Why Achievers Matter


NOTE: For the next 34 weeks the Strengths Shot will focus on a single StrengthsFinder theme and dive deeply into it and explore its nuances, applications, and how knowledge of it can improve the quality of life for us all.

Even if you don’t know what the StrengthsFinder is, you will likely identify with what is written in these posts.  Maybe YOU are like the person being described or, perhaps, you know someone else who is.  The idea is to dive deeply into what makes us tick and to look at ways of truly connecting and embracing one another for who we truly are, not who we want one another to be. 

Each Strengths Shot will have a description of the theme, an explanation about why we should care about this theme, and then a list of 10 things to know about ourselves and others with this theme.  Importantly, one of the BIG ideas from the StrengthsFinder is that it gives us a shared language and a lens to see, appreciate, and, ultimately, love one another.  So, in these writings, I have tried to create a personal development resource that may help us all better understand one another.  Please enjoy.

What Is the ACHIEVER Theme

There is a drive and an inner-fire present in the lives of those who embody this theme.  They are productive and, generally, self-starting and self-fueling.  They rarely need prodding to get things done.  The day isn’t over until something has been objectively accomplished.  They are not big on theoretical achievements or simple participation—they want results, something that can be pointed to and crossed off of the list.  When Achievers go on vacation, for example, they like to do things and generally make the rounds on wherever they visit.  They place a high value on actions that produce tangible outcomes.

Why Should We Care

These are the people who get things done—they may even seem obsessed with it—so, when the going gets tough, Achievers are the ones to help us push through.  They are the ones who set the pace, buckle down, and deliver results.  They may never be satisfied with what they’ve done, which means they are always hungry for more and newer challenges.  They help us all take projects, plans, and visions out of the theoretical and into the actual.

Ten Things to Know About People with ACHIEVER

1.  Stamina.  These folks have stamina when it comes to work.  Long hours and pushing through can actually be sources of energy for them.

2.  To-Do Lists.  They are big on them.  They may even write something down that they’ve already done, just so that they can cross it off.

3.  Sleep.  Achievers might not need as much sleep as the rest of the world.

4.  Dissatisfaction.  Like the US interstate system, the work of Achievers is never fully finished.  Part of their fuel is, in fact, dissatisfaction.

5.  Daily Life.  Each day is new, a blank canvas, and the value is in doing, finishing, and doing more.

6.  Depression and Anxiety.  Accomplishment is a true source of life for them.  Without continuous achievement and ongoing projects, Achievers can feel depression, existential, and anxious.

7.  Pausing.  Achievers have a hard time slowing down to smell the flowers and count the wins.

8.  Relaxing.  The thought of relaxing can actually be stressful.  They might relax by doing something, i.e. folding laundry, taking a class, organizing a drawer, or balancing their accounts.

9.  Multitasking.  They might place a high value placed on multitasking, even when it seems unnecessary, i.e. doing sudoku puzzles during Netflix, taking lots of notes during a lecture, listening to podcasts while gardening.

10.  Other People.  Achievers place a high value on the work ethic of others.  They may seek out the company of other hard workers.


Zach_Headshot_Edits (4 of 23)

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Part 9 | The Nine Laws of Life

Strengths Photo 22

April 12, 2017

Law Nine: We Need the Little Things

It’s the little things adding up over time that creates our lives.  In the same way that a tree trunk grows ring by ring, as opposed to just appearing suddenly overnight, we form who we are in the big picture by evolving incrementally in the little picture (aka the day-to-day).  Even life’s defining moments—those times when we put it all on the line—are made up of countless micro-moments leading up to that point.

Where we are at this exact instant is the direct result of all the previous instants added up.

Growth like this is called accretion; defined as a thing formed or added by gradual growth or increase and/or the coming together and cohesion of smaller matter to form larger bodies.  From the moment of our birth up to the here and now, we have been creating ourselves and our reality bit by bit.  It’s the same way that we read—we don’t read entire pages all at once.  No.  We read individual words, which form sentences, which form paragraphs, which form pages.

