A Simple Question That Will Positively Change Your (Business) Life
“Grow where you are planted.”
I recently received a really nice phone call from a former client. The last time we talked was a few years back when she asked me to lunch to discuss her career. This call was to thank me for the outcome of that conversation.
When we had that lunch, she was working in marketing, managing a portfolio of consumer products. She told me she was feeling stuck and in a rut. She sensed she was at a crossroads and needed to make a career change.
I told her that I didn’t have any answers. But, maybe, I had the right question for her to ask herself.
“When do you feel the strongest at work?”
After deeply considering the question for a few weeks, she decided to switch companies and take on a job in new product development.
She recognized that when she was empowering next, she was virtually unstoppable. She absolutely loved solving challenges with new product and service ideas, but she was less passionate about supporting them after they had been launched.
She realized, after considering my question for a while, that product maintenance was exhausting and frustrating for her. It didn’t play to her strengths. Worse, it had become about 85 percent of what she did every day.
By asking the question “where do I feel strong?” she understood she was spending most of her time in activities that drained her of energy instead of giving her energy.
How about you?
Business coach Dan Sullivan created a company around the concept of what he calls “your unique ability.” Among other things, Strategic Coach trains business owners to find and focus more and more of their time on what they do best. He argues that this focus leads to better results and a more fulfilling life.
Watching the leaders I most admire, I gotta agree with Dan.
Think about it. Do you spend the majority of your time and energy working on your passion or trying to improve your weaknesses? If you’re like most of us, it is the latter.
My oldest son was studying for finals last week. I asked him how it was going, and he said, “Well, I pretty much suck at __A___, but I really enjoy __B__, so I decided to double down on __B___.
Dad, you’re always telling me to focus on my strengths, so I decided to take your advice.” *
My unprofessional parenting response? “Sounds good, son.” The last thing I want is to have a child who spends his life focusing on things that make him feel weak. That’s a recipe for a really sad life.
But that’s what many of us do, isn’t it? It’s amazing how life teaches us to focus on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. “You got a ‘D’? Spend twice as much time on that subject.” We double down on what we’re not good at, hoping to improve marginally, leaving our strengths—the things that make us feel the strongest—to languish.
And we wonder why we feel so tired, so drained, so disengaged.
It’s sad. And even worse, we are unconsciously doing it to ourselves. Enough.
You Can Change
If you think about it, there are moments in your work life when you are firing on all cylinders; you are unstoppable; you are passionate and in the zone. If only you could find ways to do more of THAT, imagine how successful and happy you would be.
Here’s the thing: You can.
I’ve noticed that the most successful people I know have found ways to spend most of their time doing what they are most passionate about. And the more successful they become, THE MORE time they spend on their passions. Go figure.
Perhaps many of us overlook this phenomenon because we’re too busy lamenting our weaknesses or wondering how the leaders around us manage to produce such amazing results. The answer is pretty simple: They have found a way to stay in the zone and we have not.
So I’ll ask you, when do you feel the strongest at work?
When you have your answer, may I suggest you do more of that?
*In the off chance that my son’s teachers may be reading this, I have left these blank to give the kid a fighting chance.
Article originally published Jan. 29, 2014, on Forbes.com