Last post I introduced you to two widowers at my church, Gus and Hal. Gus can’t walk, Hal is blind. Either one of those disabilities is enough to discourage most of us, let alone a couple of 80 year old widowers who are feeling the effects of age and loss. You wouldn’t begrudge either one if they decided to stay home and watch SportsCenter (well, Gus anyway) or listen to books on tape. Oftentimes losses lead to a lesser experience of life. We become more aware of our limitations and we, well, limit ourselves. And indeed, in time that will be the case with all of us.
But Gus and Hal together don’t let limitations limit them quite so much. And the key word is “together”. When they come to church, they come together. Gus sits in his wheelchair and guides Hal, who pushes the wheelchair and lets Gus give direction. Gus can see, Hal can move and together they get out into the world.The secret to their partnership is both simple and profound.
- They are keenly aware of their limitations, but they focus on their strengths.
- They have partnered together around their strengths.
And you don’t have to have a degenerative eye disease or be an amputee to know that what is true of Gus and Hal is true for all of us. We all have limitations and we all have strengths. The accepted wisdom is that in order to be successful in life, one needs to continually focus on improving one’s weaknesses. The assumption being that a truly good life is a life of self-contained, self-reliant independence.
Gus and Hal challenge that assumption and demonstrate the difference of what partnership can do. If Gus tried to get around on his own, he wouldn’t get very far. He could likely push his own wheelchair for a while but when his arms gave out he’d be done. If Hal wanted to get out and about into the world, he’d be limited also, but by focusing on Gus’ good eyes and Hal’s strong legs and back, together they go further than they ever could alone.
Recently, in my work with TAG Consulting, I was trained in CoreClarity. CoreClarity is a tool that builds upon Strengthfinders to help people know and maximize their innate talents. It’s an interesting and helpful tool that is being used by corporations, non-profits, international ministries and churches (like I am doing with my staff) to help people focus more on their strengths and less on trying to improve on their weaknesses.
The studies done on focusing on turning talents into strengths are pretty clear. If people can honestly accept the truth about their strengths and weaknesses, those who put most of their energy into using and developing their strengths (instead of overcoming their weaknesses) are far more successful, energized and passionate about life. Partnerships that build around a diversity of strengths create more successful teams AND allow each person to function in the areas where they are most talented, animated and have the most to contribute.
They key to living beyond limitations: Awareness of limitations, developing strengths and collaborating with others.So, where do you put most of your energy? Overcoming your own weaknesses in search of an elusive (and lonely) self-sufficiency? Or enjoying and developing your talents into strengths in partnership with others?