So, it’s the little things that create the big things.  And, most of the time, it’s what we do consistently that produces the largest results.  Take teeth, for example.  We cannot brush them for a solid hour on the first of the month and then call it good for the next four weeks.  No.  If we want pearly whites, we need to take time each day and brush them.  Every day.  Bathing is no different.  We cannot just shower really well on a Sunday and then expect to smell good on Friday.  It’s about consistency—small actions adding up.

Add to this, in a physical sense, we absolutely need the little things; we are, after all, made out of atoms.  And, given that there are 78, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 atoms in a single grain of sand, imagine how many there are in our bodies.  In that way, it would seem that we humans really need and rely on quite a few “little things”.

That said, while a single atom all by itself is, in its own right, miraculous; it is the collection of atoms that we are talking about.  It is in groups of atoms that we experience the physical world around us; it is their collection and organization that provides the grandeur of life as we know and recognize it.

Metaphorically, that is how we live and experience time.  Our lives are collections of single moments added up.  We experience life one moment at a time, which, when taken collectively, creates an outline, which creates a pattern, which creates an architecture of who we are in the present—memories, relationships, identity, and meaning.  We generally establish our sense of self, our preferences, our beliefs, our inner-reality, and our view of life over the course of many years.

Any time we decide to make a change in our lives, we are wise to remember this Law.  Doing so allows us to enjoy the ride and truly live the journey, as opposed to feel annoyed and frustrated by it.  Progress is progress, period.  And, if we are focused only on outcomes, we can miss the incremental changes that come as a result of our efforts.  When we feel like we are not “getting anywhere” we are likely to give up.

In some ways, it boils down to the old question, “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer being: One bite at a time.

Given the choice, who among us would want to feel all of life’s happiness at once and all in one shot?  Isn’t it better when it’s spread out over the course of many decades with other emotions sprinkled in.  Or, would anyone want to eat a life’s worth of desserts in a single sitting and then never eat them again?

Probably not.  It seems that a huge part of the value and meaning that we experience comes as a result of things happening over a period of time, which, when gathered up, collectively create a larger, more poignant message about who we are, where we have been, and where we are going.

Again, it’s the little things adding up that create the big things—even if we don’t always see it as such.  Take a wedding, for example.  Anyone who has ever helped plan a huge ceremony knows that it functions like a clock with a thousand gears.  It’s the countless moving parts all coming together and working in concert that creates the day.  However, most guests at the wedding experience it like a single sweeping moment.  One big thing, not hundreds of little ones.

And, last but not least.  This Law relates to the words that we say to one another.  Take LOVE for example.  We cannot just shout “I Love You” really loud at someone and then never say it again.  Letting those around us know how we feel about them is not a matter of volume or force, but instead it is one of consistency.  Like brushing our teeth, telling folks that we care about them is done best as a daily practice.

A question that we can all ask ourselves is this: Are there any little things that you’ve been taking for granted?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.


Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Part 8 | The Nine Laws of Life

Strengths Photo 21

March 30, 2017

Law Eight: We Need the Extremes

Light needs darkness to shine in.  Without it, it would just be light shining into more light, which is just light indistinguishable from itself.  Right?

Opposites define each other.  Like it or not, if we want to experience warmth, we need to have something cold to compare it to.  Or, if we would like to know silence, we also need to know loud.  This does not mean that we need to jump in a cold lake or clash a cymbal every time we want to experience warmth or silence; instead, it means that we need to be, at least, aware of opposites in order to authentically experience the spectrum contained between them.

Take happiness, for example.  The fullness and intensity of our joy in any given moment is felt in direct relation to all of our past experiences with joy and non-joy.  In general, we know exactly how happy we are based upon our memories of happiness and unhappiness.  We know that we are precisely this happy because we know what it is like to not be this happy—maybe more, maybe less.  It’s like a dance where opposites are defining each other, and where when one gets more extreme, so too does the other.

Or, in the words of Alan Watts, “We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.”

