The Truth About Responsible People


People with the theme of Responsibility experience a deep inner connection to the work they do and the commitments they make.  For them, a job well done is a sacred part of their identity.  This mindset extends to their relationships as well as their personal pursuits.  They naturally and automatically take psychological ownership of everything that they do, which is to say that they make their work in the world personal.  For example, if a commitment isn’t met it becomes a reflection of who they are as a whole person.  Delivering ‘wowing’ results is what they aim for, it is actually a major way that they feel their connection to life, to others, and to their sense of self.

Why Should We Care

We can rely on them.  When the rest of the world flakes out, we can turn to the people in our lives with this theme and depend on them to hit the mark.  They are individuals with tremendous integrity, and their work ethic centers around consistent and first-rate results.  They teach us about commitment, follow through, and, in many ways, the value of holding one’s self to a standard of excellence.  They will go above and beyond to deliver the results that they promised.  These people get things done no matter what.

Ten Things to Know About People with RESPONSIBILITY

1.  Reminders.  If they say they will do something, they’ll do it.  They do not need to be reminded.  Checking-in can actually be viewed as an insult.

2.  Large or Small.  The size of the task is irrelevant.  They bring the same high standard to all that they commit to.

3.  Big Deals.  What may not seem like a big deal to the rest of us very well might be a big deal to those with high responsibility.  So, words of affirmation and understanding go much further than minimizing what they are feeling.

4.  Letting Go.  If they feel that they have messed up or failed, they will be extremely self critical.  It may be difficult for them to let go and focus on the next thing if the previous one feels unresolved.

5.  Quality.  It’s not enough for them to simply ‘finish’ a project—they need to know that they did their absolute best in order to feel done with something.  Otherwise, it lingers in their mind.

6.  Reputation. Being in good standing with others and organizations is absolutely critical to them.

7.  Validation.  Because these folks can be so hard on themselves, they may not always be able to count their wins or even see them.  A sincere compliment validating their work and work ethic can go a long way.

8.  Intensity.  Their personal ownership over projects can make them seem overly intense.  This, however, is like a “flow state” for them, and they are in the zone.

9.  The Word No.  For some folks with strong responsibility, the word “no” is not naturally in their vocabulary and this causes overload.  Their work is to learn how to set this boundary with themselves and others.

10.  Love.  Because their sense of self can be so tightly bound to their results, they can experience bouts of feeling ‘worthless’, especially if they’re totally burnt out.  So, giving them a little extra love and/or personal presence can be really meaningful.

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Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at

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.

Here’s Why We Need Empaths


What Is the EMPATHY Theme

Like a sixth sense, people with strong empathy can feel the emotional world around them.  They may tune-in to one person, a whole room, or a group—in every case, they are highly sensitive individuals who are capable of accurately sensing and identifying the feelings of others.  More than that, they actually feel these emotions as if they were their own.  There is an intuitive element in them that is highly developed.  Because of all this, empaths are highly magnetic people and others seem to be naturally pulled toward them.  They may not always show it, but they usually have a deep sense of a situation’s tone, vibe, and mood.  They can be intensely aware of the unseen and the unvoiced.

Why Should We Care

Empaths are the people who connect us to the invisible, the unspoken, and the unheard—they help give voice to the inner-world of others.  They are incredibly evolved in their abilities to truly and deeply understand what others are experiencing, and because of that they help others feel seen, held, and supported, especially in times of distress.  An empath recognizes both sides of a situation more easily than the rest of the world.  This does not mean that they agree with everything, but it does mean that they are able to be incredibly expansive in their thinking.  In doing so, they are able to see light where others might see only darkness, which allows them to come up with solutions and perspectives that others simply cannot see.

Ten Things to Know About People with EMPATHY

1.  Society. As a culture, we are often poorly equipped to embrace the gifts of empaths.  For that reason, they often feel misunderstood, marginalized, and silenced.  They may learn to hide the true breadth of their gift from even the closest people in their lives.

2.  Innate. People rich in empathy might not even be aware that they are ‘feeling in’ to situations.  It is very much a part of who they are.  For them, sensing is as natural and effortless as seeing, hearing, or touching something.

3.  Double-edged. Many people with high empathy describe it as a blessing and a curse.  They may even want to ‘turn it off’ sometimes.

4.  Naming. Empaths are particularly gifted at pinpointing and naming the precise feelings in a given situation.  They may even invent words for feelings or create analogies to describe them.

5.  Recharging. Something as simple as being in public can drain them because they are constantly feeling the emotional energy around them.  At times, normal life can be exhausting for empaths and they may need to step away and recharge more often than the rest of the world.

6.  Guts. These folks will rely on their gut feelings over anything and everything else.  They may not be able to explain it or show their work, but they are highly attuned and will go with their intuition—even if it doesn’t ‘make sense’ right away.

7.  Happiness. A lot of attention is given to an empath’s ability to feel the stress, grief, and sadness of others.  Which is accurate, however, they are just as sensitive to the joys of the world as well, which is why empaths are great people to celebrate life’s wins with.

8.  Detaching. The true work of those with strong empathy is to ‘feel without owning’.  Being able to feel into another’s experience without taking responsibility for it is an art that empaths are always learning.

9.  Sympathy. Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing.  Sympathy is deeply understanding what another person is going through, while empathy is actually experiencing that person’s feelings and walking in their shoes.

10.  Communication. Empaths communicate through silence.  They can often learn and deepen their understanding of a situation or person by simply sharing space with them and being present.

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Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at

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.


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.


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Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at

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

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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

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

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.