Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ali Luke.
If you run your own business, you probably spend a fair amount of time looking at what others in your field are doing.
What services do they list on their website? What do they tweet about? Do they write blog posts, or produce a podcast? What are their clients saying about them?
Perhaps you think that they know far more than you. They’re offering exactly the services that the marketplace is hungry for. They’ve got a carefully-worked-out system of content marketing.
And maybe that’s true.
But, chances are, they’re simply playing to their strengths. And if you try to emulate their success … you’re probably not going to succeed.
Finding Your Strengths
Your strengths are the things you’re good at and that you enjoy. They might be skills that came easily to you – or ones that you’ve developed over a whole lifetime.
- Coaching and encouraging others
- Connecting people together
- Teaching and delivering information
- Picking up new technologies swiftly
- Speaking fluently and engagingly
- Being photogenic
All of these could be an asset in almost any business. Let’s say you’re a website designer: being good with technology could enable you to help clients who have odd, obscure systems (and who want to stick with them). You don’t necessarily need to compete with the design-genius who only works on WordPress sites.
Sometimes, you’ll have known what you’re great at for years. I’ve known since I was about 13 that I could write well and write fast. (Unsurprisingly, I’m a writer…)
Other times, though, your strengths will surprise you. Something that you thought was a weakness will reveal itself in a new light.
When I was a kid, I got teased about my “posh” accent. For years, I hated my voice. I was afraid of doing audio, because I thought I’d alienate my audience. But then I went to America for a conference, and I found that to pretty much everyone outside the UK, I just sound endearingly British.
What are you really good at?
Do you have any perceived “weaknesses” that could actually be strengths?
Using Your Strengths
Knowing your strengths is only useful if you actually use them.
- Making them a core part of your business. If you’re brilliant at teaching, then run ecourses or webinars or live seminars.
- Giving them priority in your schedule. Mornings are my peak times, so I use them for writing. (If you need some help figuring out your best time of day, head here.)
- Helping other people to know your strengths. You don’t have to go around bragging: you can demonstrate what you’re incredibly good at through the things you link to on Twitter or the ideas you blog about.
It’s not cheating to play to your strengths.
I know it can feel that way. If something comes easily or effortlessly to you, it’s tough to see the true value of it in the marketplace.
I love writing, and I’d never pay someone to write for me, so it took me a while to realise that my clients were more than happy to pay me for 30 minutes work that would save them six hours of struggling.
The things that seem easy to you could be exactly what your clients would gladly pay you to do for them.
How could you tweak your business so that you’re using your strengths? How could you change your daily routine to give your strengths priority?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and especially any stories from your own life where you’ve succeeded by playing to your strengths. The comments are open!
Marcia Francois says
Ali, I love this post! And I really need to book that session with you 🙂
Ali Luke says
Shoot me an email any time! 🙂
Archan Mehta says
At an early age, I discovered my strengths: I had a passion for the outdoors.
I could walk for hours without getting tired. Getting lost was a boon, so I could discover a different way back to home base.
For the same reason, I was good at sports and manual labor excited me. However, I was also academically gifted, had a flair for writing, and enjoyed reading all in my free time.
On the negative side, I did not care too much about technology and machines. I never developed an interest for computers and cars. I still don’t own any vehicle.
While people tend to drive vehicles, I prefer to walk on open roads. I prefer dusty, country roads or walking through the woods or forest. That works best for me. Here, I do not encounter vehicles and mean stares.
Moreover, I can suddenly lose interest. Since computers don’t excite me, I can be away from them for days at a stretch. Sedentary work does not agree with me. Hence, it would be difficult for a guy like me to adjust to a conventional, 9 to 5, desk job. Oh, well.
Ali Luke says
I don’t own a car either (though it’s on the agenda for the future!) — and like you, I very much enjoy being in quite, outdoor places. I also enjoy technology and computers, though; I fear the balance tips a bit towards those rather than enjoying the outside life!
Antti Rasinen says
What a truly disappointing article. With a title like that, I half expected to see at least some of the following topics:
– how to identify my strengths (“What are you good” just does not cut it)
– discussion on what happens when I do stuff I’m good at but I don’t enjoy it
– a wider selection of examples than just the writer
– a lot more expanded section on how to “use my strengths”.
Ali Luke says
Antti, I’m sorry to hear this disappointed you.
I never intended to write a great deal about *finding* your strengths (otherwise I’d have called the piece “How to Find Your Strengths” or something!) — this was supposed to encourage people to *use* the strengths that they probably already know about.
I wrote from personal experience because I know what went on behind the scenes, so to speak. I also hoped that the lovely Productive Flourishing audience would want to add some of their own examples in the comments — just as Archan has done above. 🙂
Ali Luke says
To clarify slightly … this was supposed to be an encouraging/inspirational piece rather than a detailed “how to” guide.
Extreme John says
Excellent post. I can really agree. When you know your strengths, that would be a big opportunity to succeed in business. But if you know your weaknesses and find strength in it, you can become even stronger and better than you think you are.
Great article! I agree the key to finding our strengths is often around what we are good at and what we enjoy. Identifying and accepting our ‘weaknesses’ (non-strengths?) can be an opportunity to build on what we’re not good at or an opportunity to ‘out-source’.
This is wonderful Ali. Like you, I still marvel at the fact that people will pay me to write – something that I’m willing to do for free – and actually make a a career and a side business out of it.