September 23, 2015
Because we are always changing, we are never done knowing ourselves. The wisdom of the strengths remains true as we evolve.
There are more than seven billion of us on the planet right now. And, at this moment, we are each of us thinking, dreaming, wondering, or imagining something. We are vast. And, similar as we might appear at times, no two of us are the same. We all have skills. We can all bring something to the table.
With that in mind, what can be said to be the first ever skill mastered by a human being? It probably wasn’t juggling or ventriloquism. It was likely the development of an ability that sustained life, right?
Humans, for example, mastered fishing more than 42,000 years ago. Not “got good” at it. Not “figured it out”. But, mastered it.
Researchers found the remains of thousands of ancient fish in an Australian cave. And, not just any old bones, either—amid the piles were those of tuna, which, even by today’s standards is a difficult catch. That is to say, our ancestors weren’t just dropping a line in the water and hoping to get lucky. They had clearly figured out something that worked and they used it to their advantage.
So, if fishing was mastered more than four millennia ago, how long did it take us to realize that we could even fish in the first place? After that, how many years did it take for us to get good at it? And what was that process like? When it comes down to it, we’ve probably been trying to catch things in the water forever…
Fast forward to the present. Despite everything else that is happening in our world—including Twitter and bacon ice cream and competitive horse jumping—people still, to this day, go fishing. Add to that the fact that it has evolved into a more than $130 billion industry worldwide and we can glimpse both the spectrum and the existential magnitude of human capability.
Now, let’s consider the opah, which was discovered for the first time this year. Put aside the fact that it is huge, bright orange, and shaped like Frisbee, it is the only truly warm-blooded fish.
We’ve been masters at hooking, netting, trapping, spearing, scaling, cooking, and eating fish for more than four thousand years and we are still finding new ones? Not only that, but species of fish that break the mold on what we thought about them in the first place? (i.e. cold-blooded and all)
Though, when it comes down to it, it really isn’t that surprising. In fact, it’s likely that we will be pulling new and exotic life forms from the ocean forever. Which, when we allow it, is like the process of learning, knowing, and discovering ourselves. We continue to do it all of our lives.
Whether we are skimming the surface or dredging the depths, aren’t we always learning new things about who we are, were, and can be?
The strengths provide a steady guide in this adventure because even as we change, they stay the same. The actual words and ideas, that is, are static—our abilities to interpret their wisdom grows and evolves as we do.
Think of when we re-read a book and get something totally new out of the second time through? Don’t we ask, “ How could I have not seen that the first time?” After all, the sentence themselves didn’t change between readings…we changed.
And, so it is with our strengths. The more we think about them, the more their depth is revealed. Choosing to think about our greatness and seeking to develop it can reveal an entire matrix of options and opportunities. It can mean the difference between dropping a single line into a pond (normal life) and casting a vast net into the sea (strengths life).
Because, as we change, our abilities to incorporate, understand, and apply more and more complex ideas into our lives is heightened. From there, we can begin to encourage a strengths perspective in situations that before would have baffled us.
In that way, like the early fisher-people, who probably practiced for centuries through trial and error, we, too, have the opportunity (and the honor) to practice being and finding new layers of ourselves.
The strengths, as always, give us starting points and steady ideas to return to.
So, in what ways are we perpetually growing? What would a list of our greatness consist of? What are some step we could take toward deepening our understanding of ourselves? Greater awareness? A few moments of conscious reflection before bed? What questions can we ask of our lives—and could the strengths be the answer to some of them?
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.