#4 – Know Your Strengths

Between now and March 22, I am happy to share “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”


What are you doing when you are at your best?

What are you doing when you feel the most accomplished, competent and confident? What are you doing when you feel energized, when time flies by, when your work is not work but a natural extension of yourself?

As you answer these questions, you are describing your strengths.

And your ability to do so – with clarity and conviction – is the best chance you have to make sure you get to use them as much as possible.

We are shy about our strengths. There is a common cultural conditioning to be experts at naming our deficiencies and novices at naming our gifts. This is a huge mistake, a massive cultural gap that will only narrow when you and I decide that it’s not just ok but necessary to name, to own, and to live out the very best of who we are.

We too often defer to others – especially authority figures, especially bosses – to tell us what we should be good at. Some know better than to do this but most do not. And so, it’s our responsibility to define them first so that we can be our own best advocates for doing more fulfilling work and living more fulfilling lives. It’s our responsibility to make it clear so that we can teach others how to work with us for mutual and sustainable success.

If after reading this you are scratching your head, wondering what your strengths are, go ask a few trusted colleagues and friends. Go ask them for examples of when you are at your best. Ask them to describe your strengths. And then listen, really listen, and trust what you hear.

The sooner you do so, the sooner you’ll give up on the temptation to fit the square peg of yourself into the round hole of that “great” opportunity. The sooner you do so, the sooner you’ll discover the consolation of awareness that leads to insight, and the insight that leads to action.


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Gifts On the Trail

Last Saturday, on my way up the Mt. Woodson trail, a Buddhist monk passed me heading the other direction.

Later, as I finally made my way back down, I came across a clutch of prayer flags placed atop a boulder. I assume the orange-robed monk left them there, but I can’t be sure. What I have since learned is that prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetan Buddhists believe these prayers will be blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion into the surrounding environment.

I received peace, an appreciation of the rough beauty of my surroundings, my concerns about completing the hike abating with each step down the hill.

I received compassion, for myself and my limitations, and for my dog who was a faithful and willing companion on the trail.

I received strength, both of spirit for having spent the afternoon in a beautiful and challenging place and of body, discovering a small but steady resurgence of my physical well-being as I neared the end.

I received wisdom, having bathed in the humility of my limitations during the final hour of my ascent, a fresh awareness that my core responsibility at all times is to offer the best that I’ve got.

These timely prayers, washing over me as I passed by, were a welcome reminder of the physical and spiritual generosity that always surrounds us. They were freely given and happily received.


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Prayer Flags – Mt. Woodson Trail – Jan. 2020

The Tyranny of “They”

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There are many, many bright and thoughtful people who will be happy to tell you which path to follow. It’s much easier to play armchair quarterback with someone else’s life so opinions come freely and often.

The tyranny of “they” afflicts us in two ways:

First, it supports our reservations about declaring our path through an invasive voice that asks, “What will they think?”

Second, it muddies our efforts at clarity by allowing too many theys to have a say.

They are vital for support, strength and guidance. But only a select few. For my money, this is a combination that works well:

One person who loves you unconditionally; a person who only wants the best for you and will take extraordinary measures to make sure that you get it.

PLUS…

One person who respects you; someone who is familiar with your work but has an arm’s-length distance in personal matters. This person believes in you and holds a broad and diverse perspective.

PLUS…

One person who challenges you; someone who has a track record of telling it to you straight. They don’t suffer fools and aren’t concerned about offending. You’ve probably disagreed with them before and will again.

When I finally decided to leap a number of years ago, my wife said “Of course…we will make it work.” A former boss said “Let’s talk this through” and coached me to the strategies vital to successful first steps. And an associate spoke plainly about the potential pitfalls ahead.

In the end, the decision was mine. And it was made with loving, respectful and challenging support.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

To be powerful

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

– Audre Lorde

There is liberation in this quote: you don’t have to conquer your fear, you just have to make it less important.

How? By using your strength in service of your vision.

So then, if you want to quiet the voice of your fear, two other voices must be amplified.

The voice of your vision. Where are you going? Why are you going there? What is it that is yours to do?

The voice of your strength. How do you demonstrate your best self? What do you do that brings you fully alive?

Speak your vision. Speak your strength. Let your fear become a fading whisper.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

You Are Not Sisyphus

You do not have to push the rock up the hill. You are not Sisyphus, consigned to an eternity of pointless labor.

You will not convince the otherwise confirmed. Your cajoling will fall on deaf ears. If you feel otherwise you must be a martyr.

Do not labor in futility. Your self-righteousness is your least admirable quality.

Instead…instead! Start a small fire that attracts those who are sympathetic to your cause.

Demand of one another a rigorous testing of the clarity of your belief, the strength of your resolve. Then and only then, free of all shouted certainty and full of whispered humility must you share the better way.

Those who are ready will hear you.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.