What’s a Sundial in the Shade?

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I have strengths.  Those strengths are different than your strengths and my boyfriend’s and my coworker’s and brother’s and my mom’s and my neighbor’s and pretty much everyone I have ever met.  Sometimes these differences are obvious.  When I was a freshman in college, my classmates were way better at science than I was.  They could successfully execute experiments, memorize mechanisms and understand the complexities of microbiology.  I, on the other hand, was much better in my French, Writing and Public Speaking courses, despite the fact that I was a biology major.  They all went on to be incredibly successful in the sciences (think: Ive League, PhDs, and award-winning research), and I took a entirely different path.  My point is this: all too often, our natural talents go untapped.  I spent four and a half years trying (and failing) to fix my shortcomings —  I was never cut out to be a scientist — rather than developing my innate strengths.

American Eagle is really into personality tests.  All employees are required to take the OAD Survey, and my department recently measured our 4-letter formula according to the Briggs Meyers questionnaire.  These are all designed to ensure that I am being coached, questioned and supported in the way that best motivates me.  The most interesting personality test, however, was Gallup’s StrengthsFinder.  The results rank 34 personality themes from strongest to weakest, and disclose strategies for applying your best strengths.  My top 5 strengths came as no surprise to me; it was just never something I took the time to think about.  Had I, my journey would have looked a little different.

  • INPUT.  I am inquisitive.  I collect things and information, and I find many things interesting.  The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.  I travel to keep my mind fresh.
  • WOO.  Winning others over.  Strangers are rarely intimidating.  I enjoy the challenge of meeting new people.  I am drawn to them.  I want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find common interest.
  • COMMUNICATION.  I like to explain, to describe and to write (she says, on her blog).  I need to bring ideas and events to life, to energize them, to make them exciting and vivid.  I acknowledge that most people have a very short attention span, and I want my information to survive.  I want to capture attention, so I hunt for the perfect phrase and dramatic words.
  • POSITIVITY.  I am generous with praise and quick to smile.  My cup is half full, and my enthusiasm is contagious.  I celebrate every achievement, from big to small.  No matter the setbacks, I refuse to lose my sense of humor.
  • ADAPTABILITY.  I live in the moment.  The future is not a fixed destination, but rather a place that I create with the choices I am making right now.  I am easily able to respond to the demands of the moment, and I expect detours along my journey.  I am, at heart, a flexible person.

It is with these strengths in mind that I tackle projects at work, and even personal relationships.  Each person — and their strengths — are different.  But no matter what, use your talents.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, “What’s a sundial in the shade?”

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