Saturday, December 31, 2016

Strengths and Weaknesses

(thanks for the inspiration PM)

Great conversation with a dear friend over dinner the other night.
He reminded me of the power of strength and weakness in all of us.

Modern psychology tends to focus on improving our weaknesses.  It suggests that when we find areas of our skills which are weaker than others, we invest additional time and energy in training for balance, making those weak areas as good as the others.  We appreciate the balanced view rather than a focus on a few areas at the expense of others.  Even as fighters, we are taught to excel at all ranges; all distances; all styles; all weapons.  We are all taught to seek Universal Skill.  This, as my friend explains, is a dangerous paradox.

There is a negative spiral associated with our own weaknesses.  We are aware of our weak areas and so we avoid them.  We procrastinate because we know we are not good at them.  Eventually, when no other choice is available, reluctantly we try - knowing that we will not do as well as we would on something else.  Inevitably, this is true and the result is poor.  This fuels the cycle ("see, I knew I couldn't do it") and reinforces in us the fact that we are not good at a particular thing.  With focus, effort and willpower this can be overcome.  For example, I was a terrible swimmer.  I knew it, so I rarely swam.  Because I rarely swam, I never got better.  Each time I tried I gave up after a lap or two, shamefully reminded that I am bad at swimming.  Finally, I took swim lessons.  They were difficult and I made little progress, but eventually I improved.  I am still poor at swimming, but a little better than before.  Lots of effort for minimal gain.

My friend suggests instead investing time and energy in those things we are already good at, seeking instead to become the absolute best at them.  Since we know we have skill already, these tend to be things we enjoy more, which further adds to our motivation.  Ignore the weaknesses, focus on making the strengths invincible.

I considered his words deeply.  In my career, I have become known for having some specialist knowledge and skills which have set me apart and kept me in demand in the job market.  In other areas, I must admit I am weak.  Rather than expending effort to try to improve on these many weak areas, it is far more effective for me to acknowledge them and focus instead on making my strengths even stronger - and getting help or offloading the areas that I am weak at.  This is very productive and helps me use my time most effectively.  Leveraging my strong areas more gives me higher motivation and higher productivity as well.

In martial arts tool, focusing on our strengths is very important.  In FMA particularly, it is a highly individualized art.  We make our own Kali and our own flow, suited to the way we move and our mindset.  Of course, we hope to be well rounded and able to adapt to any changing situation, but it is inefficient to spend huge amounts of time in areas where we have low motivation and little potential skill.  The fact that any of us can do anything is indisputable.  However, time like other resources is finite, and focusing on getting the maximum output for our effort is worth consideration.

The key point here is to invest the time to know yourself deeply.  Understand who you are, what you enjoy and what motivates you.  Many times this is simple trial and error, but it is wise to remember the various activities and the feelings that went along with them.  At the beginning, trying as much as possible, and later selectively narrowing to the things that really matter.

In 2017, I want to highlight and reinforce my strengths both on and off the mats.  I want to be more "ME" and focus much less on what others expect of me.  I want to accentuate my strong areas and do my best to avoid or at least reduce, the time I spend using my weak areas.  I want to be efficient in how I use my time and energy, trying to make every day count and accomplish more with less.

What do you think?  

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