Lead With Your Strengths For Better Results

Leading with your strengths is a good idea and delivers better results for you.  Nobody is good at everything.  When we understand our strengths and lead with them, we gain not only confidence but competence.  Sophisticated, spontaneous, competent action comes from leading with your strengths.  Let’s explore why.

Your personality style has strengths and weaknesses

Do What You Are, Discover the perfect career for you through the secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, And Kelly Tieger help us navigate our personality type and discover what occupations we may enjoy.  We each have 4 preferences that we use to comprehend and deal with the world around us. They consist of  1) the dominant function, 2) the auxiliary function, 3) the third function, and 4) the fourth function.  “As long as your dominant and auxiliary are in command, you are functioning well.  When your third and fourth functions take over, it’s as if the kids climbed over the seat and started driving the car (with predictably disastrous results). ” (pg. 65) This is an incredible reference to identify your personality type, then to understand what careers are suitable for your strengths.  “Do what you are” is therefore about finding a career that matches your strengths, your natural abilities, your preferences in life.

Your brain works better when utilizing your strengths

Your Brain at Work by David Rock is an absolute must-read.  When your strengths are engaged, a state of arousal is created which helps create a flow state, which further creates a positive spiral.  Positive spirals are created when you are focused and energized and are the main contribution to your happiness. You need to be interested in what you are doing to achieve optimal brain performance.   The upward spiral explains why people perform better when they are happy. Doing things that are significantly new can lead to a negative spiral of decreasing dopamine levels.

Happiness involves utilizing your strengths, they are your source of personal power

In his book What Happy People Know,  Dan Baker Ph.D.  informs us that Focusing on our strengths 1) works, 2) feels better, 3) creates the energy necessary for transformation, 4) Is self-sustaining because it is full of rewards and 5) encourages us to play to win because it works better.  Interestingly, our weakness’ can be disguised as strengths.  Workaholism, perfectionism, materialistic ambition, desire for domination, and status-seeking are all derived from fears.  Our individual character, our personal power lies in utilizing our strengths.  Without a feeling of personal power, than can be no happiness.  Leading with our strengths helps us to make our own rules and own our days.   Happiness tools are all about taking action.   Dr. Baker encourages us to shift our focus from our problems and weaknesses to our possibilities and strengths.  When we use our strengths and exercise them every day, we become increasingly intelligent and can turn those strengths into careers.  We are to not confuse what we wish we were good at with what we are actually good at.

First Things – the tip of your spear

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey enlightens us about what it takes to be effective in life.  The spiritual dimension is explored in Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind, to determine what is important to you to accomplish in your lifetime.  These important things are “first things”.  Habit 3: First Things First is about prioritizing these first things over everything else.  First things are the important things, your calling, your bliss, they resonate and excite you, they are your strengths.

Follow your Bliss – follow what excites you, lead with your strengths

I equate “leading with my strengths” with “following my bliss”.  Following your bliss is a mechanism of personal development offered by Joseph Campbell through his career evaluating myths and religions of the world.  When something resonates with you, it is a major hint of where your interests and associated strengths are hidden.  Follow that feeling of bliss.  Here are some concepts that I collected over the years from Joseph Campbell’s books noted on our resources page link below.

As we love ourselves, we move toward our own bliss, our highest enthusiasm.  Following your bliss is not self-indulgent, but vital, for your whole system knows this is how to be alive in this world, and the way to give to this world the very best you have to offer. The most heroic of all acts is the courage to discover who you are and what you would like to be, to slay the savage dragon of the ego, and to follow your bliss to the truth of your life.  There is a track just waiting there for each of us, and once upon it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else. Everything does start clicking along and mother nature herself supports the journey (flow, magic).  The lion of self-discovery is meant to kill the dragon of thou shalt. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.

