Finding My Strength

What are you good at? It’s easy to focus on what we do badly. We see it in ourselves, and we’re quick to see it in others. When one of my children brings home a grade, or report card I tend to look at the worst grade first. Immediately, I want to focus all of our efforts on fixing that one grade. And, sometimes the weakness gets all the attention, and the strengths get overlooked.

I took my first Myers-Briggs assessment in a high school Psychology class, and discovered I was an ISFP. Those letters were like bread crumbs leading down a new path of discovery. I took other personality tests, and learned amazing things about how our mind works. They taught me that our feelings, moods, likes, and dislikes all come from this complex organic system we call our bodies. Knowing this encourages me to practice honest, and gracious self-assessment when I find that I’m being too hard on myself.

Several years ago, I was given a copy of Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0, from Gallup. The assessment identifies your top 5 strengths (hence the name). The list wasn’t surprising, but it was very revealing.

My five in order from top to bottom: Adaptability, Input, Empathy, Ideation, and Maximizer.

Without a doubt, these are my strengths.

As I sifted through the “Strength Insights and Action-Planning Guide” I noticed a couple patterns. One, I’m fiercely independent. Routine and schedules frustrate me. I like to go with the flow. I get bored easily. Everyday is different, and I get something different from every day. Bob Dylan said it best, “I change during the course of a day. I wake and I’m one person, and when I go to sleep I know for certain I’m somebody else.”

Second pattern: In three of my strengths I was given the career suggestion of journalism. Wait, what? Journalism? So, immediately I thought “something is wrong here”. I began to tabulate all the things I’m not good at. I pictured a journalist in my mind, and I didn’t see myself in any of those images. I’m not great at writing, or reading, or speaking on camera, or…

But, “Journalism” wouldn’t go away. It kept nagging at me.

Then I remembered something. In high school I had a weekly, one-hour radio show as part of the Radio Club. I had totally forgotten about it! It was SO much fun! Oh, don’t get me wrong. It was all of the kinds of awful you’d expect from a group of high school kids. I hope, and pray there isn’t a recording of it out there. (side note: I’d pay big hush money to get rid of any bootleg cassettes tapes).

That wasn’t all. Before I decided on art school, can you guess the college degree program I was most interested in? Broadcast Journalism.

As my Strengths Insights added up I began to consider that maybe “journalism” wasn’t such a strange idea. And, maybe it doesn’t have to be a career. After all, lots of artistic people don’t do fine art for a living (ie. myself). I already have a job, that I’m pretty good at, that helps feed our family. I get a lot of the flexibility, and variety that I need in my work. Plus, it’s meaningful, purposeful, and rewarding. Obviously, I’m not changing careers.

These were the beginning thoughts that eventually led to The Bean Pot podcast. I think it was a two, maybe three year back-and-forth of debating if it was worth it. What ultimately pushed me over the edge was a conversation. A typical, casual talk over drinks with a friend. As we left the restaurant, I turned to them and said “Dude, I wish we had recorded that”.

That’s when it finally dawned on me. An epiphany. A moment of realizing just how much I love learning about who we are, and why we’re here. I love conversation, and solving problems by helping others maximize their own skills. I want to help humans be kinder to each other. I want to reduce suffering in the world. We need more understanding. We need more tolerance. We need more empathy.

I hope that finding my Strengths will help you find yours.