Imagine if your entire life was a construction project of a house. You could also imagine that you were born with a single tool attached to your right hand. Think of it this way: you were born with the ability to use a hammer. Nail-slamming into wood is your primary strength. But a hammer isn’t just for pounding nails. “Hammers are used for a wide range of driving, shaping, and breaking applications,” says Wikipedia.
If we’re going to build a house, we’ll need all of those things. It’s a vital duty. Let’s say, on the other hand, you despise them. You’d rather draw with a pencil than a pen-like your next-door neighbour, Jimbo. He is an artist, a writer, a designer, and a doodler. You’re always frustrated and angry because you can’t do anything with a hammer.
Almost everyone tells you to make use of your “gift,” “look, buddy; use it!” So, “Screw that,” you say to yourself. Surely this is an affliction! “I’m only capable of destroying things,” he says. So, you disregard the advice of others and try to draw… Using a hammer.
In the end, Your Tool Is Fine.
As humans, we tend to look up to others’ abilities and try to emulate them in our own lives. We waste our time and energy on things that are not a good match for us. I believe that each person is born with a unique skill or gift that they can use to their advantage in the world. However, the problem is that we misuse our tool. With a hammer, we attempt to become designers or architects. With a soft brush, we attempt to plaster a wall.
“I don’t know what my key skill is,” is a common refrain. However, the solution is always in plain sight.
You have to stop focusing on what Jimbo does and start focusing on what you can do for yourself. Face the mirror and take a good, hard look at yourself. We try to change ourselves in order to do something we “want” to do too often. And where do we get our desires from, then? This isn’t coming from us. Looking at other people gives you this insight. Honestly, I’d like to sing like The Weekend. He has a fantastic singing voice. That wasn’t something he learned through practice. Those vocal cords came naturally to him. Not at all. Who cares? I won’t be shedding any tears over it. Each person is born with a special set of abilities.
Refocus Your Goals
Peter Drucker, a legendary business thinker, preached constantly about the importance of focusing on one’s own strengths. You can learn more about this strategy in Managing Yourself. It’s a quick read that I’d recommend to anyone looking to improve their understanding of who they are as a person. However, we must remember that self-awareness is not sufficient in and of itself. You’re only halfway there if you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. There’s a similar analogy in the world of start-ups and venture capitalists.
“This Week in Start-ups” podcast host Jason Calacanis and Mike Jones discussed how some entrepreneurs are attempting to cut a wall with butter knives.
Despite your efforts, the wall will never be breached. Is that a sign that your butter knife needs to be replaced? Not at all. With a sledgehammer, you can demolish a wall, but you can’t use it to make a peanut butter sandwich. For most people, finding the right tool and where to use it is the most important part of life.
A self-reflection activity
But how do you know what your tool is, and what it should be? It’s discouraging when you’re trying to get through life without knowing who you are. Try the following exercise if you’re not sure what your tool is. Do not go out drinking or join a book club with someone you’ve never worked with. A person who has seen your strengths and weaknesses first-hand is the best source of advice. You can ask your friend to join you in a game. Discovering your strengths and weaknesses is the ultimate goal. This game’s premise is that you and your friends can brainstorm together. Your friend can be a sounding board for you, someone who provides an outside perspective on your situation. This is how you should play the game:
Begin by asking yourself, “What do I do well?”
Then ask yourself, “Do I like it?”
You must restart the game if you answer “no” to the second question. Keep trying new things until you stumble upon something you’re good at and also enjoy. Doing so in a journal is an option, as well. But if you’re playing with a friend, you can draw on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We all have different ideas of our own abilities from time to time. There’s no shortcut to discovering what you’re good at. The importance of humility is frequently overlooked. The ego prevents us from listening to other people’s perspectives. Using his hammer would have saved him a great deal of time and aggravation if he had heeded the advice of those around him.
In the end, this is how life works. We’ll waste our time focusing on what we don’t have if we keep looking at all the Jimbo’s out there. Instead, consider how you can make the most of what you already have.