Life is tough. Sometimes when you are trying to hustle and grind to get ahead, it can seem like the deck is stacked against you. If you have ever felt that the skills you are worst at are the very ones you need to succeed, you know that life is a twisted game. But, the good news is that you are wrong. It’s not your weaknesses that are holding you back. The problem is that you aren’t spending enough time with your strengths.
The Psychology of Playing to Your Strengths
We naturally focus on the negative. If your annual review is 95% positive and only 5% negative, you will spend hours, days, or maybe even weeks thinking about the small criticism. But, when it comes to our weaknesses our minds betray us. Numerous studies have shown that it is far more efficient to work on your strengths than to work on your weaknesses.
How do you feel when you are operating in an area of weakness? Are you happy? Excited? Are you confident? No. You feel awkward and anxious. You are more likely to procrastinate. It takes you longer to get through things you aren’t good at. How do you feel when you are doing something you are great at? You feel almost superhuman. You focus better. You are eager to get started. You know that your work will earn praise.
Work is more fun and effective when you are doing what you are good at. Your brain is also hardwired to work harder when you receive praise. You do better work when you stick to your strengths.
Stop Worrying About Your Weaknesses
Think about elite athletes. Take the best athletes in any sport. Are they equally great at everything? No. Each of them is better at some things than others. That is why on sports teams there are different positions. Elite athletes spend the vast majority of their time improving the skills they already excel at. In the NBA, Steph Curry is regarded as not only the best shooter in the game, but one of the best shooters of all time. He makes long distance shots with historically great accuracy. He is also widely considered to be an average, or even sub-par defender. Guess what Steph Curry spends the most time practicing? Shooting. He continues to get better at something he is already better at than anyone else he plays against. It’s tough to argue with his results.
Don’t waste your energy worrying about your weaknesses. Instead, focus on getting even better at the things you are already good at.
Constructing Your Life Around Your Strengths
This doesn’t mean that you should never seek to improve the areas you are weak in. Steph Curry practices defense and his defense has gradually improved. But, playing to your strengths falls into the famous Pareto principle—80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. It takes less effort to work from your strengths and you get better results.
If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, as an artist, as an employee, or as an elite athlete, you have to focus on what you are already good at. Get even better at your core strengths. You can work on your weaknesses, but never devote more than 20% of your time or energy to your weaknesses.
Build your life around your strengths and you will be happier. You will go farther faster. Once you get some traction you may find that you can outsource the things you aren’t very good at to specialized freelancers and vendors.
If you want to win at life you have to learn to ignore negativity and play to your strengths instead.