One of the classic holiday tales (and song and TV special) is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In the extremely unlikely case that you’re unfamiliar with it, Rudolph is a reindeer that is different than all the other reindeer. He has a bright red nose that lights up. Unfortunately for Rudolph, no one appreciates his distinctive strength (the thing he’s good at that no one else can do) and instead, he’s teased and excluded.

Think back to when you were a child. Did you have something that made you weird, like Rudolph? I definitely did! The key is to try to harness that weirdness as a strength. I was a “bookworm” and read all the time. I mean All. The. Time. It was definitely a source for being teased and excluded. On the other hand, it also gave me a distinct advantage when it came to schoolwork – I loved to read and do the assignments!

Being a bookworm also come in handy throughout my adult life. I have a wider breadth of knowledge on topics from all those books. I can make connections among seemingly unrelated topics because of that background. I love diving into research and reading to help me solve a problem. I can use all the books I’ve read to carry on meaningful conversations with people who have all sorts of different interests and hobbies. Basically, that thing that I got teased about as a kid is a huge asset to me. Just like Rudolph. 

What’s interesting about Rudolph’s story is that it took the keen eye of his boss (aka Santa), coupled with a new challenge they’d never had to solve for (some unusual weather conditions!) in order to recognize and value Rudolph’s distinctive strength. And once the boss shared how much he appreciated that strength, Rudolph was finally able to see it as a strength too. Then all the reindeer loved him and shouted with glee and whatnot!

Sometimes people recognize their own distinctive strengths. More often though, we end up feeling like Rudolph on the Island of Misfit Toys and we need some help (and maybe an annoyingly catchy song!) to figure it out. 

#PositiveAction Think back to a time when you were like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and find a way to leverage it as a distinctive strength! 

Inspiration for this post came from one of the most amazing, thoughtful, uniquely talented people I know. Thank you!

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Last week, I shared a little bit about the awesome Honor Flight that I was lucky to be a part of and what a great experience we had. It was literally a day of kindness… which was cool since that is one of the attributes that my great uncle is known for. He is also known for his compassion. 

Kindness and compassion aren’t necessarily celebrated as top leadership traits in the world of work and yet any one of us knows that working for or with someone kind and compassionate is a pretty great experience. 

What can we learn from this? 

  1. Live into your strengths, whatever they are
  2. Don’t worry if you lack the “traditional” qualities
  3. Actions leave a lasting impact, even seemingly ordinary ones

First and foremost, you need to identify and accept  your wonderful, weird strengths. Then use them wherever and whenever you can! If it’s compassion and kindness, like my great uncle, do that! If it’s strategy and planning, do that!

Second, the narrow definitions we see on what makes a great employee or leader often fail to take into account the first point. When we’re using our strengths, we will be most successful. That will look different for each of us, of course, but the fact remains. In the case of my great uncle, his approach was different than many educators of that time. Instead of focusing on discipline, he leaned into his strengths of kindness and compassion.

Third, our ordinary actions in our ordinary moments in any given ordinary day are often the things that are most vividly remembered later. I love the irony of this! My kids are frequent reminders to me because we always talk about our favorite part of the day before bedtime. 9 times out of 10, it’s the everyday activity that stands out for them: reading books together or playing a game or watching our favorite show as a family. No fancy trip to a theme park or over-the-top gift required! Just hanging out doing the stuff we were going to do anyway. Basically extra ordinary is all that’s required.

That brings me back to my great uncle. He’s spent his life displaying kindness and compassion, regardless of if it was in style or what “successful” leaders did. It wasn’t noteworthy or award-winning. It was weaved into his ordinary every day. And it was so memorable that many of his former 6th grade students felt the need to thank him for it nearly 50 years later. That’s pretty extraordinary to me!

#PositiveAction Think about the legacy you’re creating by using your strengths. How are you making your ordinary days extraordinary?

Photo created by me. 

 

Contentment strengths work career coach
Content-mint!

