We’re all good at something. And we all have room to grow. But somewhere between the two extremes, it’s possible to unlock the power of your strengths and weaknesses and accelerate your growth.

Here’s what I mean. Between two trips to the castle with two separate groups of middle school students–and despite years of knowing each other through our local writers’ group–my co-leader and I discovered how very different we are when it comes to writing. As a result, we were able to offer unique and complementary perspectives to improve the skills of each writer we met with while also showing them that it’s possible (and more than acceptable) to approach writing differently than your friend.

For example, I tend to see the overall big picture of a plot or a character’s development while Megan naturally zooms in on the individual scene. Then when critiquing a scene, I naturally start with by “playing the movie” to check the logic of the stage directions while she picks up on the emotion first. By capitalizing on our individual strengths, we’ve had the opportunity to read bits of each other’s writing and offer helpful advice to shortcut the editing process.

Neither approach is “right.” In fact, the truth is that all of the above needs to be woven into our finished work in order to create an enjoyable experience for our readers. After all, it doesn’t really matter whether the chicken or the egg came first as long as both are there in the end.

Of course, I’ve been talking about writing skills because that’s the topic at the top of my mind right now, but a bigger truth lingers.

First, we’ve all got strengths. Those things that come naturally to us without much effort. So when it comes to future projects or tasks, embrace those strengths and use them to create a solid foundation. That momentum and positive feedback will go a long way toward keeping us motivated to complete the entire task. If it’s writing and dialogue comes naturally, capture that first (and circle back later to add in the emotion or setting descriptions.) If you’re painting your house, nothing says you have to paint the edges first when you’d rather see the immediate progress of coating the large areas before circling back to finish the small details.

Don’t underestimate the power of positive momentum. Use those strengths to get yourself moving. However, we’re truly only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. 

That’s why the next step is to identify one key skill where you need to improve and focus your attention there. If you need to, take a class or read a book on the subject. Watch a video or ask an expert. Study what tools others use and unlock the secrets that make their execution seem so effortless. If it’s house painting, is there a secret weapon or trick to taping off or painting the trim? If it’s writing, can you collect examples of powerful visceral reactions or rhetorical devices?

Rather than procrastinating over, dreading, or flippantly executing your weakest area because it’s hopeless and you’ll never be any good at it, be deliberate. Work smarter, not harder. Gain information and then practice the skill. And before you know it, that previous weakness will become a strength…and the entire project will also be stronger as a result. Those things that used to be a last thought will now naturally get done without additional effort.

Use your strengths for momentum and motivation while you focus on improving one weak area at a time. Suddenly, by eliminating the procrastination, insecurity, and fear factor, you’ll find that you’ve accelerated your overall growth. Projects will be completed faster and at a higher quality.

For me, this means I’m using my natural strengths to fast draft more stories this year, then circling back to layer in the emotional and scene elements during revisions. And as I’m deliberately studying those techniques, more of them are already showing up in my rough drafts…making that whole revision process faster too.

All because I’m learning to unlock the power of my strengths and weaknesses.

What about you? What project are you about to start? What are your strengths in that area and how can you use those to generate momentum? What is your weakest area? Where could you quickly learn something new to improve? How would that affect the overall project’s success?

Unlock the Power of Strengths and Weaknesses
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