A few weeks ago, I went on a family outing to La Ronde (largest amusement park in Montreal). I hadn’t been to La Ronde in over 25 years. I remember having so much fun on the bumper cars ride. So, I decided to ride it with my nephew. That day, that ride stirred up something in me.
When I got off that ride, I was reminded of a very important lesson I had learned years ago.
I want to share that lesson with all of you and the difference it can make in our lives!
As soon as the ride began, it wasn’t as much fun as I remembered. I was getting bumped from every angle. Getting cornered in by two or more cars, stuck in one place and couldn’t get my car to move. I could hear my nephew yelling from his car, “Turn it around, get out of that spot!” I kept looking around at what the other drivers were doing and where they were going. Meanwhile, a car would pop out of nowhere, bump into me, keeping me stuck in the same spot. At some point, my nephew yelled out something that stuck with me, “Stop looking at what other people are doing. Focus on your own car and start moving.”
Isn’t it funny how sometimes it takes a child to remind us of important lessons? For me, the lesson was:
Focus on building your own strengths instead of comparing your weaknesses to other people’s strengths.
What does this have to do with my bumper cars ride experience?
Let me explain.
That ride reminded me of how I spent quite a few years of my life going through it like the bumper cars ride. You see, I had the tendency of comparing my weaknesses to others strengths. I would end up feeling stuck in the same spot. Like there was always someone out there bumping into me, keeping me cornered, because they were better than me. The thing is, by looking at what they were good at and comparing myself to them, I was allowing their strengths to bump into and keep me cornered in the same spot without moving forward.
An example of this is years ago, I had started working as an on line representative for a big corporation. Within a few months, I excelled in the company objectives and was given a mandate to coach my colleagues. Given my patience and coaching techniques which helped them improve their performance, I began giving training sessions. I loved it! I loved coaching and training so much, I wanted to move up to manager’s position and do it regularly.
In 2 years, 4 positions opened, I never applied.
What stopped me?
You see, compared to others in the company, I didn’t have the knowledge and expertise they had in terms of computer systems and applications. I enrolled in courses to learn it but, I thought, “All the other candidates are so much more qualified.” So, I kept passing each time. Although, I had people telling me how much they admired my patience and coaching skills, I would dismiss it and think, “Those things are not important”. So, I stayed there, letting the strengths of others bump me and corner me in the same place.
One day, following another posting for a manager’s position, one of the managers literally came to get me from my seat, took me in her office and asked, “What are you waiting for?” When I explained my concerns, she shook her head and said,
“Stop looking at what others are good at. We have enough people with those abilities. We need someone with your abilities to motivate employees.”
My own personal angel.
She saved me from my worst enemy. Me!
I applied and got the manager’s position.
I finally got myself off the bumper cars ride of life. I stopped comparing my weaknesses to others strengths and focused on building my own unique strengths.
Soon, I was transforming teams and employees which were considered hopeless and difficult, into high performing teams. How did I do this?
By focusing on each individual’s strength and building it, instead of trying to fix their weakness.
This became my passion. Today, I have started my own coaching business, something which never would have happened had I continued focusing on my weaknesses.
It’s not to say we should ignore our weaknesses completely. It’s important to assess and manage our weaknesses but, not at the expense of burying our strengths. Otherwise, we may never realize the things we can excel at and achieve greatness. We all have flaws. More importantly, we all have strengths that are uniquely our own. While focusing on strengthening your flaws may eventually diminish them, honing your own unique strengths may make a difference in the world!
I was lucky enough to have someone point my strength out to me. It led me to finally get off the bumper cars ride of life, to doing something beyond anything I could imagine. I want to give this back to all of you.
Each and everyone of you have a unique gift that no one else has.
If you’re not sure what it is, there are a few questions that by answering them can help guide you towards recognizing it.
- What kind of tasks or talents seem natural and easy to you?
- What activities work related and outside work do you look forward to and enjoy more than any other?
- What are the things that your colleagues, friends and family say you’re good at the most? What do they come to see YOU for the most?
Don’t dismiss any of your answers as those things are not important. Your unique strengths are linked and buried behind these answers.
If you’ve ever compared your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths, Stop! Use your answers to look inside. Find that gift, that strength deep within. Polish it, work on it, and practice it.
Get off the bumper cars ride of life and watch yourself go!
Are you riding the bumper cars of life? Can answering these question help you to get off the ride? Please, share any other techniques or strategies that we can all try.