When I joined my new department, on day one I was given a book, told to read the first part, and then take a test. Doesn’t sound like a fun way to start off a new career considering I thought I was finished with pop quizzes the day I walked across a stage in the quad with sweat trickling down my back under a rather unflattering polyester black gown while being poked in the eyeball by a tassel hanging from my noggin. But I quickly learned that this test was not of the let’s tell you how much you suck by how many things you get wrong, but rather of the let’s find out what you’re really REALLY good at.
My answers revealed to the universe that my greatest strength is taking something good and making it great. I like that. My others were that I’m adaptable, have strong beliefs, and am strategic.
And the whole purpose of this test was to help my bosses build upon my strengths because they believe in utilizing people’s talents rather than making them do things that they are not good at over and over until they get it right, which can be just as productive as banging your head into the wall repeatedly until you make a hole instead of just hiring Jesus with his hammer from the get go to do the same job in less than a minute.
It’s funny looking back now and realizing that out of all the jobs I’ve had in the past, the ones that I liked the most were the ones where I could be creative and help people and where my bosses took notice of my talents and appreciated what I had to offer. The ones I hated the most were the jobs where the bosses insisted things be done their way and quite honestly didn’t care who was working for them as long as the job got done. Oh, and bosses who were dirty asshat old men with boundary issues named Pervy McGoo, those were no fun either. And thinking about my life as a whole – I’ve always felt like I’m pretty good at a great many things, though I know that’s because I really only do the things that I know I’ll be good at.
Taking a job in IT? I’m good with computers and applications – yes please.
Sports? Not a fucking chance. I was on the volleyball team my Freshman year of high school and the only reason I made the team was because they didn’t cut anyone. I sat on the bench the entire season because I SUCKED at volleyball and I haven’t played since because guess what? I probably still suck at volleyball.
Being a mom? Something I have wanted my entire life and my instincts told me I’d be good at it. So to mommahood, I said bring it on and now I’m rockin’ it.
Public speaking? Instead of jumping in and trying to overcome my fear, it’s not something I enjoy and will never enjoy no matter how many times I’d have to face it and so I run from it. Far far far away.
Sewing? I had never touched a sewing machine in my life and went out and bought one at 33 years old on a whim. And now, whatcha want? I’ll make you a quilt. Or a dress. Or a crib sheet. Or some baby leg warmers. Or a Christmas stocking. Or a curtain. Or a skirt. Or I’ll take in your pants.
Chef? I will poison you.
Hair stylist? Creative, fun, and once I went through 1,500 hours of school, I had so much confidence in my abilities that I did really really well.
Some may think that gaining confidence by getting away with only doing the things you know you are good at is a cop-out, though I think it’s a really great way to live a happy life. And as I was watching The Berenstain Bears last night, (don’t judge. p.s. did anyone else think it was pronounced /burn-steen/ rather than /bare-n-stain/ growing up like me? And what the eff is with their creepy needle finger nails?) Brother Bear and his friends were playing football and couldn’t get their moves down. Moves…is that the right word? Plays. So anyway, they were trying and trying these different plays and kept landing on their faces and getting super frustrated and all I kept thinking was YOU BEARS SUCK ASS AT FOOTBALL. Then they tried to get a girl who was really really good at basketball and track and ballet to play on their team because she could do the football moves better than they could, but she refused to play football with them and instead made them help her with her sports. And they enjoyed it. And they got stronger and faster without even realizing it and the next time they tried their football moves, er plays, they succeeded because of it. And the moral of the story was if you try to use a girl, she’ll screw you over by making you wear a tutu but at the same time she’ll make you awesome. Though I think the moral was meant to be more along the lines of if you don’t succeed, try try again but all I kept thinking STOP IT WITH THE FOOTBALL, YOU SUUUUUCK, BUT YOU LIKE BALLET SO GO DANCE STUPID BEARS because that’s what they were good at.
And now I find myself noticing this message everywhere, encouraging kids who fail at something they are not good at to do it over and over and over until they get it right. And all it makes me want to do is reach into my tv, grab them by the collar and find out what they are actually good at and then yell in their ears THAT! Go do that instead. Have you seen the movie Rudy? It makes me sad. If you’re great at nurturing, do something where you can nurture. If you’re creative, do something that allows you to use your creativity. If you’re good with numbers, do something with numbers, damn it. And if you suck big balls at football, dear gawd TRY GOLF.
do what you love and it won’t feel like work.
And if anyone is interested, the book with the test to find your top 5 strengths is called StrengthsFinder 2.0.