We have no weaknesses… only natural tendencies
Ray Dalio has this saying:
“Every problem is another one of those”
Translation: life has a habit of bringing up the same problems over and over again. You can just skim over that and look for the next grand message. Or, you can pause for a second to think about what that actually means for your life… 🤔
And what it means for your life is profound. It means that every failed project, every ruined relationship, every risk in vain, and every regretful decision in your life have a pattern to them. That pattern is what allows these same problems to come up over and over again and it consists of your ‘weaknesses’.
Once I thought about this a bit more deeply, I started to see my own repeating problems in life and how they could point me to my underlying ‘weaknesses’. The confusing mess of each failure became just slightly more tranquil as I realised that I had dealt with the same type of problem in the past and I could likely get over my ‘weaknesses’ to overcome the current problem as well! 😤
One example is with me being nervous around new people. The thing is that I don’t generally like people all that much… and certainly not new people (who might proceed to do those mystical social procedures that make everything awkward) 😨😁
But after several dozen meetings with entrepreneurs, researchers, and (sometimes) random people on the street — I started to better understand this ‘weakness’, what caused it, and how to get around it (speaking louder and smiling more gets you at least 40% of the way there).
But hidden behind the exciting revelations of how to get around this ‘weakness’ was the less attention-grabbing insight of what caused it in the first place: me caring a lot about people if I get close to them.
But what was interesting was that the very same thing that caused this ‘weakness’ was what allowed me to be a reliable/helpful team-mate, friend, etc. In other words, the same pattern of behaviour that led to my weaknesses in some contexts led to my strengths in others. 😮
This got me thinking… what if the labels we had for strengths and ‘weaknesses’ were a little artificial? I don’t think we have weaknesses and strengths per se… we just have natural tendencies. Those natural tendencies are good in some contexts… and not great in others.
In my case, when I was getting ready to meet an entrepreneur or a researcher for the first time (or walk up to random people on the street to tell them bad jokes 😉) — I got nervous because I didn’t know what this person I was about to get to know would think of me.
BUT in another context (like me realising that my best friend is feeling down and needs some random game to get her mind off of things) — caring about what people I’m close to think makes me all the more helpful!
So why does this tiny distinction matter?
Well, for one, now I have a better answer to the all-dreaded interview question: “What are your greatest weaknesses?” My response can just be “I’m naturally helpful!! 😄” (And just not mention the complexity around how my natural helpfulness is caused by me caring a lot about others close to me, which sometimes also leads to other weaknesses…)
But for a more serious application, this reframes how I go about trying to overcome my ‘weaknesses’.
The implication is that we don’t necessarily need to change all the ‘weak’ parts of ourselves and develop stronger parts all the time. We sometimes just need to know what parts of our natural tendencies to let shine in one scenario (where it’s a strength) vs. another where we need to be a little more thoughtful (when we need to get over weaknesses).
So to confuddle Ray Dalio’s words with my own extension:
Every problem is another one of those… [symptoms of our natural tendencies exhibiting themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time 🤓]