Martial Arts factors

Fighting has been said to be a good analogy for life.  I happen to agree with this.  In a way, we are all seeking a way to express ourselves and your strengths are your expression.  In the combative arts, there is considerable discussion and confusion as to which side should be lead with, the dominant or the weak.  Leading with your weaker side is an attempt to hold the dominant hand in reserve, ready to deliver a knockout blow when the opportunity presents itself.  It is a home run swing.  Leading with your dominant side; the aim is to prioritize timing and speed over power.

  • Jeet Kune Do (JKD):  Bruce Lee’s martial art puts your dominant side forward.  The leading weapons are the dominant hand and leg.   This allows for optimizing the priorities of a fight better:  distance, timing, speed, power.  JKD, a relatively new martial art, is the result of combining Wing Chun Kung Fu, fencing, and American boxing.  The on-guard stance of JKD is largely defined as placing your dominate side forward.
  • Fencing:  You hold your weapon in your dominant hand
  • Boxing:  Some famous boxers who place their dominant hand forward are Oscar De La Hoya and Victor Lomachenko.

Radiant, Prepped, and Frosty methodology:  leading with your strengths breakout

  • Be Radiant
    • Your survival, happiness, and effectiveness kits are inside you.  Re-frame your life to recognize your strengths and weakness’ and to lead with your strengths.  It was how you were made, it is why you exist.
    • The spiritual dimension is where you discover self authorization to be who you are.  Do what you are.  Do what you are good at.  Lead with your strengths.
    • There is only one spiritual message:  be who you are, follow your bliss and lead with your strengths.
  • Be Prepped
    • For strategic planning, your brain works better when you are doing work that interests you.
  • Be Frosty
    • For tactical execution, leading with your strengths allows you to rapidly adapt to emergency stimulus in the fastest way possible.  Your strengths are how you naturally approach problems, reducing the amount of thinking required, thus increasing your reaction speed.
    • If you are leading with your strengths, you can act spontaneously without hesitation.  Leading with your strengths increases both your speed and your competency.
    • In emergency situations, where you have no time to think, you must act spontaneously.

Suggested Next Steps:

 

 

Find Happiness – A Review of What Happy People Know by Dr. Dan Baker

How do we find Happiness in our lives?  Dr. Dan Baker gives us some major clues in his book What Happy People Know.

Here are some of his key points in his book that resonate with me:

  • Happiness is the whole aim and the end of human existence – Aristotle
  • Happiness is the art of responding well when trouble strikes.
  • One of the biggest problems there is is to build a full life without making yourself crazy.
  • Millions of people kill themselves by putting all of their energy into just one dimension of life – usually work.
  • Your life is better than you think.
    • Take the time to live it
    • Focus on the right things and contentment will settle over you
    • Multidimensional living is important
  • Work = survival = most primal instinct.  The things we do to survive are the things that end up killing us.
  • The greatest enemy of happiness is fear, which we are hardwired for, and which has allowed us to evolve.
  • The fabric of fear is woven into our brains.
  • The hardwired fear response is faster and more powerful than the process for rational thought.
  • Your neurological fear network is the single greatest enemy of your happiness.
  • What is good for survival is not good for happiness in modern life.
  • Fear can manifest itself as anger, perfectionism, obsession, insecurity, shyness, guilt, pessimism, low level anxiety, depression, or feelings of isolation.
  • Blame will not help, you must address your fear system.
  • Fear poisons each moment it touches.
  • The antidote to fear is appreciation:  Happiness is the art of responding well when trouble strikes.
  • To be happy, we need to be willing to charge headlong into the inferno of our most horrific fears, eyes open, intellect and spirit ready.
  • Reason and intellect can take you out of the darkness of fear and into the light.
  • The key to happiness is having the higher brain functions (Intellect, spirit, intuition) lead the lower brain functions (fear, fear hormones).
  • You must learn to override the lower brain functions (reptilian brain focused solely on survival) with the higher brain functions of thought and spirit.
  • The higher brain functions can receive lower brain functions and tell it to settle down, nothing is wrong, sending message of comfort and confidence.
  • The lesser life:  life is there but the living is gone (wasteland).
  • The better life:  put your life into perspective to the cancer ward (appreciation).
  • The 12 qualities of happiness: Happiness is profound but simple:
    • love
    • optimism
    • courage
    • a sense of freedom
    • pro-activity
    • security
    • health
    • spirituality
    • altruism
    • perspective
    • humor
    • purpose
  • Factors that ensure survival:
    • fear of not having enough
    • fear of not being enough
  • The reptilian brain is dedicated solely to fear, because fear keeps us alive.
  • Your biological fear system will challenge your happiness until the day you die.
  • Your mind, body, and spirit working together in concert can make you happy.
  • Your neurological fear network is the single greatest enemy of your happiness.
  • Faces of fear:  perfectionism, obsession, insecurity, shyness, guilt…
  • We try to find something to blame, but our chronic angst will only make sense when we understand the biology of the fear system.
  • Thriving is a much higher calling than just surviving.
  • There are happiness traps, which can hold you down forever, and tools to get out of them.

