This phrase has been stuck in my brain since I read it: “Only doing what you do best will hold you back.”
Don’t be afraid to open doors — new doors, heavy doors, doors you may not feel comfortable peeking around much less walking through. At least, if you want to keep stretching your brain and expanding your perspective.
If you want to keep moving forward, when forward movement makes sense.
Plucked from an article on Entrepreneur.com, the recommendation not to do only what we do best is wise counsel.
How else do we develop and improve our skills?
Whether it’s socializing (and working a room) or making presentations (despite a fear of public speaking), not doing equates to not learning, much less transforming a weakness into a strength.
I realize how I’ve taken this next piece of advice too much to heart: Play to your strengths.
Now, leading with your strengths is one thing, and playing to your strengths when you’re in a pinch or the stakes are very high, a different story. Then again, sometimes our greatest accomplishments come when we take a little (calculated?) risk, pushing ourselves out of our usual comfort zones.
The wisdom of Dixie Gillaspie’s article is the opposite of what we typically choose to do, certainly when money, reputation, or a job is on the line. For that matter, we dwell in the safety of our “strengths” when it comes to how we conduct our personal lives. I think of this as emotional stagnation, as we find ourselves unable to find the motivation to take necessary action.
I see an unwillingness to open doors in existing relationships as well. The old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — possibly applied too long, too liberally, and too blindly. Or, we choose the path of inaction, stuck in relationship choices wherein we don’t want to rock the boat.
Reading between the lines, Ms. Gillaspie’s words suggest we should make ourselves uncomfortable from time to time, and she outlines specifics as they pertain to her own experience of tackling a task she may not be good at.
There are a lot of things I know I’m not good at — now. If I tried to get better at all of them, or even two or three of them at once, I’d compromise the performance of my business and give myself a breakdown. So I limit myself to one “impossible” goal at a time. Once it starts feeling doable, then I can pick up something else.
Wise words, and counsel I will keep in mind as I’ve been trying to embark on two “new” areas in the past week, and would do better to reorganize my workdays so as to focus only on one.
And for those of us who worry about the cost of a misstep, I’m not suggesting that we throw caution to the wind when it makes no sense. We play to our strengths in job interviews, in serious discussions with family members, on first and second dates. We play to our strengths for even longer than that. But at some point, we could all say the following, as does Ms. Gillaspie:
Every mistake is something I know not to do again. Some lessons come hard, and expensive, but education is always an investment. Personal mistakes are the “stickiest” form of learning I know.
Of course, there’s plenty of space between our “strengths” and our “weaknesses.” Most of us are reasonably skilled at certain activities, or at least adequate. And we tend to steer clear of anything that makes us feel foolish, embarrassed or terribly out of place. But I think back to my first trip overseas at age 15. I couldn’t have looked more American (and geeky), my French was school-learned and speaking was embarrassing, yet if I hadn’t pushed (and pushed and pushed) I would never have arrived at the fluency that came in the months (and years) that followed.
I dare say — yes!
And yet in college when I was studying in Paris, most of the American students around me took little advantage of the opportunity to speak French, no doubt because they were uncomfortable. How’s that for an opportunity lost with the doors wide open? How’s that for little to lose and everything to gain?
These days, I intentionally put myself in certain situations where I know I’m somewhat ill at ease. Not every day, mind you, but frequently enough that I’m assured I’m stretching my skills along with my tolerance for mistakes.
More often than not? The very act of trying feels like a win.
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