Tree of Knowledge

Unleash your inner strengths

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Extract written by Gavin Oattes for Shine : Rediscovering your Energy, Happiness and Purpose, by Gavin Oattes and Dr Andy Cope

At a ‘celebrity’ level, TIME magazine’s ‘Person of the 20th Century’ would have been consigned to the dustbin of history if we’d focused on his failings. When our celeb was growing up, he was referred to as the ‘dopey one’ and he struggled with words to the point that his family feared he’d never learn to speak.  He struggled at school, with one teacher telling him he’d never amount to anything and was wasting everyone’s time. He muddled through college with uneven grades and struggled to find a job. Our man wanted to be a teacher, but it took him nine full years to land his first teaching job. As if all these weaknesses weren’t enough, he was unbelievably absent-minded. Famously he couldn’t remember his own phone number.

This is hardly the stuff of comic books – but of course all we’ve talked about are his weaknesses. Fortunately, he didn’t focus on his weaknesses, but his strengths. Our hero’s strength lay in creative thinking – imagining thought experiments that involved theoretical physics. Rather than thinking in words, he thought in pictures. He imagined what thinking would look like if he were to travel on a bullet at the speed of light and whether space might curve, so the distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line.

With his incredible imagination, he helped to prove the existence of atoms and dreamt up science’s most famous equation: E=MC ². With his brilliant thoughts, he revolutionised science.

So, guess what, Einstein was like you and I – genius at some things and spectacularly bad at others. Fortunately, he worked hard to develop his strengths and didn’t let his weaknesses hold him back.

And that’s what made him stand head and shoulders above so many others. Remember, we’re talking about achieving wild things, huge unbelievably great goals that sit on the edges of your achievability. You will never get there by plodding along.

Sadly, our preoccupation with fixing weaknesses also does a great hatchet job of diminishing the strengths on the other side. It creates a whole load of averageness and means nobody will be outstanding at anything. Eradicating weaknesses creates middling, run-of-the-mill, Jacks-of-all-trades.

Activity: Unleashing your inner strengths

Get a cup of tea, find a quiet space, and give yourself 15-20 minutes to go through the following questions…

What are you good at?

What are you GREAT at?

What are the things you find effortless?

What (and/or who) gives you energy?

Reflecting on the questions above, what are your strengths?

(If you can’t think of any, change the question to “what would your best friend say your strengths are?”)

What do they look like in action?

Give an example of when you used them?

How can you use them more?

What would happen if you did?

We hope you enjoy this activity. Tell us how you got on via twitter at @Tree_Of!

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