6 Happiness Tools and 5 Happiness Traps:

    • Happiness Tools (tools about taking action):
      • Appreciation
        • The first and most fundamental.  It is impossible to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time; thus appreciation is the antidote to fear.
        • Fear is strong, but love is stronger:  People huddle together at night.
      • Choice
        • The father of freedom.
        • Engage in choice and worry will be suspended.
        • Having no choices or options is like being in jail leading to depression, anxiety and learned helplessness.
        • Anyone can choose the course of their lives but only happy people do it.
        • Happy people turn away from fear and find that their intellects and spirits contain a vast warehouse of choices.
      • Personal Power
        • Proactive force is similar to character.
        • Gives you the power over feelings and fate.
        • 2 components
          • taking responsibility: it is your responsibility to make things happen, no excuses
          • taking action
        • Keeps you from becoming a victim.
        • When your personal power is at its peak, you are secure.
        • You don’t have to be popular, right, or have money.  You can handle whatever life dishes out.
      • Leading with your strengths
        • Intellect and spirit engage your strengths.
        • Fear engages your weaknesses.
      • The power of courage and stories
        • We see the world we describe, we don’t describe the world we see.
        • Language has the power to alter perception.
        • Words have the power to set us free or limit us.
        • The stories we tell ourselves become our lives (optimism vs. pessimism).
      • Multi-dimensional living
        • Happiness comes from a full life.
        • A uni-dimensional life is a killer.
        • 3 primary components that energy needs to be put into:
          • Relationships
          • Health
          • Purpose
    • Happiness Traps:
      • Trap 1. Trying to buy happiness:
        • Money only makes people significantly happier when it relieves abject poverty.
        • The primary way of gaining wealth is through sacrificing leisure and freedom and becoming frazzled.
        • Rich people were usually happier in the past even through the rich get richer everyday.
        • Some people enjoy ordering others around but they are just insecure people with no power.
        • Perfectionism and work-aholism are vices that masquerade as virtues; fear disguised as strength.
        • Control of other people is a myth, the more you demand it, the further it gets.
      • Trap 2. Trying to find happiness through pleasure:
        • Once we become accustomed to any pleasure, it no longer has the power to make us happy.
        • Back away from modern life’s banquet, so that pleasure will stay novel and refreshing.
        • Rough it to appreciate the comforts you have (water, bed,….).
      • Trap 3. Trying to be happy by resolving the past:
        • Past therapeutic practices of digging up the past do not work.
        • A better way is transcendence> transcend the amygdala (fear system) and put your energy into your mind (intellect), body, and soul (spirit).
        • Your powers of intellect and spirit can create new meaning out of old memories.
        • What once made you a victim, can become your greatest motivators and your richest sources of wisdom.
      • Trap 4. Trying to become happy by overcoming weakness:
        • Change your life by building on your strengths.
        • Attacking weakness is focusing on fears instead of being proactive and making life better.
        • Focusing on fear re-enforces fear and self destruction creating a downward spiral.
        • Weaknesses, disguised as strengths, derived from fear.
        • Work-aholism, perfectionism, stoicism, materialistic ambition, desire for domination, status seeking.
        • Obsessed with time, focused on doing rather than being.
        • Fears of not having enough will kill you.
        • Focusing on your strengths:
          • works
          • feels better
          • creates energy necessary for transformation
          • self-sustaining because it is full of rewards
          • play to win, it works better
