Greatest Strength & Greatest Weakness

The sad story of former baseball great Lenny Dykstra illustrates a fact of life that applies to many of us. Sometimes what we’re best and and worst at are opposite sides of the same coin.

Dysktra, known as “Nails” during his career with the Mets and Phillies, played harder than anyone else on the field.  His stardom was based on ferociously intense play that frequently crossed over into recklessness. It was that same recklessness, in business and financial dealings after he left baseball, that led to his downfall (see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/20/sports/baseball/the-financial-fall-of-lenny-dykstra.html?_r=1&hp). Today he is in jail facing charges of fraud and obstruction of justice.

His case is extreme, but the principle is not. Do you have a great strength that sometimes turns into your biggest weakness too? Seen the other way, do you have a glaring weakness that’s actually the flip side of what you’ve built your life on?

Most of us can easily point to our personal failings, those aspects of life we know we’re bad at, and for which we can’t forgive ourselves. We wish we were more talented or skilled at a certain kind of activity. For some it’s romantic relationships or managing money. Others are  “too nice”, and get taken advantage of, or too loud and boisterous and sometimes make fools of themselves.

If you look deeper, very often that same characteristic we dislike in ourselves is a flipped version of our greatest strength, what people love and respect us for and what we’ve built a life around.

  • The businessman who is skilled at building companies, but can’t open up his feelings in personal relationship.
  • The musician who creates great art but is utterly incapable of managing simple day-to-day tasks.
  • The social worker who is brilliant helping teenagers but who can’t keep track of details and whose car runs out of gas repeatedly.
  • The lonely salesman who can talk passionately about his product but struggles to make any conversation at all with a woman.

Each of these people has refined a skill that has gotten them where they are in life. They are successful. But their stumbling inadequacy with an opposite set of skills leaves them unhappy and harshly self-critical.

We see this again and again. Nobody is good at everything. Being human, we tend to focus on our failings, even to the point of discounting our greatest accomplishments.

What do you dislike most about yourself? What are you so bad at that you feel guilty or a failure about? Now look on the other side and see what characteristics and abilities have been your great strengths.  Chances are they are opposites. You have carved out a life for yourself based on certain abilities that mattered more.

Lenny Dykstra could not change. Most adults can. When you feel the need to develop new abilities and learn new skills, get started. With effort and persistence, most people do just fine. No need to feel badly about your weaknesses. You came by them honestly. In the fullness of life, there will always be new things to learn. Why not start now?

 

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