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I thought STRENGTH would be a great topic to blog about this weekend, given we have both Passover AND Easter right smack on the same weekend.  How often does that happen?  I bet an online search could figure that out in a few minutes.

…but OK, back on track here.  Let’s try not to do a wackadoodle tangent too soon shall we?

I gotta hand it to my friend D for recommending not one but TWO great books to me.  She’s a bold, joyous and wonderful soul, not really caring that I tell her quite often that I’m not an avid book reader.  I’m just not.  After being on a computer all day I like to escape with some silly TV or maybe some magazine reading or catalogue browsing.  I know, not the best brain cell exercising.  Maybe D just knows deep down I’m going be curious and want to read what she recommends anyway.  She’s right!

So here we go.  What are YOUR strengths?  Pick up StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and get ready to find out.  Buckle up, because this is not your typical book.

Why not?  Well, the first 30 of the 175 pages are the required reading.  The rest of the book reviews themes – 34 talents most common in human behavior that are indicative of success.  When you are done with the questionnaire within this book you’ll know your top 5 of these 34 that are uniquely YOU. 

The idea is to focus on what’s RIGHT with people, rather than fixing our weaknesses.  “People have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies,” writes Rath.  He calls doing otherwise “The path of MOST resistance.” 

Rath goes on to explain how most learning programs focus on helping us become what we are NOT.  Do you suck at numbers?  Spend time in that area and get a degree already.  Are you not very empathetic?  You’ll get sent to a course designed to make you more of an empathetic type.  He goes on to explain how we even make icons of people who struggle to overcome a lack of natural talent.  Anyone remember the early 1990s film Rudy?  I never saw it myself, but Rath uses it as a glorious Exhibit A.  Rudy Ruetigger was a groundskeeper at Notre Dame.  At 5′ 6″ and 165 lbs he wasn’t the type physically to play college football, but he had big ‘heart.’  He worked tirelessly to gain admission to Notre Dame.  Rejected three times in the process.  He joined the practice football team.  Took a beating daily in practices for years but never got to join his team on the sidelines.  

Finally he is allowed to suit up for the last game of his senior year. In the last moments of the game, with a Notre Dame win comfortably guaranteed, his teammates lobby the coach to put him in.  Rudy goes in for a single play…and tackles the opposing team’s quarterback.

Of course Rudy becomes an instant hero – the fans cheer his name and carry him off the field.  He’s invited to meet President Clinton, Colin Powell and the legendary Joe Montana.  Says Rath:  “While Rudy’s perseverance is admirable, in the end, he played a few seconds of college football and made a single tackle…after thousands of hours of practicing.” 

Hope no one is upset about the spoiler here.  After all, this movie’s been out nearly 20 years!  And it’s a true story too.

“You can be anything you want to be.”  Can we?  Rath suggests on the contrary that…

You cannot be anything you want to be, but you CAN be a lot more of who you already are.

Are you intrigued?  So was I.  And, a tad relieved I didn’t have to read the entire book – true confession.  What also was different about this book is that there’s an important, sealed insert which has a unique access key to the StrengthsFinder website.  You’ll create an account on that website and then start the questionnaire.

What the questionnaire does is capture your instinctual, first in your head responses.  You only have 20 seconds to respond to each item.  Now, there are no questions about your education or degree or anything you would typically put on a resume.  You won’t be asked about your skills, like writing software code, driving a truck or selling a product.  Your questionnaire results will identify your innate talents, which are less likely to change over time.  These talents (themes) each come with a few examples of what they “sound like,” ideas for action to further capitalize upon them, and recommendations on working more effectively with those with that particular theme or talent (where it’s not necessarily one of yours).  This is a highly recommended exercise for work teams to gain a deeper understanding of one another, hence the “working with” suggestions too.

And, allow me to share my top 5!  I smiled as I read through these, as I really do think they are ME.

Woo:  People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over.  They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.

Communication:  People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words.  They are good conversationalists and presenters.

Positivity:  People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious.  They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.

Arranger:  People who are especially talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that compliments this ability.  They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.

Achiever:  People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard.  They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

Oh, and what was that black object doing on the cover of this book at the top of this post?  That’s a rock I found on a window sill in my guest bedroom…part of a collection I purchased as part of a hearth candle display.  I found it yesterday as I wandered into that bedroom and smiled looking down at my neighbor and his brother who have been wonderful getting my back deck power washed and re-stained in anticipation of spring and summer.  I clenched the rock in my hands and smiled.  And then, I opened my hand and look at the word etched on it.