An awareness of extremes gives us definite points of comparison, things we can point to and say, “Ah, I am definitely experiencing Y because I am aware of XY and Z…and this is not X or Z, it’s definitely Y.”  Without two extremes, there can be no mid-point.  So, in this way, the extremes co-create everything that is between them.

That is, we cannot have a middle without at least two ends.  Right?  So, in order to know where the center is, we must first know where the two poles live.  (Or, if we are dealing with something more complex, something better suited to a matrix, we need to know the shape of the grid and where its boundaries are.)  Either way, we must know what is outer-most in order to locate what is inner-most.

So, outside and inside are two parts of a single whole.  We cannot have one without the other.  They are absolutely inextricable.  Some would even say that outside and inside are the same thing.

In all cases, without acknowledging the full range of our experience, we cannot participate in the fullness of what life may be offering us.  If we say, for example, “There are only positive thoughts in my head”, we are denying the other half of that equation—the contrast points, the “non-positive” points of comparison that give us our definition of what is “positive”.  That type of denial is dangerous.  Not only does it exclude very real parts of ourselves, but it also eliminates our chance to achieve authentic balance in our lives.  This is because there can be no true balance until we know what is at either end.

Imagine, for example, a playground with a teetertotter that has no ends—it’s just a board that extends out in both directions infinitely.  Not only would that be really weird, it would also be impossible to determine where the balancing point is.  In this way, it is the extremes themselves that create and define the center.  We need them.

Importantly, as the extremes change, so too does the center-point.  The middle and the ends are in constant working dialogue.  Neither are ever fixed.

If nothing more, we are wise to periodically remember this Law of Life, as it can put things into perspective and challenge rigid black and white thinking.  This matters because so much of life happens in the grays, in the in-betweens.  And, if we spend our time focusing on the extremes, which is easy to do, we miss out on the fact that there is an entire range of experiences that we could be having right here, right now.  Acknowledging the extremes helps us acknowledge the spectrum, the mid-points, the center—and when we hold that type of awareness, we are more likely to be and feel present in our lives.

Of course, we will visit the extremes in our lives–emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially, and physically.  But, it would be difficult to exist purely in them.  So, we need not try to live there.  No way.  Instead, if we want more clarity about where exactly we are in our lives, we need, at a minimum, to be aware of the totality of what we are working with.

From there, the question becomes simple: Between what extremes am I living?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.


Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Part 7 | The Nine Laws of Life

Strengths Photo 20March 22, 2017

Law Seven: Our Surroundings Matter

Wouldn’t it be strange to visit Antarctica and find vibrant, healthy flowers growing out of the ice?  Or, imagine a heavy ocean creature covered in long and dense fur.  Or, a landscape with only one kind of bird, one kind of mammal, and one kind of insect.

None of this seems very likely, right?  That is because certain environments produce certain things.

Therefore, everything is a co-creation of its environment.  As hard as one may try, ice does not create flowers; however, soil does.  And, when it does so, it does it effortlessly.  Everything—including us—is a co-production of its surroundings.  We evolve out of our environment, we are a part of it/it is a part of us.

Our surroundings have an instinctive way of weeding out what doesn’t make sense there.  This applies not only to the natural world, but also to our social and mental environments as well.

Humans affect humans, it’s as plain as that.  We are, in fact, vital components of one another’s environment.  Imagine, for example, how hard it would be for someone to stay passionate and driven when everyone around them is dreary and pessimistic.  It’s common enough.  That passion over time gets heavier and heavier to hold when they are the only one carrying it.

We grow and evolve in direct relationship with our surroundings.  Our environments produce the limits—on both ends—of our potential.  For this reason, we have a common cultural story of the small town kid moving to New York or Los Angeles in order to become the person they want to be.  In that narrative, the person wants/needs to be exposed to variety and diversity in order to expand—they need to be challenged in order to change.  It’s a question of inner resources (perspective) being paired with outer resources (horizons).

If we are not aware and intentional about whom we surround ourselves with as well as the ideas we expose ourselves to repeatedly, we run the risk of becoming like boiling crabs.

