Strengths vs. Weaknesses


About ten years ago I began to enjoy the wisdom of Marcus Buckingham, the popular best-selling author and in-demand speaker.  His message is that a person’s unique personal strengths are the key to unlocking their potential ( I got revved up by this important truth; however, I had never really found a way to make it “click” in my life.  It was always in the back of my mind but I applied it pretty much hit-and-miss. I had lots of excuses about not having enough time, not having enough energy, not being in the right environment, etc., but deep down I knew it really was an element of fear that was behind my fully embracing what I knew to be truth.  Once I realized this I began to look at my life and discovered there were many areas that I was holding back in because of fear – in business, in relationships, and in my faith. It didn’t take me long to attribute it all to a fear of failure.  And so I began a quest to overcome it. Books, CDs, DVDs, internet sites, prayer, affirmations, declarations, etc. helped me to get down and dirty in my fight to overcome my weaknesses.  I finally achieved breakthrough when I had a revelation that doing this was WASTING MY TIME. In my ferocity to clear the path to get to my strengths, I was actually focusing on my weaknesses and diminishing my potential. I was doing the opposite of my goal. I stopped in my tracks and did some serious reassessment of my assumptions. It was then that I discovered that I was not afraid of failure, but I was afraid of success.

Nelson Mandela’s quote of Marianne Williamson’s Our Deepest Fear suddenly went from an admired platitude to a life giving testimony.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”

My fear of success had partly to do with the responsibility of sustaining it and the expectations and judgments of others.  This time the books, CDs, DVDs, internet sites, prayer, affirmations, declarations, etc. were focused properly. Instead of overcoming my flaws and limitations, I began to put concentrate on my assets – places I had an advantage – the knowledge, skills, abilities, and spheres of influence in which I was already successful.  As I pour resources and energies into these areas I continue to be amazed at the benefits.  I have more energy, I have a better attitude when things are challenging, I feel less threatened by the opinions of others, I feel less threatened by the success of others in my field, and, in a major bonus, I’ve found that when I focus on strengths that the areas of my limitations have adjusted.  They have either improved (my strengths have absorbed them) or they have totally fallen off my grid of self-assessment (they have no impact).

When you are moving towards your purpose in life, keep in mind that it’s not only important to re-evaluate yourself from time to time and the beliefs that you have about what you can and can’t accomplish, but also WHY you have those beliefs.


“Excellence is not the opposite of failure.”
(Marcus Buckingham)


“(People) who are making (their purpose) work are ascribing their success to intrinsic causes  rather than extrinsic. They’ve discovered their strengths, they seek their  strong moments, and they apply them with courage and diligence. They trust  themselves beyond anyone else and they take themselves very seriously. They take  a stand for their strengths.”
(Marcus Buckingham)

“God created you on purpose, for a purpose – and nothing he creates is insignificant.” (Me)


“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”  (Abraham Lincoln)


My friends had been talking about it for over a year, so I knew that I was a bit behind the curve, but when I finally started playing Angry Birds,  I liked it.  I liked it being broken down into levels and sub-levels that you can quickly work, that it’s challenging but not overly confidence eroding, because it requires strategic thinking, and because it has a sense of humor.  I also liked it because I completed every level, to some degree of success, within 48 hours (but no, I didn’t play it for two days straight).

So here’s the thing:  about six of the games got incredibly frustrating.  I kept trying over and over and over again – examining the structures where the pigs were hiding and trying to get the slingshot at just the right angle to send those aviary missles and obliterate the porkers.  If only I could just get that stupid bird to hit that corner board just perfectly…

Suddenly a popular phrase came to mind, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  My first response was, “But this should work!”  and continued on. And continued to fail. Eventually I sat back and took a big breath and decided to take a couple of potshots, not trying to hit anything, but just seeing how high I could launch a bird or what would happen if I didn’t release an egg bomb.  Surprise surprise surprise.  Unexpected destruction ensued.  Frustration ended.  Fun returned.  When I got stuck again, I pursued that modern miracle – the internet –  for clues on attack angles and timing.  Success again.  Now I don’t know how successful it might look if I compared it with other peoples results, but I feel pretty good about it.

Will you be at all surprised when I suggest the same strategy when you get frustrated with your temporary lack of success?  Go ahead and take a couple of potshots – things you know won’t help, things that might not make sense, things that go against your normal line of thinking.  It could very well open the way for seeing it all differently.  And go ahead and browse the internet or ask people involved in the same area of expertise or do other research to find out how others broke through troublesome times.  There’s no rule that says you have to figure it all out without any help.


While researching some possible ideas for this blog, I came across a website that purported itself to be an expert on self-improvement.  It loudly proclaimed several suggestions for reaching success.  Suggestions like “you really don’t have much time to do what you want to do since you’re making a beeline for death – so you better hurry up and get with it.”  And one about forgetting about helping other people along the way.  It was a totally serious site.  But the one that really irritated me?  They said it was a total myth that you are important, reminding the reader how “remarkably insignificant you are” in the vastness of the universe.  Fortunately several commenters on the site were as appalled as I was.

It is not possible to emphasize deeply enough that YOU are a remarkable person. Not because of anything you can do, but simply because there is no one exactly like you, with your experiences, your set of skills, and your view of life.  God created you on purpose, for a purpose – and nothing he creates is insignificant.  The world is waiting for you to influence it. You may do it loudly and for many.  You may do it quietly for a few.  But you are never insignificant.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” (Abraham Lincoln)


“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”  (Benjamin Franklin)


When people get excited about what they do, there’s an energy that’s palpable around them. They begin to eat, breathe, and live their purpose.  They want others to get into the excitement with them – that’s natural. But sometimes things can get carried away, and the person sharing their excitement starts to think that everyone needs to be involved with their purpose and/or the way they pursue it. That’s okay if you’re a salesperson committed to your product or if your company needs a consistent quality conrol process.  It, however, does not work when it comes to your life purpose.

What God gives you in this life to do and the way you go about it is competely unique to you.  Others may have the same general direction, but there will be differences in plan, approach, execution, impact and more.

It took me a very long time to finally get Burn Bright off the ground.  One of the things that kept me from fully pursuing it was a simple search engine query of the words “life coach”, which garnered 7,150,000 hits and “life purpose” at 3,690,000 hits.  It made me question my sanity of thinking I had anything to offer. I decided to make a list of the things that I could bring to the table that others could not.  My list of individual items wasn’t that impressive but, as I looked at them, I realized that combining the items brought them some power.  An example of this:  I am a woman – there’s millions of women.  I am a middle-aged woman – not as many millions.  I am a middle-aged Christian woman – angle is sharpening here.  I am middle-age Christian woman living in South Puget  Sound – okay, this is getting better.  I am a middle-age Christian woman in South Puget Sound who has experience in personal and career counseling.  And I’m sure you can imagine how the list went on and on.  It gave me hope there is a sphere that I can influence – a place for my gift to fit.

So, go ahead and get stirred up by people who are passionate – absorb that spirit and drive to help you move forward to your place. But if you find yourself feeling obligated to jump on their bandwagon or feeling guilty for not doing so, it may be that you don’t have clarity for your life’s purpose. Maybe it’s time you start your own list.

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