YOUR GREATEST PERSONAL WEAKNESS
What if you could find the career that fits you by reframing your weakness? Or what if your greatest weakness was really your secret weapon? It turns out it actually is.
Many high achievers live with a loud inner critic. The voice in their heads reminds them of past mistakes, motivating them to do everything possible to perform perfectly in future opportunities. Constant reminders of where they’ve missed the mark push them to hit the bullseye in their follow-up attempts. This seems like a reasonable (albeit painful) system, and it works for many people.
But what if I told you these people have a drastically greater chance at achieving career happiness if they focus on honing strengths instead of correcting their weaknesses? Furthermore, what if you discovered your “weaknesses” are actually a necessary counterpart to your strengths?
HOW ADHD BECAME ROSS’ SUPERPOWER
When my friend Ross was growing up, he realized his brain worked a little differently from others. He tried his best to listen in class, and anytime he felt confused, he raised his hand to ask a clarifying question. The problem was, all his classmates started giggling when he asked questions. Apparently the teacher had already said whatever he needed to know.
Ross wasn’t intentionally ignoring his teachers, and eventually he discovered he had ADHD. Relieved to have a name for the problem but embarrassed and discouraged by the difficulties it placed on learning, Ross couldn’t wait to be out of school.
Throughout every class, Ross felt the thorn of ADHD in his side. He counted down the days until college graduation, fully ready to put ADHD in his rearview mirror. But when he joined the career world, he realized his ADHD would factor into his work life as well.
After struggling to land a role he wanted, Ross decided to pick up a part-time job at his local Apple Store. Twenty hours per week, he served customers in a store that—as he describes it—was the size of a shoebox. Naturally interested in all things Apple, Ross found ease in creatively solving problems for customers. On top of this, his high energy overflowed throughout his shoebox-sized store, and every time he walked through the doors, his peers became more motivated. This in-between job quickly turned into a world he loved and thrived in.
“I CAN’T REMEMBER A TIME IN MY LIFE WHERE I HAD RECEIVED SO MUCH AFFIRMATION FOR JUST BEING ME.”
A few months into his job, Ross realized he received more daily compliments and affirmations than ever before. He’d accidentally landed in a role that tapped into his natural gifts, and people couldn’t help but notice. He started hearing phrases like:
“How are you so good at this?”
“How did you learn to talk to customers like that?”
“I really appreciate the energy that you bring. You light up our room.”
“I feel like when you’re here, your enthusiasm rubs off on me and I’m more excited about the day.”
The feeling was incredible. Imagine getting constant praise for just living out your natural strengths. At first, Ross didn’t realize the energy came from his ADHD. However, when a performance review left him with some negative feedback he’d heard as a schoolboy, he realized he hadn’t “graduated” out of ADHD. This was something he needed to learn to deal with even outside of the classroom.
For help in this endeavor, Ross began meeting with an ADHD coach. As he worked with the coach, developing practices to be productive alongside his deficit, he also met with a giant epiphany: ADHD wasn’t his kryptonite—it was his superpower.
A NEW NAME FOR WEAKNESS
Through conversations with his coach, Ross started to connect the dots on his strengths and perceived weaknesses. He began to realize his tendency to get bored with details and his unending energy to go, go, go came from the same place: ADHD.
This is where Ross began to reframe his thinking. Instead of focusing on the ADHD thorn in his side, he realized that without it, he wouldn’t have this energy that differentiated him from everyone else in the world. Ross didn’t need to feel embarrassed about the side effects of his disorder; he could begin to appreciate his strengths and acknowledge the shadow side of those strengths, also known as his anti-strengths. He found a Happen To Your Career coach and began dreaming of careers that utilized his strengths and minimized the need for his anti-strengths.
If this is your first time hearing about anti-strengths, let me explain.
Anti-strengths are those traits that appear to be weaknesses, but in actuality they are connected to key strengths that make you successful. For example, my friend Rushi is highly organized and creates incomparable project plans for his company. When he is named a project leader, his coworkers hope they will be placed on his team. They know they can expect hyper-focused attention to detail that will guide them throughout the entire process. However, Rushi can also be slow to get started on a project or find difficulty in focusing if his office isn’t in tip-top shape. His family says he is almost OCD-like in much of his behavior. Rushi thought this need for things to be just right was a weakness until he realized it’s a shadow of what makes him successful.
Now, Rushi has repositioned his thoughts about these tendencies: “My organization is a great strength because it helps things run very smoothly, but it can cause me to move more slowly because I want everything perfect.” He no longer views this flaw as a burdensome weakness but as a natural part of his unique gifts.
WHAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER?
We all have anti-strengths. They are the negative habits that come along with your special abilities. When you learn how to reframe your perception of your weakness, you’ll be better positioned to focus on your strengths. (You can also find a guide on using your strengths to get hired here.)
As you figure out your superpower, you should try to imagine what you simply can’t stop doing. In Ross’ case, his high level of energy made it where he couldn’t be lethargic if he tried. In Rushi’s case, his need for organization made it where he couldn’t possibly turn in a shoddy project timeline. Discovering your unique strengths and the resulting positive and negative effects of each one will help you pursue roles that fit. As you identify anti-strengths, instead of pushing yourself to improve a weakness, you can simply choose a different route.
Today, Ross is leaning into his superpower. His ADHD that fuels his high energy and motivation makes him the perfect fit for a traveling speaker and thought leader. Now, he travels around talking to students about the positive power of ADHD. He’s discovered how tapping into his innate sensibilities can help transform the world. As he puts it, “These are the moments that fill my bucket. It makes me feel this monumental sense of purpose…this is what I’m designed to do.”
To find out the steps Ross took to find his strengths and create his ideal career, listen to our interview at the play button above.
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