That is, when a pot of crabs is brought to boil over a stove the animals, understandably, begin to panic.  As this happens, every so often one of them will get its claw over the side of the pot and begins to pull itself out of the deadly water.  In that moment, the other crabs do not help him escape, instead they pull him immediately back inside where they all boil.

This can be what happens to us if we are not wise about our environment.  It’s that whole “misery loves company” thing.

The flipside, however, is to be like the migrating ducks who, famously, take turns being at the head of the V—where it’s hardest—and then cheer one another on turn by turn.

Because we are, to a large extent, the co-creation of our environment, it matters who and what we surround ourselves with.  Since we cannot control everything that goes on around us, we are left with one line of defense, one essential tool, and that is: awareness.  And, only after we’ve become aware can we take direct, calculated, and effective action.

Questions we can ask ourselves are: Who are the five people I surround myself most with?  Do they promote greater and greater versions of me, or do they want to keep me the same?  Do I have access to resources where I am?  What do I feel is missing from my environment?  How can I put myself in touch with people, ideas, and perspectives that promote my highest self?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.


Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Part 6 | The Nine Laws of Life

Strengths Photo 19March 10, 2017

Law Six: We Need One Another

Why is it that babies in orphanages die without human affection?  Why is it that the physical growth of babies is stunted when they are not held regularly?  Why is it that long-term solitary confinement is considered by the psychiatric community as torture?  It seems that the human body and the human mind were not designed to last in isolation.

In 1624, when poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island, entire of itself”, he was making a pretty straightforward observation about us.  That is, we cannot be whole and cutoff from our fellow humans at the same time.  More simply put: We need each other.

This idea has held true throughout time.  And, it would be difficult to argue with it in its most primitive sense: Surviving birth.  The fact that we cannot survive for even a day without another human being for the first year of our life says something about who we are as a species.  As babies, we are helpless.  So, at a minimum, we need other people at least until we can walk.  (Then, hopefully, a benevolent pack of wolves will come and raise us up.)

Insert the fact here that as a species, because we cannot self-replicate, we need each other on a universal scale of genetic existence.  It’s beginning to look like Law Six is unavoidable.  It is impossible for any one of us to exist from start-to-finish without another human being.

Looking beyond the basic biology of survival, a case can continue to be made for our interdependence on one another during all stages of life.

Perhaps we can agree that it is unlikely that we have been put here simply to survive and endure; if the natural world is any indicator of our ‘purpose’ here, we are here to grow and change in relationship to our environment.  So, the question becomes, is our innate ‘non-islandness’ present, too, when it comes to thriving?

The answer seems to be: yes.  In general, throughout time and across the globe, human beings have organized their individual lives and actions around hubs of other human beings and their individual lives and actions.

Even if we are loners or those who reject society, we are relying on the knowledge and infrastructure of the past for personal points of comparison.  That is, we still stand upon the foundation of those who have come before us to define and create our present selves.  We are, after all, social creatures as well as transcendent ones—that is, we seem naturally inclined to want (maybe need) to improve ourselves and our situations.  And, we connect with other humans past and present to achieve this.

This is not to say that every person on earth is meant to be joyfully joining arms in harmonious co-evolution.  No way.  There are plenty of people who choose to live in isolation or to walk an ascetic path, which is, in fact, a reaction against the communal quality of our basic human nature.  And, embedded in every reaction is an acknowledgement.  Ironic, in a way, is the fact that these outliers are just as interdependent as anyone else.  This is because anything that creates a counterpoint is in direct relationship with its opposite.  The one defines the other; without the one, the other cannot exist.

We know light only because there is darkness.

The hermit, for example, decides to live away from others because of others, or some quality of the community that is intolerable to him.  In this case, society guided his decision to live in opposition to social norms—it gave him something to react against and define himself by; without others, he would not have to become a hermit at all.

As we evolve as individuals, we don’t all need one another in the same exact same ways.  There is clearly a spectrum of human-to-human needs in which we participate to various degrees, which is fortunate because it allows for the astonishing variety of our interactions; this keeps things interesting.  Nevertheless, we need each other, none of us exist in a vacuum.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.


Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.