in the work. He has probably done more than 1000 videos before he got this good. Same with his talks. He has probably given a few hundred talks up until now.
And that’s what people tend to forget. When you see someone or start using something that you have never heard of before, that something or that someone already went through years and years of hustling. Of putting in the work. Of getting better every single day. And the moment you see those things, the moment you start using these things, the really hard work was already done.
So it might look like overnight success. Or god given talent. When in reality it’s the result of years and years of putting in more work than anybody else.
Just like Pokemon Go. The folks who did Pokemon Go were working for Google for many, many years. They were even part of the team building Google Maps. So what you looks like an overnight success is really the result of years and years of engineering experience and knowledge from some of the most talented engineers from one of the most successful companies in the world.
And that’s why I think when you’re trying to find your strengths and your true voice you’d have to take a look at your weaknesses first. The things you’re not so good at, yet. The things you can can still improve rather easily and build up momentum to then be able to carry that momentum further to get past the roadblocks you’ll encounter along the way.
Let me tell you a story here real quick. Well, actually two stories. And it won’t be quick…
The first time I gave a talk in front of a larger crowd of more than 40 people or so everybody started laughing when it was my turn. It was so humiliating. And I had no clue what was going on. Nobody wanted to tell me what was going on. Not even the people I was presenting with wanted to tell me.
So after a few minutes the laughing stopped. Those few minutes might have been some of the worst few minutes of my entire life. I thought I peed myself or something like that but couldn’t find any evidence anywhere.
As you might imagine, I never wanted to give a talk ever again for the rest of my life.
And it took me more than five years before I gave a talk in front of a larger crowd again. And that was a talk in front of a crowd of more than 120 people. It was the first stop of a speaking tour I organized myself for myself in 2013 with 10 talks or so.
I was scared of doing it. But I knew that this would be the only way that I would ever get over my fear and turn my “weakness” into a strength.
In case you’re wondering what happened back in 2008 when everybody was laughing at me, here’s what happened…
I basically said the exact same thing the guy before me said. I was so nervous that I didn’t even pay attention to what he said. Or what I had to say. That’s how nervous I was.
It was a group presentation and because I designed the whole presentation for the entire group I was familiar with the entire content. So that was that. Looking back, I have to admit that it was pretty funny and I would probably also have laughed. A lot.
And since 2013 I gave more than 30 talks. I have been invited to speak at dozens of conferences. I was mentoring at dozens of events for hundreds of young entrepreneurs. I guess it turned out ok. And you know what? I really enjoy giving talks now. And people have even paid me multiple times to give talks.
Even though, no, probably because so many people laughed at me the very first time I gave a talk in front of a larger crowd…
When I was in high school I almost failed 10th class because my writing was so bad. I constantly got Ds, Es and Fs for my essays. I was one of the worst students in my class. And you know what? I was really bad. How do I know? Because not too long ago I found an essay I wrote in high school. And it was horrible. I deserved every bad grade I got.
And the reason why I was so bad was very simple. I never read books until I was 28. I never put in the work. And now just a few short years later you’re reading one of my essays online. In just a few short years I was able to build an audience online I would never have thought would even be possible in my wildest dreams.
And I got to where I am now simply because I started putting in the work. Because I thought that writing might be something I might really enjoy doing. And then I just did it. And never really stopped for the past three years. And for the past ten months I’ve written and published one article a day. Because if you want to get better at something you like, you’ve gotta put in more work than anybody else.
Oh and I also published 7 books in those 3 years. Sure, none of the 7 books was a huge success. But every book I write, every article I write gets me closer to it. And every article you write, every book you publish will get you closer to it.
Every painting you paint gets you closer. Every talk you give gets you closer. Every email you write gets you closer. Every date you go on gets you closer.
Closer to what?
Closer to the life you want to live.
To the life you have to live.
To the life you deserve to live…
P.S. This was part 8 of my 30 day long story. I will be writing one part of my story for the next 30 days. And then I’ll make an e-book out of it. You can pre-order it here if you want to. So you can conveniently read it on your e-reader, your tablet, your phone or your laptop. The retail price will be around $10. But if you get it today, you can pay-as-much-as-you-want. Learn more and get access here…