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Strength as a wayfinder

I'm at a co-working space as I write this, and I'm procrastinating by having a fantastic conversation with a woman who is trying to find her focus. She's brilliant and passionate, she works hard and she gets things done. And that's the problem: she's gotten lots of different things done but she can't figure out which one to commit to.

Brilliance and passion are great, but at some point you need to pick a direction. This newsletter is about one way to help you do that.

This bird understands its strengths.

Lead with Strength

It's great to be passionate. It's great to be smart. It's great to be creative and hard-working and productive. All these things lead to possibilities. Wonderful possibilities!

So many possibilities. Oh god. So many.

At some point your life, you will be faced with a decision about what to do next. You have your degree(s), you have your experience, you have your passion, but those things don't always point to a clear next step.

Your passion can give you an idea of the area you want to work in (human rights, big data, animal welfare, machine learning) but passion doesn't always narrow down the what. Your strengths can be a wayfinder, pointing you towards action: A strength in persuasion suggests a very different animal-welfare-related career than a strength in strategy.

There are a couple of advantages to following your strengths. First, people who use their strengths at work (and at home) are happier and more engaged. Second, you'll make more of an impact using your strengths than you ever will mucking around with things you're not very good at.

Long-time readers will know that I have this thing about how your job in life is to be the best you that you can be. The first step of that process is to figure out who you are (so you can work on being better at it), and part of who you are is your strengths.

So how do you figure out what your strengths are?
  1. Think real hard. This is a good start — you probably have a pretty good idea what you're good at, what comes easy. But you might have blind spots, so this won't give you the whole picture.
  2. Take an assessment. I love an assessment! I blame those "What kind of X are you" quizzes in teen magazines. The grown-up versions are the VIA Character Strengths assessment and the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment. I think I've linked to the VIA assessment before in my newsletter about values, because it operates in that murky area where strengths and values interact (VIA stands for Values In Action). Also, it's free. The CliftonStrengths assessment costs money but it gives you a good solid list of strengths. (There's a US$20 version that gives you your top 5 strengths, and honestly who has time for more than 5 strengths?!)
  3. Ask a friend. Ask lots of friends (and relatives, and co-workers) to tell you what they think your three biggest strengths are. The more people you can ask, the better. This is admittedly weird and difficult, but it really works. Look for patterns in their responses and you'll soon see three or five things that keep on coming up. I have done this twice, and I am still friends with all the people I asked (even the people I asked twice!), so don't worry about that.
One more thought which I'm still working on: I was recently introduced to the idea of a strength which comes to you so naturally, so effortlessly, that you don't even perceive it as a strength, any more than you perceive breathing as a strength. I think this is the area where reflection falls short, and assessments and feedback from others shine. You catch those "duh, doesn't everyone just do that?" things.


Try this at home

Do you know what your strengths are? Can you use that knowledge to make a decision about work, or about a volunteer gig, or even in your friendships? (Does it really make sense for you to beat yourself up about forgetting birthdays when your strength is introducing people to new ideas and communities?)

What's NewOh lawd she comin'

Yesterday was the third of the five labs which make up the "class" part of my practicum at Adler. They kept saying "you're halfway through", but I am definitely not halfway through the homework, mentoring, practice coaching and other stuff that makes up practicum. 😬 That's okay. I can do it.

Thanks to the prompting of my friend (and probably my biggest fan 🙌🏼) Deep, I figured out where Mailchimp stores the archive for this newsletter, so you can share that with your friends or just peruse back issues if, you know, you've read the rest of the internet.

I'm still in the market for three clients to round out my practicum hours. I'm particularly looking for developers, engineers and researchers, but I also think it would be cool to work with musicians (and tbh I'm not going to turn anyone away at this point). So if you know someone, let them know. Still pay-what-you-can! Whadda deal!!!

Fun and Interesting

I have to say, compiling this part of the newsletter is harder than I thought it would be. I am not a well-rounded individual these days: all I do is coach, study coaching, read books about personal development, try to learn Korean, and watch k-pop videos and Grey's Anatomy with my kids. However, I have been more interesting lately because we just had the Toronto International Film Festival so I saw some flicks. Look out for these:
  • 37 Seconds is a lovely, surprisingly light belated-coming-of-age movie about a woman whose mother is unwilling to accept her daughter's sexuality and independence. It's a bit of a fairytale because lots of things are easier for the protagonist than I think they would be in real life, but the movie tells its story well. (And lots of things happen, which I appreciated because I had just watched an arty movie with lots of long, lingering shots and rambling dialogue.)
  • The Report is a movie about work. (I love movies about work.) It's about a guy who reads a bunch of memos and writes a report about them. The memos are regarding the US use of "enhanced interrogation techniques", i.e., torture — how the decision was made to use those techniques, and then repeatedly justified and covered up. It's a good movie along the lines of other good movies about work, like Spotlight, Blackkklansman, The Founder, and The Social Network.
  • The Vast of Night is a stunning, atmospheric period movie set in 1950's New Mexico. (We know what happened in 1950's New Mexico so we know what it's really about. 👽) It's pretty much perfect: the cinematography, the design, the sound design, the characters, the dialogue, the acting. It's shocking and unfair that this is director Andrew Patterson's debut.

Thank you for reading this far!

If you like what you read, hit reply and let me know, or forward it and let someone else know. If you have questions or comments, hit reply and let me know. If you have seen something interesting out there, hit reply and let me know. Are you seeing a trend here? If so... hit reply and let me know! I look forward to hearing from you. ❤️

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