Strengths and Other Ways


November 25, 2015

Sometimes it’s not merely what is being said that matters, it’s who is saying it.

For instance, Erik Weihenmayer says, “People get trapped into thinking about just one way of doing things.”

Now, if we don’t know who Mr. Weihenmayer is, and we assume that he’s just some guy, this quote might come across as somewhat trite and dismissible.  Right?

However, once we learn that he is one of only 150 adventurers in history to summit all seven peaks, our tune might change.  We might think, “Hmm…I wonder what he means by that?”

Then, add to the equation that Erik Weihenmayer is also blind, and it’s beginning to look like a quote worthy of our consideration and contemplation.  (That’s right, he climbed Mount Everest blind.)

So, when he says, “People get trapped into thinking about just one way of doing things” we understand that he is speaking from a place of profound depth; having walked his talk, we intuitively understand that he has a teaching to share.

We live in a time of specializations, advanced degrees, and workaholism—so, it’s easy to think that we cannot contribute value to a conversation unless we’ve somehow studied it.  But, our lived experience counts.  What we have accomplished and survived can serve as validation enough for our own deep wisdom.

Some people spend their whole lives waiting for the right expert to come along and tell them how to live.  When the whole time they are ignoring those people, places, and things closest to them who likely know better than any one else on earth.

Add to that, oftentimes, we forget to listen to the most important expert of all: ourselves.

And, don’t we sometimes learn most by diving in and fine-tuning along the way—stumbling and flailing and learning as we go?

Imagine if Eric Weihenmayer had waited for an “expert” on blind mountain climbing to tell him how to summit the seven peaks.  He wanted to do something that had never been done.  Therefore, because there was no expert, he had to become one.  He learned by doing.

We can each be the experts of our own lives when we strip away fear; we do this by committing to learning as we go and focusing on our strengths.  That way, we don’t have to pretend like we have it all figured out.

The Strengths tell us that we each have the ability to add our thoughts, ideas, and actions to any situation in ways that are significant and productive.  Because we all come from unique backgrounds, no two people are identical and we can always bring our perspective to the table.  We are living breathing snowflakes.

It’s easy to think that there is just one way to do things but the Strengths tell us that there are always 34 ways to do them.  Day by day they guide our inner-voices toward our outer-expertise—the value that we add to the world.

Three Questions

What are three things that I want to do that I have never before done?

Why have I not done them?  That is, what are the logistical/real-world obstacles and what are the inner-world/mental and emotional obstacles standing in my way?

Am I using any of the above as excuses to not even start?  If I am, when will I start?  What needs to change before I can take action?


It’s easier than you might think to let 100 days go by without taking any action toward your goals.  This is an exercise to change that:

Take out a piece of paper and draw four rows of circles—each row having 25 circles in it for a total of 100 circles.

Below the rows write three goals that you would like to accomplish in the near future.

Post this paper on the fridge and look at it often.

Let one circle represent one day.  Each day that passes, put an X through one circle.

This gives you a visual representation of 100 days and 3 goals.

Watch what happens to your motivation as you begin to cross off the days.

Try it to find out.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths Life at Gallup


Strengths: Different Paths to the Same Destination

 Strengths allow us to understand the way others contribute to the world.

Toward the center of our galaxy — about 2 billion light years away — is a supermassive black hole named PDS 456. It’s something so huge it can barely be quantified.

So, how big is it?

Every second, the winds that swirl around PDS 456 conduct more energy than a trillion suns.  Impressive as that fact is — and as small as it might make us feel in comparison — what we do with our lives still matters. We make a difference. We live and interact with others every day. So, what we do, say and think impacts those we interact with –- and the world at large around us.

This is where embracing strengths becomes enormously useful in click for full text.

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To read the rest of the article and to explore the work of other Strengths enthusiasts, click here.

Strengths and Self-talk


November 20, 2015

The thoughts we think matter.

We might think that thoughts come and go and that they don’t really “do” anything, but it isn’t true.

Thinking is not just harmless electrical synapses firing randomly in our brains. No.

Thinking is the process that creates our worldview, brick by brick. The more often we have a specific thought, the more real it becomes. The more often we repeat a message in our minds, the more likely we are to believe it and see evidence of it in the world.

Our thoughts construct the lens through which we see reality. In that sense, reality itself is created by our thoughts.

Don’t believe it?

Consider this: Two people can be sitting next to each other watching the exact same movie and having two completely different reactions to it. One person might be openly weeping over the characters’ suffering, while the other person is pooh-poohing the cheese ball plot and bad acting.

Again: same movie, same room, same time, different experiences. And, the reason for this is not that the film itself changes as it enters the two viewer’s minds. No, instead, the viewers understand the film differently because they have created different mental architectures to receive it.

If the mind has a square hole, it will create square pegs to fill it. If the mind has a round hole, it will create round pegs to fill it.

Through our thinking and life-experiences we shape the terms of the reality we are willing to accept and see. We’ve all known people who live in denial, it seems unbelievable that they cannot see what others see; but it is their mental architecture that won’t allow that information in. Round hole, square peg.

This, too, is why someone who engages in a lot of negative self-talk has a hard time accepting a compliment. They say, “No, you don’t mean that” Or, “No, it’s not true” because that is the message that they are conditioned to hear, seek, and find through constant negative chatter! There is no place for the compliment to land, so they send it away.

Conversely, those who commit to positive self-talk encourage themselves all day long. For them it is a life of constant growth, learning, and evolution. Because they are constantly feeding their minds productive input, they are likely to find opportunity after opportunity to grow, learn, and evolve.

