by Niall Doherty

“The change to bad fortune which he undergoes is not due to any moral defect or flaw, but a mistake of some kind.” – Aristotle

Lately, between bites of onion rava dosa, I’ve been reading Principles by Ray Dalio (available here for free) and getting a lot of value out of it.

I especially like Dalio’s take on weaknesses (emphasis mine)…

Great people become great by looking at their mistakes and weaknesses and figuring out how to get around them.

People who worry about looking good typically hide what they don’t know and hide their weaknesses, so they never learn how to properly deal with them and these weaknesses remain impediments in the future… How much do you worry about looking good relative to actually being good?

On the way to your goals, you will encounter problems. As I mentioned, these problems typically cause pain. The most common source of pain is in exploring your mistakes and weaknesses. You will either react badly to the pain or react like a master problem solver. That is your choice.

Most problems are potential improvements screaming at you.

If your problems are related to lack of skill or innate talent, the most powerful antidote is to have others point things out to you and objectively consider whether what they identify is true. Problems due to inadequate skill might then be solved with training, whereas those arising from innate weaknesses might be overcome with assistance or role changes.

You need to know what you are bad at and how to compensate for your weaknesses. This requires you to put your ego aside, objectively reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, and seek the help from others.

If you are motivated, you can succeed even if you don’t have the abilities (i.e., talents and skills) because you can get the help from others.

Most people especially dislike others exploring their weaknesses because it makes them feel attacked, which produces fight or flight reactions; however, having others help one find one’s weaknesses is essential because it’s very difficult to identify one’s own. Most people don’t like helping others explore their weaknesses, even though they are willing to talk about them behind their backs. For these reasons most people don’t do a good job of understanding themselves and adapting in order to get what they want most out of life.

My big takeaways from that quotefest:

  1. We all have weaknesses.
  2. Identifying and accepting your weaknesses is painful, but it’s the only way you can begin to overcome them.
  3. It’s usually difficult to accurately assess your own weaknesses. It’s best to have others help with this.
  4. Other people’s strengths can compensate for your weaknesses. Getting help from the right people is key.

Identifying my weaknesses

I’d like your help with this. As noted, it’s difficult to accurately assess one’s own weaknesses. If you’re a regular reader here, you probably know what I suck at better than I do.

But I’ll have a crack at identifying a few of my own weaknesses anyway. I’ll limit this list to six so we’re not here forever. In no particular order…

1. Delegation

I don’t do a great job of delegating to people, especially tasks that I can do well myself. I feel a lot of internal resistence when it comes to giving up control and trusting others to help with projects that are important to me. When I do delegate, I often spend too much time reviewing what was done and making unnecessary edits.

2. Public speaking

I made big strides in this area back when I was active in Toastmasters in New Orleans, but I’ve since regressed. I was a bundle of nerves last time I gave a presentation, and as such my communication was terribly ineffective. I also feel I could get a hell of a lot better at speaking on camera, staying on point and delivering my message clearly in my videos.

3. Being present

Particularly when I’m juggling a lot of different projects and have a lot going on, I find it difficult to sit down and give all my attention to another person. I usually have a lot of mental chatter going on that distracts me from what they’re saying.

4. Selling/Marketing

I like to think I’ve improved a lot in this regard, but I still have a long ways to go. Identifying people’s pain points, effectively communicating how my products/services can help ease that pain, negotiating… all parts of selling/marketing that I can get much better at.

5. Being mentored

This is a big one. I have this weird internal resistance to being mentored. I haven’t been able to figure out where this comes from. I happily ask for and accept help from lots of people, but when it comes to accepting help (free or paid) from someone way more skilled and knowledgeable than me… I don’t know, I just find it difficult. I seem to have this deeply ingrained belief that I should figure shit out on my own, and that getting a helping hand from someone who’s already figured it out is akin to cheating. Completely illogical, I know.

6. Perfectionism

This probably helps explain my delegation issues. I think perfectionism can be a strength in some areas, but when it comes to the higher levels of things like leadership and business, it can be a curse, details getting in the way of the big picture.

Asking for help

What would you add to the above list? Any weaknesses that you can relate to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Also feel free to share your own weaknesses. Writing them down helps a lot, trust me. Don’t worry about coming up with ways to overcome them just yet. All we’re aiming for here is identification and acceptance.