I decided to spend my morning off reading. (Note: I love spending cold days lazily snuggled up with a book.) I recently bought a book called Strengths Finder 2.0 in hopes that it would help guide me as the eve of my first performance review at work draws near. I thought it would be nice to be able to tell my boss that according to both a reputable source and my past performance, my strengths are my analytical thinking and my attention to detail. And so I sat down to read. (Yes, I realize sitting down knowing what answers I want is not a good way to begin. But that’s what I do. Also, I wanted throw some foreshadowing in there for you. Dear High School English teachers: my motif is lunacy and the overuse of ellipses…)
It started off badly. The book’s premise is that when you know and focus on developing your natural talents, you will be able to achieve great things. This whole ‘try to build on your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses’ seemed like a reasonable idea. Use the path of least resistance, amplify (or leverage, for all you finance nerds…) your greatest asset for the greatest return – all makes mathematical sense, so I am on board thus far. And then the book used Rudy as a negative example, and all of my goodwill instantly vanished.
Background: Rudy is hands down one of my top 5 all time favorite movies. I cry every single time I watch it and can tear up fairly unprovoked just thinking about it. The movie has inspired to push through many tough situations, some athletic but most not. In short, it inspires me. To read a book that in the first chapter declared it “misguided” to idolize a man who spent so much time and effort for one play? That’s Salem Witch levels of heresy. I had to stop reading. Clearly the author hadn’t really watched the movie, right? The author missed the point. He had too have missed the point…
I had to digest this for at least half an hour. I had to reread the section a few times. And then I was able to verbalize the fundamental differences in the viewpoints between the author and myself. Rath says, “Overcoming deficits is an essential part of the fabric of our culture… And this leads us to celebrate those who triumph over their lack of natural ability even more than we recognize those that capitalize on their innate talents.” Taking the path of most resistance, for Rath, is seen as unfortunate and inefficient.
My point of view, on the other hand, is that there is something inherently beautiful about wanting to work for more than you’ve been given. There is something great about the ability to dream big. And sometimes dreams don’t necessarily play to your strengths, but does that mean you shouldn’t pursue them? I don’t think so. And maybe it’s just
because I am living at home trying to (somewhat less-than-gracefully) transition from college to adulthood with little to no idea as to what I want to accomplish this coming month let alone being able to have concrete long-term dreams that I am willing to lay everything on the line for me, but I have more respect for people who dream than for people who play it safe and play to their strengths. And if you’re willing to lay yourself out there to get what you want, I will call you a hero no matter what Tim Rath says.
After my Rudy soulsearching (read: concluding that I was right and Rath was wrong), I continued on. I was a little bit more dubious at this point (SERIOUSLY? Who doesn’t like Rudy?!) but game to try and figure out what strengths I could amplify. So I finished reading and then moved on to the test. I answered 150-ish questions and got my results. And then I did a double take. Because my #1 strength? Harmony.
Seriously? HARMONY? I didn’t realize I was attempting to find the strengths of a freaking Care Bear. Harmony? Harmony?! I felt nauseated just thinking about telling my boss that oh yes, my number one strength is HARMONY can I please have a bonus? Maybe it’s just a trick – maybe Mr. Rath has a killer sense of humor and is making a hidden pop culture reference to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and that the test was saying I was intelligent and brassy enough to go solve a murder case. Alas, if Rath doesn’t like Rudy he probably also doesn’t enjoy all the witty puns that Robert Downey Jr. makes as he narrates or the part where Harry finds the corpse in the shower, a scene that makes me deeply laugh from the stomach just thinking about it… (ummm…I am realizing now that anyone who hasn’t seen that movie probably thinks I’m a rambling nut. which is very astute of you – nice work! but you really should see the movie because it’s fantastic and you won’t regret it, I promise! and perhaps those last two sentences might make a little more sense if you have at least a basic frame of reference. now might also be a good time to put in a plug for Rudy. really, it’s another must see. watch it – today, if possible!)
So anyways, I sat at my kitchen table, feeling extraordinarily cheated that the stupid book gave me stupid strengths. And then I read through some of the material that accompanied the proclamation of my strengths. I read through the descriptions, the analysis, quotes, ideas for action, ways to build upon your strength further. And I realized that the blasted Strengths Finder 2.0 had me pegged.
And then I was angry. I wanted new strengths. I wanted my strengths to be rock-your-socks-off analysis, or amazing negotiator, or strategic planner. In fact, anything that would not sound like it was being spoken by a flower power love child would be okay with me. (my other top 4 strengths actually meet this criteria, but apparently I’m still a little hung up on strength #1…)
I wanted to wrap this up with some kind of Full House lesson where I tie everything together nicely. Right now, though, I’m just confused and trying to balance what I feel with what I know with what I want. And also, I’m still slightly irritated. Clearly Mr. Rath does not have marketing/advertising skills as a strength or else he would have known how to pick better words than damn Harmony.