Michael Jordan Greatness

Why working on your weakness is a strength

Michael Jordan Greatness

Greg Satell, aka @DigitalTonto, published a post that hit a nerve and I ended up posting a long comment on his post. His post, how and why I blog, revealed Greg’s motivations for writing a blog. His thoughts, resonated with my own motivation. And, in the comment, I revealed one of my own motivations for writing a blog.

Here is my comment:

Hi Greg,

Your thoughts resonate with my own motivation for starting and continuing to write my own blog.

For me, it took me a few years to start my own. Like you, I have no problem coming up with ideas, so I took the challenge of writing for the startups I was a part of in topics that I was no expert. That was my start.

Pretty soon, soon my friends were telling me that I should start writing my own blog so I could “dump my brain somewhere”. As far as I can remember, I’ve started 11 blogs in different topics.

Adding to your list of “reasons to write a blog”, I also took it as a challenge to attack one of my known weaknesses:

1. Communication. For those of us who jump from one topic to another as freely as a group of jazz people improvise musical notes, communicating our thoughts in a structured way is a challenge. It is the Achilles Heel of every Iconoclast, and I’ve enjoyed attacking this challenge. I know I’ve improved, but I’m not where I want to be.

Another reason is that, like you, I’ve met and have collaborated with smart people I never would have met or known about. This is the biggest payoff for me. The learning and feedback priceless.

Sorry for the long comment, but your post really hit a nerve as I’ve never written a “why I blog” post of my own.

Cheers,

Jorge

My Achilles Heel is communication. It’s my known, and main weakness. And blogging, has really helped my strengthen my communication skills. But, only in the written word.

To work on the spoken word, I hired a public speaking coach at the beginning of the year. And, although I’m not shy about speaking in front of people, nor do I suffer from stage fright; it doesn’t mean I’m great. Far from it.

It is only through hard work that I will turn this weakness, just like I’ve done with others, into a strength.

The real skill is to be able to turn a weakness into a strength

I’m of the belief, maybe because I’m competitive, that we should work on our weaknesses as much as we do our strengths. I’ve never really followed the conventional view that we should focus only on our strengths. It is a very practical way of saying: “See, you’re good at something! Keep doing more of that and you’ll always be happy! Don’t worry about your weaknesses”.

I understand the psychology behind it. It is the “small wins” concept applied to personal development. But I think this view limits our capability. Not to mention human potential, because we all have weaknesses. And it is in these weaknesses where we can better challenge ourselves.

Like psychological biases, which people think they don’t have, we should acknowledge and attack them. Let’s not be afraid to accept that we are human after all. For me, the real skill is to be able to turn a weakness into a strength. There are very few people who are able to do this.

Maybe only athletes, or highly competitive people who want to always have an edge.

I believe that simply deciding to work on your weaknesses, is its own strength. So, take on a real challenge and face your fear. Because there, lies the biggest source of your strength.

“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.” – Michael Jordan

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  • Jorge,

    Now you hit a nerve!  Especially at the end.  I think competitive athletes have an edge because you learn to work not only on your weaknesses, but on your technique.  Everybody has skills, but if you rely on them you will never be a top performer.

    When I was an athlete, I learned that the higher you go up in competitive level, the more you drill, the more you focus on fundamentals.  You get to a point that everybody is fast and strong and talented and those qualities mean less and less.

    Far more important is to continually hone down the flaws that will be exploited at the highest levels of competition.  You shoot for the Zeno’s paradox of perfection, always closing half the distance.

    It’s not always fun, but it is eminently rewarding.

    – Greg

    • Greg,

      That is a great point. It brings back memories. And you hear it all the time too. It goes back to the fundamentals. And you can tell right away when someone works on his fundamentals, there is a certain flawlessness to everything that person does.

      When I used to play basketball, I remember spending a lot of time on perfecting my shooting form. While set, while moving, wrong foot, etc. Any scenario. I would even record videos of Michael Jordan’s games and take cues from his shooting form.

