Unfortunate Truth: It’s really hard to become great at something we’re inherently bad at.
Fortunate Reality: it’s possible to become great at something we’re inherently good at.
Fortune-Impeding Fiction: “I don’t have to put as much effort into what I’m good at, so I’ll put most of my effort improving the things I’m bad at.”
Fortune-Generating Fact: When we maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses, we raise our overall potential.
Fortunately-Simple Logic: Let’s imagine a few characters and think about the costs and benefits of changing efforts. We’ll assume poor effort is worth $1 (the reward for the minimal effort required to not be disastrous), mediocre is worth $2, good is worth $3, and great is worth $5. All of our effort = 100%.
50/50 split between mediocre and good = $2.50
Eddie does good work and doesn’t make dumb mistakes. Nothing wrong here, but his goal is to stay in one place, consistently. Eddie keeps on keeping on.
Starts at a 50/50 split of poor + good = $2.00
Norm is intimidated by becoming great so he focuses more effort on bringing his poor skills up to mediocre (granted, Norm is aiming for good, but that would take even more effort).
75/25 split of mediocre + good = $2.25
It’s an upgrade, but his effort shift still has him working harder than Steady Eddie for a lesser outcome. That “really grinds his gears.”
Finally, Ambitious Amy:
Eddie doesn’t want to work the way Amy does, and Norm is jealous of Amy’s success (especially because no one seems to see her weaknesses, even if she is clearly great at several things).
Amy was a 50/50 split between poor + good = $2.00.
Amy was level with Norm when they started, but since then, Amy has changed her effort to really focus on turning her good skills into great skills.
Amy moves to a 25/75 split of poor + great, minimizing the poor and maximizing the great = $4.00!
Clearly, these numbers, values, and effort splits are arbitrary, and clearly the names have been changed to protect the innocent, BUT this is a phenomenon we see all of the time with ourselves, our clients, and our coworkers. Wherever possible, when we see the opportunity to help get someone from good to great, we want to help. So long as poor isn’t disastrous, these shifts in effort can make a HUGE difference.
If we want to get farther ahead in our careers, it will take a dose of greatness. The same is true for client success and supporting our coworkers. We have to choose carefully from whichever skill categories it is possible for our professions. Everyone focuses on what they see – the differences in outcomes, but we need to look a little deeper at the allocation of efforts. Effort and motivation is where the magic actually happens.
*This was inspired by LiveRamp CEO Auren Hoffman’s post, “To Become A Superstar, Improve Your Strengths (Not Your Faults)” (h/t Nir Eyal), which you can also listen to on the Nir and Far Podcast.