Limiting the Power of Your Limitations
Updated: May 16, 2020
A number of years ago I was at a lunch and a good friend of mine was speaking. He was talking about a number of things, but the topic of strengths and weaknesses came up and right away he said, “I don’t call them strengths and weaknesses. I call them strengths and limitations.” He started talking more about why and since then I’ve never had another weakness. Ever.
You see, by simply changing that one word, he removed the stigma about something I wasn’t so great at doing. Think about it - If something is seen as a weakness, it’s typically thought of as a bad thing. This means that by merely bringing up the subject we actually physically start to feel bad. A limitation, however, causes a different neurological response. A limitation? Psh. That’s just a little speed bump. Nothing to worry about! It may slow us down a little, but it’s no big deal.
Changing that word in our mind is one incredibly simple and yet one of the most powerful first step to strengthening our strengths and limiting the power of our limitations. Words, and the bias we have towards words, limit us in more ways than we can possibly imagine. Changing the word changes the entire story we tell ourselves. So, from now on consider subscribing to the concept that you don’t have weaknesses. You simply have some things that slow you down a.k.a limitations.
So where do our strengths and limitations come from? Our skills start developing at a very young age. These skills we develop are a product of our upbringing and the reactions and responses to the environment around us. If you know anything about computer programming you’ve heard the term IFTTT. For those of us non-techies out there this means, “If this - then that” - This line of code in a computer program tells the program that if this certain thing happens then do “that” - For instance, “If you press send on an email blast and the sender doesn’t exist - then send an email saying the email was returned because no user existed.” Pretty simple right? Skills are nothing more than habits we’ve gotten really good at. Make a note so when you are done reading to write down the things you are skilled at doing. Include both good and bad skills to have such as, say, public speaking or organizing and scheduling, and also eating carbs and I don’t know… cussing? Whatever your skills are, write them down.
For me my skills include walking into a crowded room full of strangers and being able to instantly and fearlessly approach people and engage them in conversation, being articulate, and being able to communicate thought through words and graphics. My limitations, however, are not being so great at maintaining more than a few friendships at a time, not being able to sit in one place or be rooted for extended periods of time, and struggling with anything that is repetitious i.e. eating the same foods over and over, going to the same places, and /or doing the same or similar activities more than once or twice. Of course I have many more strengths and plenty more limitations, but since we only have a short amount of time, I’ll stop here.
Where did all these strengths and limitations come from for me personally? Many of you have heard my story. Growing up we had nothing. My mom had to move us anywhere she could find work - Live in maid, nanny to my oldest sister’s children, waitress, secretary - almost anything, anywhere. As a result, I moved 21 times in 20 years and went to 10 different schools in four different states and five different cities. Three of those schools were in fourth grade alone. Walking into a room full of strangers was just a way of life for me so I got really good at it really early on in life. Of course it wasn’t easy back then. I was really overweight, I had no sense of style or fashion because I had no one to learn from and no money. Also, because I moved from place to place I became really good at making friends that first day but never knew how to make a home in a certain group because everyone already had an established place in these friend groups. I had no clue how to develop true friendships and just as I’d start making progress, we’d move. Remember when I said my strengths are walking into a room fearlessly, but I struggle with staying in one place for too long and don’t know how to maintain meaningful friendships? If this - then that. IFTTT I’m just programmed this way, and the same experiences that you had growing up shaped your strengths and limitations too!
Many people envy the fact that I can walk into a room and light it up. I’ll tell you that one, I am incredibly grateful for this strength and two, don’t envy this. Why? Because you have your own unique genius! You have a set of skills and strengths that when you focus on building out will have you shining like the brightest star in the sky.
Now I’m not saying don’t try new things. Trying new things is how we learn what we are good at! The biggest trick is learning when enough is enough, and at what point to stop fighting failure and lean into what you are great at doing. When we figure this out we are free to leave what we are not-so-great at for someone else to handle and our productivity and satisfaction levels increase.
What does this look like?