      • Trap 5. Trying to force Happiness:
        • You cannot decide to be happy anymore than you can decide to be taller.
        • Happiness is hard work with a genetic component (40% inheritance).
        • Genetically handicapped people need to use the happiness tools.
        • A pleasant facial expression will lift your mood.
        • Happiness tools are about action.
  • Look for the good in life, not the best.  Best does not always happen but good, in one form or another, does.
  • As love increases, fear decreases.
  • Upward spirals heal (optimism, happiness, thrive, love). Downward spirals kill (pessimism, unhappiness, survival, fear).
  • When goals come from the heart, success begets success, and creates an upward spiral effect.
  • Change your life by building on your strengths, not overcoming your weaknesses.
  • What tragedy can teach:
    • Ironically you cannot learn optimism when things always go right.  That only teaches complacency (get confident not complacent).
    • We learn through suffering.
    • Complacency is a house of cards, problems and loss are inevitable.
    • Optimism is the realization that the more painful the event, the more profound the lesson.
    • Wisdom only comes the hard way and can prevent you from future suffering.
    • The greatest tragedy of all is to waltz through life unaware, unconnected, unfulfilled.
  • Stop being obsessed with time, focus on doing rather than being.
  • When we embrace choice, the reptile brain no longer rules.
  • Every choice has consequences and these consequences create our lives, for better or worse.
  • Epiphanies (insight) override the amygdala (the world melts away).
  • Appreciation and creative thinking also suspend fear.
  • The life changing quarter second:
    • There is a 1/4 second of lag between the urge to move and movement.
      • This 1/4 second is your ultimate power over perception.
      • You can choose how you perceive the world (optimism, pessimism).
      • You can alter your perception.
  • You can always rise above suffering.
  • Choose a perspective on reality that will enrich you instead of diminish you.
  • Fear hijacks the brain setting off a chain reaction that obliterates reason.
  • You have an opportunity to disengage from a fear driven urge; count to 10 before you allow yourself to become angry.
  • The more brain pathways are used, the easier they are to travel.
  • Your real self is centered in your spirit and intellect.
  • You can and need to control your perceptions.
  • Flow, getting in the zone is vital to happiness:
    • Lead from your spirit and reach flow at will
    • State of heightened consciousness, joyous and productive, nearly a spiritual experience
    • Totally absorbed in what you are doing
    • The zone also carries a curse (mania)
      • It is isolating and exhaustive
  • Never give away your personal power or there will be no happiness:
    • A poison for pro-activity, freedom, and courage
    • Personal power is your vital force
    • Maximize your personal power, create and accept your fate
    • Personal power is your power over your feelings, and your power over fate
    • Your personal power is the root, psychological source of your physical and emotional energies.  It lies at the core of your being and it makes you want to get up each morning and tackle the day
    • Personal power = character = strength = individuality = heart = charisma
    • Personal power is about doing:
      • taking responsibility
      • taking action
    • Your life belongs to you, do something about it:
      • not everyone gets it
      • nothing is harder than dumping false beliefs that destroy personal power; we think they are our allies but they are our enemies / deadly foes
  • Take responsibility for your feelings the way you do your behavior.
  • Your feelings are controllable.
  • Remove your buttons and you will no longer act automatically and people will stop pushing your buttons.
  • Self Reliance is on the decline > depression on the rise:
    • rescue – needs a hero
    • blame – needs a bad guy
  • Shift your focus from your problems and weaknesses (fears) to your possibilities and strengths.
