He looked at me eagerly,” Can you repeat what you said?”. I sat there smiling because of the enthusiasm he exuded. He desperately wanted to know. And I cleared my throat. “I said that he said I am not the kind person who likes to sit on the sidelines. I go where the action is. That is where I belong.” He smacked his lips and rubbed his hands together. Then I had to repeat it a few more times until he had memorized it for himself.
A week later he came back to tell me a story, “I met this person” he began excitedly. “I busted out that line I wanted from you last time. The person was super impressed by my pitch and we got to talk and I got a business contact out of it. Thank you so much for remembering.” he said hugging me in that awkward we-are-friends-and-I want-to-embarrass-you way.
The words resonated with him. It was wonderful to hear his enthusiasm and how much he identified with the statement because I knew him and I believed him. He did like to go where the action was, and he did not enjoy sitting on the sidelines at all.
I wish I could use that line to start off a conversation with someone. But then it wouldn’t be entirely true. It is not my dominant characteristic per se. So, what to do? What is it do I do well? Or at the very least, what is do I desire to do well?
Many of us find ourselves in this very dilemma. Today’s focus on designing for our strengths begins with this fundamental question. And this search for what it is you do well and how it intersects with your passions helps in designing for your strengths. It is said that weaknesses are remarkably similar for most people. We all tend to be impatient about something, or we glaze over certain details and so all of us can’t really be called detail oriented etc. However, strengths are refined and specific. Where weaknesses are a flood, strengths fall upon each person in drops like a sparse rain that picks its spots with great precision. Strengths are difficult to replicate when others try and they are unique. When it comes to strengths we are all inimitable and original…wait for it.
So, what is it do I do?
Well, I love and enjoy building relationships. Someone suggested it is tiring and draining. I am not so sure that it is these things but I know that it is challenging and I am passionate about it. Building relationships is an intentional process, albeit organic. Relationships range from being as simple as 1+1 to being as complex as the rare event hypothesis. Worthwhile relationships tend to be deep and complex. Yes, today you can get a job through your acquaintances and weak ties. And that is a wonderful thing. However, it is a challenge to get over a tragedy with the aid of these weak ties. It is difficult to celebrate a birthday and feel it a meaningful event with mere acquaintances. However, deep worthwhile relationships are the lubricant of existence. The existence which as we all know is fraught with calamity and challenges.
Someone who is wise sat with me to discuss this. Her opinion was that we all walk around as representatives. Representatives of ourselves sometimes called masks. As representatives, we tend to be guarded and protective. Protecting the represented-authentic-self from the world and protecting the world from that authentic person within. This representative works as the guardian of the galaxy within. The keeper of the doors to the treasure-rich realm inside each of us. And if we interact superficially with one another we miss this deeper and rich experience with one another.
Well, I relish the prospect of going that extra step to connect beyond the representative. That is where the magic of life happens. When people know where my heart lies and I can tell where their heart lies as well. I am not afraid to be vulnerable. It Is not easy and I am not always able to be vulnerable, yet I am not afraid. I am convinced that when one knows where another is at, one becomes free to be oneself; strengths and weakness and everything in-between. I think I was born with my heart on my sleeve.
And because what makes us humans is not our ability to succeed, it is the certainty that we will fall short. Fail someone, fail at a task, fail at an endeavor, fail to make a funny joke, fail to empathize…fail or be disappointed by yourself. And when one connects with us and sees this deeply human trait, but is not scared away and leans closer, the other person is mirrored and becomes free.
Imagine if you could fail and you know that it’s okay because you won’t get punished by losing the relationship or respect of another? Wouldn’t you feel free? Many companies are working on encouraging their employees to innovate and to be lauded when they fail and to be rewarded when they succeed. Connecting with others creates a freedom to fail. This is that rare and fragrant freedom to be, to do.
Now imagine if you were not afraid, to be, to do…what would you do, who would you become?
This is my strength, to connect and let freedom ring. I go where the people are.
So, ask yourself what is it that you do?
Life is a misery to be endured until we die. Even those with terminal illnesses find times of respite and laugh and enjoy their lives. So too is mortality a terminal illness. We will all die, I for one am glad this is so. But before that day I will define myself, I will not go without giving everything I have got, and I will love with all my heart.
I am proud to be an Afropolitan; a world citizen of African descend. I am called Allen and I love writing, eating, and singing in the shower!
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