Strengths and weaknesses. We all have them.
Ours are jealousy and the ability to recall minute details and lesser-known quotes from Wes Anderson movies.
We'll let you guess which is which.
The good news about this imperfect existence is that you can always learn how to make up for the skills you lack by finding ways to turn your biggest weaknesses into your juiciest strengths.
Minda Zetlin, business writer co-author of the book The Geek Gap, knows a thing or three million about turning these imperfections into assets. She's had to confront her fear of rejection and conflict in order to wind up where she is the today: as the president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Here, we have some of her best tips for doing it.
1. Admit you're not that cool
If you deny that you're like any other muggle — marred by the occasional imperfection and weakness — you can't even begin to turn those weaknesses into strengths. So, before you do anything else, recognize the areas of your life and personality that need improvement. Determine what exactly you'd like to work on, write it down, and get it sorted. This'll help you create a clear goal of what you want to improve.
That doesn't mean you should get down on yourself for not being perfect. Think of it as quite the opposite — you're just on the way to making yourself more perfect. There you go! Stop crying.
2. Get guidance from someone you trust who has the skill you lack
Chances are when you see someone who has perfected your weakness, they had to go through the same process you are now to turn it into a strength. So, finding someone with experience in the area you want to improve is essential — they can walk you through the steps they took, what they wished they'd done differently, what kind of blood and guts it took to get where they are, and what it feels like knowing they've tackled something you want to tackle.
Plus, not only does talking about these things with someone you trust will help you realize a million little ways you can go about improving, it also helps you affirm whether a particular weakness is worth your time. Be humble and know when to ask for this kind of help; it's great to have someone who knows what you're going through to bounce ideas off of.
Pro-tip: finding someone you not only respect, but trust, is important because it'll help you hold yourself accountable to them, something else that could be very motivating in your quest to suck less.
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Undoubtedly, the best cure for weakness is to overcompensate with preparation.
Have to give a speech, but stutter like a 1950s housewife after electroshock therapy to "zap her sadness away"? Practice in front of your friends and in a mirror over and over until you you're so comfortable with the material that reciting it out loud becomes natural.
Keep getting yourself into shitty relationships? Prepare for your next relationship by taking stock of what went wrong in your past ones, comparing that list to your new partner, and seeing how similar it is. If you find your new partner embodies many the same qualities as your old ones,
Hate your job but unable to quit? Interview everywhere you possibly can so you have somewhere to go the moment you walk out of your office doors for the last time.
Thinking ahead and repeating the steps it takes to master something will get you exactly where you need to be: in a better place than you are.
4. Hire the skills you lack
Look, it's nice that you're going through a process of self-improvement and everything, but let's cut the shit.
There are some things that you suck at that you will always suck at. Not because you yourself suck, but because you don't have the time or resources to improve in those areas.
So, instead of forcing yourself to waste time at something you're no good at, hire someone who is good at it.
Apart from compensating for your weakness, this'll help you build up an important skill: finding people you trust who you can work with.
As Zetlin says, "There's no bigger test of trust than giving someone a task you don't fully understand and then getting out of the way. And no better way to empower the people who work for you."
5. Don't worry about perfecting something — just get good enough
Mastering your weaknesses and translating them into strengths does not, in any way, mean you have to master a skill. You don't have to write a dissertation on a part of you you're self-improving and no one's going to call you up as an expert witness to discuss how you turned your fear of public speaking into a career as a orator.
All you have to be is good enough.
"Even though you may never be great at all tasks, some are important enough that it's worth the extra effort to learn more, practice, and achieve minimal competence," Zetlin says. "A very smart entrepreneur I once knew headed up an internet company even though he himself had no technology skills. Though he trusted his team, he wanted to learn enough about what they did to be able to tell when they could meet deadlines and when they really couldn't, what was truly possible and what wasn't. As he put it, he learned 'just enough to be scary.'"
If you want to shoot for the stars and slave over self-improvement to mastery levels, good for you! You can do that. You can totally be the best at something.
But for the rest of us underachievers, rest easy you don't have to be the best; just better than you were.
6. Use your weakness as a way to help others with the same problem
Ever heard the saying "aggravation is the mother of invention?" It means that when there's a problem, people are driven to fix it.
And, if you've got a problem with yourself, you can bet your sweet pansy ass that other people have that same problem too.
Many success stories start with the founder feeling they needed something to improve their life with, so think about ways you can help other people compensate for their deficiencies and yours at the same time.
Involving other people that kind of mission also helps keep you accountable to make your flaws into strengths, and you can feel good knowing you're making a difference for other people in the process. Your weakness — the thing that used to fuck with you and ruin your self-image — could actually wind leading to a successful new path for you in the future.
The biggest strength transformation comes not just from helping yourself, but from making a difference in other people's lives, too.