I tweaked a muscle in my back last week while lifting weights. I know – I don’t look like I lift weights. I’m aware. The truth is I have consistently been working out in gyms and at home for over 35 years. I’ve read weightlifting books and met with trainers. I’ve studied techniques, done Body for Life and P90X, and regularly drink protein shakes. I often wonder why I put in so much time for so little change.

On the other hand, I remember seeing immediate results when I began running 22 years ago. A co-worker challenged me to a 5K race. I had never run in an organized race before so I ran around the block a few times leading up to the race and then went out beat him. Just like that. Where is the easy button?

These two realities in my life lead to one critical question that will go a long way towards increasing effectiveness: Should a person focus on his strengths or weaknesses?

There are two opposing views on this question. The first suggests one should lean into his strengths. He should find out what he is good at and spend as much time in that arena as possible. A second approach that much has been written about deals with addressing gaps, or weaknesses. Find out where you are weak and shore up those areas so you can be a more well-rounded person and leader.  

At different times, I have given each of these seemingly contradictory pieces of advice to others. Who is right? Which suggestion is correct? Is there some truth in each of them?

I recently came across a quote in the forward of Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive that provides a helpful perspective: “ … if you’re made to be a distance runner, don’t try to be a middle linebacker. At the same time, you must address deficiencies that directly impede full flowering of your strength.”

There it is - 10 words that answer the question beautifully: address deficiencies that directly impede full flowering of your strength. Don’t focus on every weakness, only the ones that keep your strength from flourishing.

This makes so much sense when I think about running and weight lifting. If I want to be the best runner possible there are certain weight lifting exercises that benefit me. But maxing out on my bench press is actually counterproductive (and embarrassing). Many of us grow frustrated trying to be something we are not. Ladies with curly hair straighten it; those with straight hair curl it. Tall people wish they could comfortably fit into the back seat, and I wish I could reach the top shelf.

Own Your Weaknesses

We all have them, so go ahead and admit your weaknesses. If your weaknesses are keeping your strengths from flourishing, then figure out how to address them. If they aren’t, then learn to laugh at them. Laughter will minimize the effects of your weaknesses and make you a lot more fun to be around. 

Like Who You Are

The most effective, productive and happy people are those who are content with who they are, but always pushing to be the best version of that person. If you like who you are, you will more fully be who you are, others will like who you are, and the world will be better because of it. No one can be you as well as you.

Now, off to the gym …….