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The Curious Upside of Knowing Your Weakness

The now famous sweating scene from the 1980 movie, Airplane.

 

“Never let them see you sweat.”

What a great tagline from a deodorant company that also captures the heart of the prevailing work attitude in our culture. You, like me, have probably embodied this idea to some degree.

Whether you’re a consultant or a business leader or you’re moving up the ranks and trying to stand out from the crowd at a company, you’ve been told (with or without words) to be tough, strong and not to flinch. To flinch is to show weakness. To bend is to show a lack of strength. To lack toughness shows that you might not be able to endure through the long haul. In short: weakness isn’t acceptable.

The problem with this line of thinking, however, is obvious for every honest person. We’re all weak somewhere. We’re weak in places we know we’re weak and we’re probably weaker than we think in the areas we think we’re strong.

I have a friend who’s been very successful at a company for over a decade tell me recently that even now he still feels like someone is going to discover that he’s a fraud and doesn’t know what he’s doing as much as everyone thinks he does. He’s not a fraud of course. He’s very good at what he does. But he also knows where his weaknesses are. From talking to this guy you would never know he has this feeling deep down but he was revealing one of those kinds of thoughts that you know are in your head but you rarely express with your mouth.

The upside to all of this, however, is that weak people who are smart get help and get answers. If I recognize my weaknesses and am honest about them, I’m much more beneficial to my clients than if I’m blind to them or refuse to admit I need help in a particular area. A capable person who knows their weakness is much better than someone who may have a higher capacity but is entirely blind to their weakness.

Weakness doesn’t mean you’re disqualified. It means you’re normal. The question is how do you deal with your weakness? Do you really know them? Do you have ways to work through them or around them? Do you need to admit them to yourself or someone else?

Again, weakness doesn’t mean you’re disqualified. If anything, when you know your weaknesses and are working through them or working with them, you’ve become more qualified at doing whatever it is you do.

You still may decide to “never let them see you sweat” but don’t be afraid to say, “I’m not sure” or “I need some help in this area” or “I think someone else will do this better than me.”

The curious upside to knowing your weakness is that once you know it you can get whatever help you might require there and simultaneously you’ll be more clear on where you’re strong so you can push more decidedly toward your strength. Who knew that the strongest thing you could do was admit your weakness?

 

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  • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

    Really smart post, Bill. I have to admit, I’ve felt exactly like the guy you’ve mentioned. I think the more you learn, the more you realize how much you just don’t know! And, in today’s world, where everyone’s work is online for the whole world to see, it’s very easy to whip out the measuring stick.

    I totally agree that admitting weakness is a good thing. We just have to be careful that we don’t use that as a means to beat ourselves up. If we focus on finding help to fill the gaps or looking for ways to improve, it can indeed be beneficial.

    • http://www.microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

      Thanks for the comment Laura. You’re one of the good ones!