  • Advertising and marketing industries are dedicated to making you think you have all kinds of problems that only their products can fix.
  • Ranting and raving does not fix your problems.
  • We are all walking wounded.
  • Feeling good is critical to our survival.
  • Each time a favored connection gets used in our brains, it gets stronger and easier to use by creating grooves of thought that ultimately become talents.
  • Talents are enduring and recurring patterns of thoughts feelings and behaviors.
  • Smartness and effectiveness depend on how much one capitalizes on talents:
    • Talents are unique, not common to all.
    • When you follow your strengths and exercise them everyday you become increasingly intelligent.
      • Well used cells can develop into ultimate / super brain cells providing additional insights. Super brain cells grow a 6th branch.
      • Wisdom almost always ushers in happiness and  has been determined to be the best single predictor for aging well.
      • To grow the 6th branch, be actively searching for knowledge; usually occurs in mid life or later.
  • Activity is usually to understand suffering in hopes of ending it.
    • suffering creates wisdom
    • he who learns must suffer
    • optimism comes from pain and suffering, the more painful the event , the more profound the lesson
    • complacency comes from things going well
    • when you realize that that which hurts the most, teaches the most, you have a shield against suffering; nothing  is bad
    • Response to suffering is key:
      • response with fear makes you weaker
      • response with spirit and intellect allows you to learn optimism and find meaning in your pain
  • Must lead with your strengths, you cannot overcome suffering with anything less than your best.
  • Figure out what things make your life work.
  • Language is an incredible primordial force in our development:
    • The better the language, the more constructive for emotional development
    • The kids who heard the most positive language tend to view the world in the most positive terms
    • We don’t use language to describe the world, we use it to create the world
    • We don’t describe the world we see, we see the world we describe
    • Change your language and change your life
    • To change your life, change your words
    • Language can alter your thoughts and perceptions; choose your words carefully because they are powerful
  • When you are happy, effort is easy, and energy spent is energy earned.
    • Unhappiness is chronic long term stress, shuts down the immune system and revs up the flight-fright-freeze reaction.
  • The three most important elements of life:
    • Sense of purpose
    • Health
    • Relationships
  • The key to fulfillment is to integrate all three elements into everyday and then let your passions take you where they may (health, passion/purpose, relationships).
  • Time is not the enemy, making bad decisions are; bad decisions squander time and make it scarce.
  • The biggest risk is taking no risks.
  • Do something you love everyday.
  • Hear the world of the heart.
  • Sometimes people need a crisis to blast them out of their false security and into the security of the inner self.
  • Heighten your appreciation and hone your priorities.
  • Appreciate the health you have and show your appreciation by doing as much with it as you can.
  • Learning to be happy:
    • Learned helplessness is a common phenomena where people give up and accept the pain even after circumstances change and pain could be avoided.
    • The flashy veneer of the American Dream:  money, status and power actually destroys happiness.
    • Happiness comes from inner qualities:
      • Courage
      • Altruism
      • Optimism
  • People are happier when they are able to make their own choices.
  • Satisfaction comes from:
    • autonomy and self-esteem
    • competence
    • pleasure
    • self-actualization
    • security
    • popularity
    • money
  • Climb the mountain everyday and eventually you will summit; the prize is uncomplicated ease and peace.
  • There is not much difference between happiness and sanity.
  • Find happiness by choosing love over fear.
  • Open up and let the spirit lead.
  • Transform bad events into meaningful experiences.