Let’s talk about applying this to our professional lives. Make a note to answer these questions after this session. What parts of your job do you love the most? What makes you wake up every day and say, “I can’t wait to _______” and then also answer: What parts of your job do you loathe the most? If I had to guess, when you look at this completed list, the items on it are probably going to be the things that you keep pushing to the bottom of your to do list ;) Am I right?
As a new business owner I struggled when I first went out on my own because I thought I couldn’t afford to hire someone. What I didn't know is that really I couldn’t afford to NOT hire someone. You see, even though I had the skills to do everything needed to run the business, I wasn’t in love with the administrative part of the process. In fact, I struggle to see how anyone in the whole world could actually enjoy the administrative side of any business! However, I now know that even as I am saying this, some of you are cringing at the thought of the things I enjoy like cold calling, walking into offices of people you don’t know to get to know them, getting on video, putting yourself out there on social media and other things of this nature. Even though I don't understand it, I also now know that the things I love might totally not be your jam. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “Charity - you’re so good at being on camera” or “I wish I could do that.” and how many times I have replied, “and I wish I had the skills you have. Data entry, reports, numbers. . . REAL skills. I just run my mouth. You’re the real hero.”
Seriously though? Real skills? I truly can’t believe it took me so long to unlock the power behind my personality. No. I’m not an admin person. I never will be. I could be if I needed to, but I don’t want to build my lifelong career on something “I can do if I have to." Instead, I want to build a life and legacy on things “I get to do because I love to!”
When I finally hired someone to help with the things I didn’t like to do and wasn’t great at, my entire business changed. The growth we experienced was exponential and the happiness factor? All of a sudden the hard work felt worth it again and it wasn’t draining - It was exciting!
See...far too many of us spend far too long doing jobs we don’t like because we think we need to fix what’s broken and work on our weaknesses (there’s that dang word again!). Instead we'll get far better results by focusing on our strengths and pouring our energy into doing what we do well even better.
John Maxwell is a fantastic thought leader. One of the things he said during Maximum Impact (Now Leadercast) probably 10 years ago has never left me. “As a leader and manager - never put a duck in an eagle’s job. Likewise, never put an eagle in a duck’s job. Ducks aren’t made for flying and eagles aren’t made for swimming." He went on to bascially say that if you mix the roles because you simply don't understand how to manage people's strengths, or if you just want to teach people how to grow, they’ll each spend so much time trying to learn each other’s skill and it will never give you the result you desire. You call it a lesson in discipline, but really it’s nothing more than a lesson in futility. He ended by saying, "If you put a duck in an eagle’s job or an eagle in a duck’s job - you’ll frustrate the eagle and you’ll frustrate the duck.”
You see, as a duck it’s easy sometimes to watch the eagles soar and be envious. In my experience it’s maybe not so easy to believe that sometimes the eagle wishes it knew how to swim as well as the duck, but it’s true. The key to overcoming envy is to start being so focused on pouring your heart and soul into what you are great at and what you do well. Then connect with others to fill in the gaps who have strengths where you are limited. Suddenly you’ll find that your limitations no longer have power over you and you don’t have to compare yourself to or compete with anyone. There will be no place for that in your life anymore because it won’t be about who does it better or worse. You’ll be appreciated for how you do it differently - and that’s where we start to find true success.
It took me a long time to learn that “just being a marketer” is a real skill and that what I do is just as important as the person pushing orders through and doing follow-up. In full transparency, I'm still working on knowing what I know instead of feeling what I feel, but you see - as the great philosopher and Playhouse Disney character JoJo the Clown says, “Each of us can do some things so that together, we can do all things.” it's true. . . Individually, we can’t do it all. Learn your strengths, learn to love those strengths and play into them. Develop them and work on them and then get ready boys and girls because when you are at the top of your game, doing you the best you can, the world won’t be ready for how bright you’ll shine.
Thanks for taking the time to listen to some of my thoughts. If you enjoyed this blog, please bookmark the page and follow ItsMeCharityG on social media to be kept up to date on new blog posts and speaking engagements. For information on booking me to speak at your next event (even virtually!) please send a message through the page or visit www.itsmecharityg.com and click contact.
Have an amazing day and #ShineBright all!