What’s your biggest weakness? Things around us change and we each grow and change too.
Skills are things we can learn and practice. Getting good at a skill requires a lot of time. Maybe you know someone who seems naturally gifted with basketball, or learning new languages, or math. What usually goes unnoticed and forgotten are all the years of practice that are needed to become naturally gifted.
Now you might say, “But wait a minute, I really do know somebody who never played a violin before and after just a few lessons was playing like someone with years of experience.” Okay, I’ll grant that there could really be exceptional cases. But what’s more likely is that violin master player grew up listening and surrounded by other types of music. Or something that could transfer.
Our minds work with relationships. Building connections between neurons. The more connections we have, the easier it is to apply those connections to other similar areas. This is probably why our education system focuses so much on fundamental topics. The idea is to provide a strong foundation to build new skills. Sometimes we build skills without even realizing it. For example, when playing games as children, we’re not just having fun. We’re building social skills, physical dexterity, anticipating what other people will do, and many other skills.
Most of the time though, when we think about learning a new skill, it’s because we want to get better at something. In other words, we want to improve a weakness. I highly encourage you to constantly improve your skills. Make sure that you do something each day to get better at something. Just realize that you have choices about what to improve. Should you improve on something that you’re already good at? Or should you search out your biggest weakness to improve?
The answer, really, is that it depends. You need to predict your future needs. And history has shown that we’re not really that good about predicting the future.
You could cheat a bit. In a good way. Find somebody that’s already done something similar to what you want to do or is already in a similar position to where you want to be. Then commit to becoming more like that person. Focus on the qualities instead of the specific steps or the route taken by the other person. Be careful about working on skills that change too quickly. You don’t want to find yourself a master years from now at a skill that no longer matters. That’s why the qualities are so important because these are your foundation.
Pick any discipline and you’ll find that things change over time. New inventions and new techniques become normal and accepted. In order to stay relevant, you’ll have to adapt.
But a bigger change can come about as your responsibility changes through life. Things that used to serve you well become either outdated or unneeded as you progress. These things can be either learned skills like I’ve been describing today or behavior tendencies like what I described last week.
Let’s say that you start out as a bright young engineer with a new product idea. Your technical skills in design and manufacturing got you this far. But then you quickly realize that you don’t know the first thing about marketing, sales, or running a company. These are all learned skills and any one of them could easily be identified as your biggest weakness. You have a choice. Do you choose to continue becoming an even better engineer? Maybe there’s a promising new manufacturing technique that you’d like to learn more about. Or do you stop that strength where it is and start working on a new skill. A skill that at first, you’ll be really bad at. Hey, that’s why it was your biggest weakness, right?
I don’t have an absolute answer for you. My general recommendation is to continue with what you’re already good at. Unless, of course, what you’re good at doesn’t apply anymore. If it’s completely outdated and nobody will ever need that skill again or if you make a conscious decision to change your priorities, then continuing down the same path is just letting yourself fall victim to the sunk-cost fallacy.
Listen to the episode to find out more about the sunk-cost fallacy as well as what I consider to be the most important skill of all.