In high school, there was a group of popular guys that I wanted to be part of. They would wear construction boots, jeans, and flannel shirts to parties. So to become one of them, I decided to dress like them. It was a shallow idea, but hey, I was a teenager.
At the next party, I showed up in boots and stepped toward them. The leader of the group glanced at me and in a sarcastic drawl said: “Hey Chris…nice boots.” My head sank, my heart dropped. I could tell he was kidding by the way he elongated and punctuated his few brief words. In that moment, I understood I couldn’t be one of them.
If I could speak to my teenage self today, I would say this: You don’t have to become someone else to be happy or successful. Instead, as Donald Clifton would say, “Become more of who you already are.” Use the unique strengths already inside.
Dear Reader, I would say the same to you.
The world doesn’t need a copycat of someone else, doing copycat things poorly. The world needs you living out who you were created to be. The world needs the bright and brilliant you fully alive. The world needs your inspired contributions.
And let me tell you, the world will not get you and your inspired contributions if you pose around in somebody else’s boots. You must find your own way of walking. Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
How will you come alive to make the contributions you’re intended to make? By living from your strengths. Your strengths are your means for making your inspired contributions to the world. They’re your powers for making your mark, the gifts you’ve been given to do the work you were placed here to do. No one but you can use your strengths to do the work that you must do.
You’ve got all kinds of strengths within you, urging to pop out:
- Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied (Gallup).
- Personality Traits are your normal ways of behaving that together form your personality temperament.
- Skills are special abilities to do certain things well.
- Knowledge is information that you’ve learned.
- Values are the principles that are most important to you.
- Experiences have taught you more than you know.
- Partnerhips with mentors, friends, colleagues, coaches, and love ones have called out talent and strengthened you.
So you see, there is absolutely no one who has what it takes to do your stuff but you.
So first resolve to become nothing more or nothing less than who you were created to be. Then discover your strengths, grow them, and leverage them as much as you can. “Find out what you do well and do more of it,” says Clifton. From the intersection of the true you and your strengths will spring forth your inspired contributions.
And the world will be better off, and so will you.