knowing your weaknesses means knowing your strengths

proofing the MRP

proofing the MRP

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about possibility and the power of our thoughts and choices. Something struck me over the weekend about strengths vs weaknesses and I want to share it.

I have never been a big reader. Back in grade and high school, when they did those aptitude tests, I always scored well overall, but my reading skills were always substantially lower than my math skills. I never understood that. I’m smart, my vocabulary is fine, I can read and I like to read – but I am not a particularly fast reader. My family all read, I am the freak who doesn’t (I was always too busy making something with my hands, or photographing something – no time for reading).

Anyway, this past weekend I ended up proofreading someone’s master’s research paper. She thought it would take me 1-2 hours to quickly scan through it, “just another set of eyes on it”, as it had already been looked at by some academic colleagues whose opinion she respected.

That 1-2 hours turned into the whole weekend.

Why? Well, I was finding things that others had missed. Like, lots of things. It was a great paper, so the author was truly alarmed when she saw the amount of notes and markup I had made on the pages. (“How could this be? It’s already gone through a few readings!”)

Through this process, I realized that it is my extreme attention to detail that jams me up with reading. I read every word, and consider every word. Flow is often difficult for me to get into when I read. I get bogged down. No wonder it takes me forever to get through a book.

But here’s the thing: it’s not BAD. What I thought was a weakness of mine turned out to be, in a different context, actually an amazing strength. The author of the paper was clearly blown away with the things I was finding in the text that should, I felt, be addressed. She agreed with me on almost every suggestion, and she feels very relieved now that it has gone through my scrutiny.

The reason I share this is to point out that we can look at ourselves, be (usually too) critical, and have ideas of what our weaknesses are. Then, when presenting ourselves to the world, we highlight our strengths and downplay our weaknesses – in relationships, in jobs, etc.

But if we look more closely, we might find that what we think is a weakness is actually a strength. And those particular strengths might be where our calling lies! We just were clueless about it because we couldn’t imagine it being a good thing (and especially not a job qualification!).

sandi and drive Jim in goofy hats

who knew goofiness could be an asset on the job?

For example: I’m quite extroverted and tend to be a bit of a social butterfly. This is something that has been problematic in my relationships at times, and I therefore felt it was a negative trait. Same goes with my hyper detail-orientation: it jams me up, slows me down, and is a bad thing. I want to do and see, like a million things – what is wrong with me?!?

ALL of those things I just mentioned are important to the jobs I now do. As a tour director (and probably as a photographer, too), these personality traits are ASSETS. (And, apparently, once I stop globetrotting, I could have a future in copy proofreading and editing, too.)

I remember having a conversation with a young woman in Baddeck, NS years ago, trying to instill in her the knowledge that, as a high school graduate branching out into the world, it was more important that she know herself than it was to figure out what career she should pursue. That looking at the “menu” of job ideas and then choosing from that list was NOT the way to go. I wanted her to learn from my mistake of doing just that: trying to fit into predefined roles. I wished I had the self-awareness I do now when I was 20; I would have started this version of my life a lot sooner. I hope she got what I was saying.

Here’s to knowing our total selves, celebrating our unique mix of talents, and finding what specialized niche in the world can benefit most from us!