Recently I went to a talk where the speaker asked the audience, “What are your strengths?”

Hmm, off the top of my head, I would say that I have mad skills in a few areas:

  • Unscrambling words. I can kill it in word puzzles. And Boggle.
  • Guessing the weight of surgical specimens. This is obviously a very specific skill, but I can often guess the weight of, say, a fibroid that I’ve removed to the exact gram. And that is a challenge when you have something that weighs 842 grams.
  • Unlocking padlocks. I can feel the mechanism starting to give as I dial. Perhaps I was a safecracker in another life?
  • Navigation, by gut. Ever Patient Spouse would totally disagree on this one, but I think I’ve got an intuitive sense of direction.
  • Finding pieces of beach glass in the sand or locating money on the ground. These are similar but probably link to the word unscrambling above, meaning I can recognize pattern or lack thereof.

But weird little quirks like these weren’t what the speaker was talking about. He was referring to the Gallup StrengthsFinder, which assesses 34 different skill areas, including Focus, Learner, Arranger, Developer and Harmony.

(You can take the test for free here).

Turns out, I am a Maximizer.

The thing that got my attention, though, was when he said that most people take the test and very quickly go to the bottom of the list, checking to see what they’re essentially bad at doing, and then use those areas as a catalyst for improvement.

He suggested to instead do the opposite: Play to your strengths.

This makes sense to me. I could practice singing until I’m half-dead and I’d still sound like a warbling donkey.

But being a contestant on a game show or a carnival barker who guesses peoples’ weight? Sign me up!

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