      I thought that the more I practiced, the less time I would spend thinking about my shooting form in a game situation. It eventually worked, as I won a few 3-point shooting trophies 🙂

      A few weeks back, the Washington Post published an interesting article about Michael Phelps and the psychology of speed. It touches on these psychological points. Here’s the link if you didn’t read it: http://wapo.st/Nihvni

      Cheers,

      Jorge

  • Kevin McFarthing

    Hi Jorge and Greg – I’ve read both of your articles, really fascinating stuff.  It’s great that you lay a little bit of your psyche bare for the rest of us to learn.  

    A good model here is the fixed vs flexible mindset – http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/index.html – where the flexible mindset always looks on challenge as a learning and growth opportunity.  So you’re setting yourself a challenge, putting yourself in positions where you have to respond and meet a constantly raising bar.

    Keep the inspiration coming….

    Kevin

    • Hi Kevin @innovationfixer:twitter ,

      Thanks. Yes, I found out about the growth vs. fixed mindset a few years back. It resonated with me as I’ve always had a certain curiosity about why some people (like athletes, innovators, entrepreneurs) embrace constant learning while others don’t.

      We had a very long discussion about this topic a few years ago: If a person is not innovative with self, can she be innovative in an organization? –
      http://bit.ly/NijEPG

      What do you think?

      Thanks,

      Jorge

      • Kevin McFarthing

        Hi Jorge,

        A good discussion on your previous article.  It prompted me to think of another characteristic essential to innovation, and evolving from a fixed to a flexible mindset – curiosity.  The more curious you are, the more you will want to learn new things.  The more you learn, the more you try, the more you grow……

        Also, at the risk of straying into amateur psychology, it strikes me that the more secure people are in themselves, the more likely they will be prepared to be flexible about trying new things and responding to challenges.

        In conclusion, I agree with you that it is difficult for people to be good innovators without a decent level of flexible mindset.  It is also near impossible to be a true entrepreneur without it.

        Kevin

        • Kevin @innovationfixer:twitter ,

          I agree. The key I think is making the jump from confidence to competence. I know a lot of confident and open minded people who are not willing to develop competence. I think those of us with a growth mindset are not only motivated to learn, but also to become great at what we do.

          Thanks,

          Jorge

  • Some observations. this working on your weakness works only if that weakness is seriously hindering you in reaching your goal. Then you are motivated to work on it. Otherwise you will only do it ‘ as a should’ and then the maximum effect is that you will become moderate in this weakness. 
    If you are working on your weakness you also have to make sure that you also keep on growing in your strength. Otherwise all your attention flows to the weakness and you loose your edge on the strenght. The risk is then that you improve on the weakness and degrade on the strength.

    So, working on your weakness is good when you are really intrinsically motivated to do so AND you keep on improving your strength at the same time.

    • It’s easy to work on your strengths.  If you want to be the best, you need to work on your weaknesses.  Not many do, which is why most people are average.

      – Greg

    • @arnoldbeekes:twitter,

      Why do people have to be motivated to work on their weakness? I get it, but it seems to me that there has to be a better way of “improving” without having to wait for Grim Reaper Moments to get motivated to change/improve.

      How do you make people see that their weakness is hindering their progress? How do you make them accept that they have weaknesses in the first place?

      Thanks,

      Jorge

      • – And the day came when the risk it took to remain in the bud was more
        painful than the risk it took to blossom. 
Anais Nin –
        Most people really want to stay in their comfort zone. However, they would like others to change. The only drive to change is ‘pain or pleasure’, and even then it is pain (jobless, diverse, sickness etc) which has the greatest impact.
        it takes a lot of courage to transform yourself and most people are just not willing to put in that energy. 
        The positive side is that it allows us (who are focusing on inner change first) to outgrow/outperform those other people.

        • @arnoldbeekes:twitter,

          Great! I think we can sum it up like this: You have to constantly fight human nature. And most don’t.

          Thanks,

          Jorge

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