Their mental messages are likely along the lines of “I can grow from any experience” and “I am supported and loved” and “I can do anything I put my mind to” and “When I fall down, I get up” and “It feels great to help others thrive”. They focus on their wins, learn from their set-backs and move forward.

Three Questions

What are five things that I LOVE about being me?

What are three ways that I am similar to those whom I admire?—values, style, ideas, location, background, etc.

What is one small action that I could take TODAY that would better my life?—make a phone call, pay a bill I’ve been putting off, clean my place, schedule a massage.


Develop a practice of immediately saying, “Cancel. Cancel.” when limiting thoughts enter your mind and replace them with constructive ones. For example, when a happy couple walks by smiling and holding hands and giggling and we think, “They’re happier than I’ll ever be. I’ll never find that.” Immediately say, “Cancel, cancel.” And replace that first thought with something like, “That is awesome that two people can be so happy. If they can, I can!”

Because it works with everything, large or small, it is easy to practice. Anytime you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk: Cancel, cancel. And find an equivalent replacement.

This practice turns limiting, fearful messages into actionable, productive ones. It also shines a spotlight on how often we may or may not be giving ourselves defeating suggestions.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Silence



November 18, 2015

What did Mozart mean when he said, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”?

More than that, why should we care?

It’s easy to think of music as sound and sound alone; but he is right, every noise happens against a backdrop of silence.  And, what the musician does with that silence is just as important as what he or she does with the notes.

Without stillness, there would be nothing for the sound waves to move through.  Without silence there would be no music.

In that same way, a painter paints colors against a backdrop of white—an absence.

And, it isn’t until they touch their brush to the canvas that the painting begins and it begins to become something.  Until the paint hits the canvas, it is all pure potential—it could be anything! It could be a Mona Lisa or a Starry Night or a splotch of red.  The key word there being “could” because if the painter never paints…then

No one ever says, “So-and-so is an amazing artist he talks about painting so well.”  No way!  They do say, however, “So-and-so paints so well, they are an amazing artist!”

It’s just like us.  When we spend too long talking about our lives versus living them, we likely miss out—living in that stillness of our potential.

Because, like silence to music and whiteness to color, the real action in our lives happens against an infinite backdrop of indecision and inaction.

Nothing happens until we do it.

The strengths help us determine what the best use of our time and energy is because they help us make decisions which determine our actions.

By reading the descriptions of the strengths, it is revealed that each one is deeply related to both the process of making a decision and taking an action.

How do your strengths help you prepare for an action and take that action?

Three Questions

Am I spending more time preparing for life than living it?

Am I so cautious about having all the ‘right’ pieces in place that I never take that step, make that leap?

What type of painter am I being with my life—O’keeffe, Twombly, Kahlo, Pollock, Walker, Dumas, Kincaid…?


Develop a practice of  silently observing the world for 5 minutes a day.  This can be done any time and anywhere: Try setting the timer on your phone and sitting still for five minutes with the purpose of just watching the world around you.  When you are done, jot down a few notes about how it felt, where your mind went, and what the experience was like.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Planning


November 16, 2015


Despite our best efforts to plan and prepare for life, fact is, we really don’t know what is going happen. And, perhaps, one secret to true happiness the ability to view this as a good thing!

After all, there are seven billion of us running around on the planet and we each have separate—often conflicting—desires, ideologies, visions, and needs. Mathematically and philosophically, it is improbable that everyone will get to do what they want to do when and how they want to do it all the time.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, we all have plans—no matter how big or how small. We all take action, in one way or another, to have things go a certain way.

Unquestionably, we can use our experience and our ability to make educated guesses to improve our odds. But when it all boils down to it, we cannot predict the future in the same way that we can reflect on the past. Time, for us, runs in one direction. Things change.

And the best part is: All of this can be a good thing!

Because of the fact that there isn’t a lot that we can do about unknowns externally, we are wise to consider what takes place internally. Learning to respond as opposed to react to life is a start. Yes. But, what about learning to embrace (even welcome) surprises?

Perhaps, as a culture, we’ve put such an emphasis on preparing for our lives and pushing our individual agendas that we’ve forgotten the value of detours and unexpectedness.

Because, no matter how organized and systematized our lives are…stuff happens. So, the question becomes, how can we make the most out of the inevitable stuff?

Really, the unexpected detour is not always a challenge or setback. It’s a blend of both welcomed and unwelcomed experiences that change our life and our path. Something unexpected, but welcomed, might come in the form of a new friendship, a promotion, or a reunion. Meanwhile, the unwelcomed versions would include the opposites of these things: a break-up, a demotion, or a departure.

Either way, when we get out of bed in the morning, sure, there is a likelihood of the next twenty-four hours passing as planned; but there is not a guarantee. And, where before that thought may have been terrifying, today it can be liberating. We no longer have to live in fear of “the other shoe dropping.”

Why’s that?

By developing a strengths-mindset we are learning to focus on what makes us great; as we do this, we gather confidence in our abilities to add value to the world. We begin to learn and become comfortable with the ways that we can contribute to the lives of others and to grow and change with the world. By focusing on learning from situations—instead of controlling them—it is likely that we can handle what life puts in our path.

No longer are we concerned that situations and people will crush us.

Do I have all of my eggs in one basket? What points in my life are negotiable? What are the must-haves in my life? How would my life be different without them? What action can I take on the “inside” to be ready for changes on the “outside”? How do I respond to surprises?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.