*Ignoring my mint joke in the title… Contentment in American society today is even more difficult to find than a person who has actually achieved work-life balance! But when you’re content with what you have, whether food, clothes, or your unique strengths, you can not only be grateful for them and enjoy them but you can find creative ways to use them. 

So what’s that got to do with being weird

We talked last week about the importance of owning your weirdness, those things that make you unique. It’s hard sometimes, to appreciate the thing that’s made you weird your whole life. Quite likely, it’s been labeled as bad by someone else and it takes some mental and emotional work on our part to reclaim that same weird thing as awesome! 

That’s exactly the work we need to do, though. You can never fully appreciate your strengths as long as you’re comparing them to someone else’s. You’ll always be able to find someone using similar strengths in a way that you think is better. The internet is great in a lot of ways, but it also puts comparison in our face ALL. THE. TIME! Look at this person being awesome over here! *Feel a little worse about yourself* Look at that person being awesome over there! *Feel even worse*

We don’t have time for me to launch into my diatribe on limits on technology and a full tech detox (Cliffs Notes version: they’re both extremely necessary for each of us!), but I want to highlight the challenge that looking elsewhere creates for us truly appreciating our unique strengths. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” 

Basically, when we’re focused on the thing we don’t have, we can’t be content. And until we’re content and fully appreciate our own strengths, we won’t be able to fully use them. 

#PositiveAction Spend 5 minutes being grateful for the strengths you have. Write them down and think about how helpful they’ve been throughout your life.*

*Note, I love this exercise because you only have to spend a few minutes doing it, but you can refer back to it as often as you want!


Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay 

As I’ve shared before, I used to wish for different strengths. It’s so easy to look at someone who is using their strengths and lament how you can’t do it as good as they can. And you’re right! That’s not your strength and it’s not what you should spend your time doing.

I listened to a great Disrupt Yourself podcast recently about figuring out your strengths when you’re struggling to surface them. The tip that I loved: What is something that made you weird as a kid and how can you leverage that now? It’s a fun thing to think about… once you get past the shame and embarrassment of your bad haircut/clothing/personal style/etc. that accompany the memory!

It can be hard to identify your strengths, particularly if you’re new to the world of work. There are lots of different approaches you can use to help you come up with answers. Often, it’s more challenging to acknowledge and appreciate your strengths after you’ve identified them. 

As one example, I remember going through an MBTI exercise early in my career and having the feeling of flunking the test! More accurately, I wasn’t yet comfortable with owning aspects of my personality like being an introvert. I incorrectly assumed that extraverts have more fun* and I was destined for an unfun career and life, complete with a BORING label stamped across my forehead. *Note: extravert fun is a different kind of fun that actually isn’t fun for me, but rest assured I’ve managed to have my fair share of introvert hijinks!

Being an introvert doesn’t make me weird, there are lots of introverts in the world. My enthusiasm isn’t weird either. Lots of people are psyched about things! Neither is my bent toward efficiency and order (though many will argue those traits are a little over the top!). It’s not my love of reading or cats or nature or TED Talks or thrift shops or anything else. But when you combine all those things that make me, me, you get something completely unique and original. 

And that’s true for Every. Single. Person. None of us can really be “normal”, since that doesn’t exist. This planet is filled with 7.5 billion unique, original, weird people and counting.  

If the “keep it weird” campaigns of many cities like Austin, Portland, and even Milwaukee will attest, weird is more about celebrating something unique. Weird is now a compliment. 

Interestingly, many of my clients struggle to talk confidently about their strengths and communicate the immense value that they bring. So we work together to make sure they are comfortable embracing their story in all its weirdness. This is absolutely crucial to your personal brand. Sharing your value helps other people to know what they get when they work with you. It creates clarity for others and gives you freedom to do your best work.

You can work authentically by owning your strengths, idiosyncrasies, and especially the stuff that makes you weird. That’s your unique blend of skills, perspectives, and talents that NO ONE else in the world can bring.

So whadya say? Let’s keep it weird, people!!

Image by Tracy Lundgren from Pixabay