Finding Weakness

We spend a lot of time attempting to identify personal strengths. We should spend more identifying our weaknesses.

It’s difficult to know what your strengths are. Relative to what?

If you are the best in your class at math, you can’t say with any confidence that you’re a math genius. You may be in the worst math school in the country, which may in turn be poor compared to other countries.

However, if you are the worst in your class at math, you can say with some confidence that you are weak at math. Of course, context matters; perhaps you are in the best class, in the best school in the world for math.

But the fact remains: you know with certainty that there are others better.

There is another reason we should seek to find our weaknesses more than our strengths: we are wired to believe we are better than we are.

It is difficult to admit when you are bad at something.

It is not difficult to admit you are good at something.

Being biased in this way helps make us happier. But it also makes it harder to identify things we are bad at.

Of course, once you manage to identify a weakness, you must decide what to do with it.

This is also difficult.

You could choose to improve it. This will be easier for some things than others. It may be your only option, if you need the skill and you lack money, time, or access to others to do it for you.

You could choose to outsource it, or hire someone else to cover that weakness. This requires money, but is often the better choice. Even if you improve a weakness, it’s unlikely that you will become as good as someone else.

Before you can make those decisions, however, you must first know your weaknesses.

To find them, look for objective measures.

Do you know others that are better? How many? Can you ask others who are less biased what you are weak at? What consistent feedback have you received across your career?

Finding your weaknesses is a difficult task. But it is often easier than finding strengths. And more valuable.