Our Unobvious Assets

A mentor once taught me to search for my assets in a most unusual way–by looking at what I considered to be my defects. She explained that on the flip side of many character defects, you can find your real strengths. For example:

stubborn <> tenacious

angry <> driven

negative <> passionate

impatient <> eager

obsessive <> detail-oriented

silly <> light-hearted

We often overlook our greatest gifts because we are too ready to focus on the negative without digging deeper.

In elementary school, I disappointed my teachers because I often would abandon one project for another that caught my interest. Year after year, my report cards had the box checked that said, “Doesn’t live up to potential,” and year after year, I didn’t understand why I had to tolerate boring assignments when there were so many more interesting things to focus on.

What I couldn’t see then was that I DID stick with projects structured to capture my imagination. I know now that this was an early indication of my personal work style, and over time I have developed tools and techniques for making projects more interesting so that I complete them.

I also continue to abandon projects that I’m unable to make interesting enough. Yet I have come to see that the energy I spend and what I learn while involved with them is never lost. I taught my children, “There is no such thing as wasted education.” Every year, I see even more clearly how true that is.

The skills we develop working on projects (even boring ones) can become vital in the future and in ways that we don’t foresee.

I always laugh, for example, when I think back on the pre-computer days. In the New Age ’60s and ’70s many high school girls decided against taking typing. They were adamant that they were not going to be stereotyped and put into jobs as secretaries. When the Digital Age dawned, those of us (including many guys) who had “wasted” our time in typing class were thrilled to discover we were now expert keyboarders.

There are skills you’re developing and knowledge you’re learning right this moment that will serve you well in the future. Even if you never use that knowledge again (remember whining, “When will I EVER need algebra?”), the latest research shows that merely acquiring it keeps our minds sharp–a key to avoiding dementia. (Use your brain or lose it!)

Another place to look for hidden assets is in your personal life. Some of you overlook the skills you use so brilliantly in your hobbies and everyday activities. Anyone who has ever managed a church bazaar, coached a softball team or built model airplanes, for example, possesses valuable skills that shouldn’t be taken for granted (project management, supervision and attention to detail.) We assume that because something is so easy for us to do, everyone must have those same abilities. We risk selling ourselves short.

I talked my way into my first supervisory job by pointing out to my prospective employer that I was already managing 15 volunteers for a local charity: “If I can keep people showing up who don’t get a paycheck, I can certainly inspire a paid team.” I was hired the next day.

Go on a hunt for your hidden assets. Begin by looking at the flip side of your character defects and continue the search in your personal life. You will discover talents that will allow you to check the box, “Consistently lives up to potential.”

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