Are You Trying to Be Great At Everything?

Everyone has strengths and other things that they’re … not as good at.

In 1993, after winning 3 championships, the greatest basketball player in the history of the sport quit to play baseball. His father had always wanted him to play professional baseball, so he tried. And while he wasn’t terrible, he wasn’t great.

How could he be? He’d spent hundreds of thousands of hours playing basketball, but hadn’t played baseball in at all in the previous 10 years. His work ethic and dedication came across in batting practice, but he certainly wasn’t a star player. He eventually quit and went back to basketball, and went on to help his team win another 3 championships.

This example illustrates a common path. Instead of focusing on what we’re great at, what we love, and what we’re best known for – we put our energy into other things. We try to apply our skills from elsewhere into what seems like an appropriate move forward – instead of working to be great at what we already do. It’s perfectly understandable why this can happen. Have you ever been on an interview where you’re asked “what’s your greatest weakness?” What a terrible question. There’s no “good” answer. Everyone is expected to have continually worked on their weaknesses, and have turned them into strengths. If this wasn’t possible for the world’s greatest basketball player – trust me, it’s not possible for you.

A couple of years ago, I was in a meeting with a few people and an industry consultant. The point of meeting was to show how many great things our company was doing. At the end of the meeting, the consultant said “You’ve shown me a lot of things you do. What do you do best?” The answer immediately came from one of the managers, who quickly responded, “Well, all of it!” The consultant pointed out that wasn’t possible. And he was right.
The way we live our lives needs to change. We need to focus on our strengths, and reject anything that doesn’t fit in with those strengths. Have an employee who’s just not fitting in? Look for their strengths, and then figure out how you can use them best. I recently read about a company that moves employees who aren’t doing well into a minimum of 5 different positions to see how they can best be used. Sure, it will take effort, and may not be initially rewarding. But in the long run, that employee will love how they’re used, and they’ll never leave. If you don’t like the job you’re doing, don’t leave – look for other roles that can capitalize on what your strengths are. Practice. Improve. Talk about your strengths frequently, so others know what they are. Volunteer for other areas and cite your strengths as a reason.
Eventually, you’ll become known for your strengths, and your reputation will grow. People will think of you and the thing you do best in the same thought. You’ll be contacted by people who only want to work with you based on what you’re best at. Just like you’d pay to see Michael Jordan play basketball, but you’d never pay to see him play baseball.