Suggested Next Steps:

  • Visit our adventure methodology page where these ideas are integrated
  • Read What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, Ph.D., link found on our resources page
  • Read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle: If you can’t be happy now, you can never be happy, link found on our resources page
  • Learn more about establishing good habits:
    • Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: making choices, work on your circle of influence, link found on our resources page
    • Read Atomic Habits by James Clear: make things easy to start, easy to do, 1% progress is sustainable

Review of Getting Things Done by David Allen

Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen is an excellent book and concept.  I have been a fan and practitioner for years.

David Allen created a productivity system for the office based on the martial art Karate.  Beyond his book, he has many videos on YouTube that are worth watching.

Here are some of his key concepts:

  • GTD is a thinking process that facilitates getting things done.
  • Achieve organized, stress free, productivity.
  • Be in control at all levels at all times.
  • Clarify and surf the issues instead of being buried by them.
  • Spin many plates at a more sophisticated level.
  • In a chaotic workplace, we do not have time to optimize our environment and must react to what is on our plate.  The emphasis is on managing next actions and taking as many actions as needed until completion.
  • Your environment will swamp you.  Its a matter of survival to act quickly.
  • Get ahead and stay ahead.  You do not know what is coming around the corner.
  • Want to get things done with as little mental and physical effort as possible.
  • Your mind tries to be the system.
  • Your mind is limited in its ability to manage commitments, because it is handicapped in its ability to remember and remind.
  • Develop a trusted system to be your minds mind.
  • Discipline is remembering.
  • You don’t want to have to re-think or have the same thought twice.
  • Get things out of your head for the rest of your life and into a trusted system.  Your brain is a focusing tool not a storage device.  Lose ends cause mental drag.
  • The brain is a natural problem solving tool.  Tasks requiring more than two steps are projects but do not require sophisticated project management tools.
  • David offers a ” Natural Planning Model” that reflects how your brain actually plans:
    • Clarify purpose and values
    • Vision of what “done” looks like
    • Brainstorm
    • Organize
    • Take next actions
    • Move: up to increase clarity, down to increase action
  • Core process steps: Collect, Process, Organize, Review, Execute:
    • Collect Information:  Capture everything into the inbox of your trusted system so that you don’t have to store them in your head. Collect all potentially relevant information.  See my recommendation below for a trusted system.
    • Process the Information: Collected things need additional processing to clarify and determine if further action is needed.   Derive next action and execute on it.  Move the item from your inbox to an appropriate storage location or trash it.  If the next step can be done in 2 minutes or less, execute on it now.  Transform tasks into actions.
    • Organize the Information:  Organize and prioritize tasks for next action management.
    • Review the Information:  Review your projects frequently to keep them on your mental stage.
    • Execute Next Actions:  What is the next action needed to move this forward? Next action management is the key.
  • How do I set things up so that:
      • I don’t have to remember
      • I can find things quickly and easily
      • The least amount of effort is used; how do I define what “done” what looks like
      • I can be in control at all levels, at all times
      • I can capture things that grab my attention, then figure it out later
      • I have a reminder function so tasks cannot disappear

After years of practicing GTD, here is my evaluation:

  • Pros:
    • Fighting is a great metaphor for life and GTD is based on Karate.
    • David Allen is completely right.  You cannot keep things in your head or your environment will swamp you.  Get ahead and stay ahead.
    • If you are not taking notes, you are wasting my time.  I am dismissing you as I speak because I know your brain is overloaded.
    • “Get things out of your head for the rest of your life.”  This is a brilliant concept that I use all of the time. You never know what is potentially relevant.  Taking notes helps you pay attention the first time. Your recall will dramatically improve as well.  The act of paying attention and recording helps your mental recall as well as it can be searched in your trusted system when you do not remember.
        • Idea > capture it in Evernote or write it down
        • Defect > capture it with a picture in Evernote to commicate broadly
        • part number > capture it, then you don’t need to ask for it later.
        • Contact info > capture it
        • anything and everything > capture it and free up your mind.
  • Cons:
    • Karate is a series of katas or dances to simulate fight scenarios with multiple opponents.  It is a scripted set of rules.  GTD is a smaller set of rules that make quick action more likely.
    • GTD originally did not fully recommend a system to be your “trusted system”.
    • The Secret Weapon (TSW):  GTD was written before the explosion of modern internet tools.  At the time there was no perfect organization system for executing GTD principles.  I discovered TSW on YouTube, implemented it, and have been using it for many years now as my “GTD trusted system”.  I could not live without it and highly, highly recommend using this tool. TSW is free and involves using the Evernote application with GTD principles.  I used this tool in my Mechanical Engineering job for years and now have a premium Evernote subscription due to the megabytes of data that I process.  Capture on your phone, process on your PC after synchronizing. Those megabytes are not stored in my head. Its a true competitive advantage.  Click here to watch a video on TSW.