Focus on Your Strengths. Steer Around your Weaknesses.

from the Johnnybunko site by Daniel Pink

Today’s to-do list was chock full of tasks so mind-numbingly boring and demotivating that I felt totally drained after doing them.

These tasks had to do with teaching. Now I have no problem with teaching. In fact I savor being the center of attention, facilitator of activities, the guide of students and the sense of what I’m doing is making a difference in the lives of others. It’s the work outside the classroom that I despise the most –paperwork. Lesson plans, materials, reports, the dreadful marking, gathering the best essays for our chair (which is so high school). I’m sorely tempted to chuck all of them out the window but that unfortunately, would also include my salary.

Another aspect of why I hate doing this sort of thing is it takes me such a long time to do it. The minute I start to tally for the student evaluation report, my mind starts to wander and I’m more prone to procrastinate. Whenever I do this kind of work, I often feel like I’m squeezing myself dry. I know for sure I’m not cut out for this. Others are brilliant and you know they’re naturals at teaching like my friend Tonie who can whip out a lesson plan and teaching materials in an hour and a half. Not me. I have to dedicated three whole days just to come up with decent material and by then, I’d be sweating.

This is very similar to the scene in The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, a business manga (yup, you read right) I’ve just read wherein the protagonist, Johnny struggles through checking spreadsheets (he sucks at it) whereas his colleague, Yuko breezed through hers in an hour. That’s because this mind-numbing repetitive stuff was Johnny’s weakness and he didn’t like it. Just like I honestly detest the paperwork and brainstorming side of teaching while Tonie revels at it. As Diana the career guru in Pink’s manga said, “Steer around your weaknesses and focus on your strengths.” While brainstorming and making a one page lesson plan would’ve taken me 3-4 hours, it took me 40 minutes to write 2 blog posts —Taking Frequent Breaks- Effective or Not? and this one. And even though at this time, my energy level drops and I’m tired, still I’m still able to continue because I love doing this and this is what I’m good at.

At the moment, I’m trying to steer myself into a career where I’m able to do this 24/7. So many people are stuck doing things they absolutely have no interest in whatsoever and they try to improve on them. All their efforts will just prove futile because in the first place it’s not what they want to do. The interest isn’t there. So they’re stuck in a Sisyphus type of situation.  Like my friend, Katya who is this amazing math wizard. She studied accounting for four years and got a job as an accountant in a company. But it wasn’t what she wanted to do. She became depressed to the point of looking at kitchen knives with longing. She wanted to know what else is there in life besides checking numbers in spreadsheets and being enclosed in a cubicle. She took a soul searching journey which resulted to her quitting her job, going back to school to major in teaching English and now, she’s a lecturer in a college and very fulfilled with her life. Instead of a cubicle, she’s in a carrel but most of the time she’s out there lecturing her heart out to students.

Do what you like to do. As long as the interest and drive is there, the rest will take care of itself. You just have to be willing to work very very hard for it. Like Darren LaCroix, whose public speaking skills were so bad at the beginning that I’m sure he must’ve been booed off stage many times. Fast forward 9 years later and a damn lot of work and perseverance, he’s now the 2001 world champion of the Toastmasters Public Speaking competition.

Now if you’ve got the passion plus the talent, what are you waiting for? If you can produce great results with your talent rather than rot doing something you’re not good at anyway, people are going to take notice, they’re going to praise you and then yes, eventually pay you for it. Get out of the rut you’re in and start transitioning to a better career, to a better life.

So, what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

P S The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is just a great delightful read that you can gobble up in an hour. It contains a lot of useful gems about deciding your career, doing what you want and benefiting the lives of others. It also talks about how most people have been fooled to following “The Safe Plan” and repressing their desires. This is a book about following what is it that you really want in life. You can watch the trailer of the manga below.

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