Train Up Your Weaknesses To Excel In Your Craft
Many of us are mono-skilled — that is, being deeply skilled in only one area. Anything beyond that and we’re completely hopeless. In part, this is because we often avoid doing the things that pain us. It may come in the form of going outside our comfort zones or being stuck in a belief that we can’t do something.
We tell ourselves that we can’t because we’re not good at something — that we’re not skilled enough or haven’t got the years of experience behind us to achieve mastery. However, that’s where many of us go wrong.
Ignoring your weaknesses and only working on your strengths is like training and then skipping leg day. You end up with a morphed outcome with a top-heavy result. Your trained muscle group can also end up not living up to their potential because it might rely on another set of muscles to function fully. Everything is eventually interconnected in some way, even when they don’t seem like they’re not. That’s why when you ignore your weaknesses and only train up your strengths, you fall into the trap of accidentally holding yourself back.
How T-Shaped are you?
In the recruiting world, there’s a concept called ‘T-shaped’ that is placed against all candidates as an assessment metric.
The idea behind this is to put each candidate on a scale of how wide and deep their knowledge and skills are. Width is defined by all the additional skills and knowledge points you have that may or may not be directly connected to the core skills and knowledge points you have. The perk of these ancillary skills is that they’re often transferable with potential connections available for complex problem-solving.
When you look at weakness as something you can’t do, we’re all riddled with the inability to do many things. However, there are always a few core weaknesses that are always within our orbit due to its relationship and connection to our core skills. A front end developer may have poor artistic and aesthetic skills. However, if they were to upgrade their design skills, then it makes the task of finding employment that much easier. Why? Because frontend is very visual focused as much as it is code-based.
An accountant with writing skills has the opportunity to attract new clients or grow their own business by merging it with online platforms. The width of your skillset allows you to expand your options and opportunities beyond the norm. It lets you synthesize new ideas and move you close to your goals.
A collection of skills is better than none
With any act of learning, it takes time and practice to get your skills up to scratch.
When we’re skilled in a particular area, we often forget the journey it took to get to where we are today. We become complacent and comfortable. And then we’re required to use one of our weaker skills for whatever reason, we flinch.
Why? Because there’s a mismatch between your core skills and the weak skills you have. You’re acutely aware of it and don’t want to use them. In part, it’s because you’re embarrassed. You’ve made it this far in your career without it and suddenly, you need to become a complete beginner again.
At some point, you’re going to need to face your fears and have the courage to train up your weaknesses. You can start off in private. Practice with the training wheels on, or do it like ripping off a band-aid and just go for it. Whatever the case, when you simultaneously train up your weaknesses, you give yourself the chance to grow and expand your boundaries while remaining an expert in your current chosen field.
Enlightenment through proficiency
You don’t need to be an expert in your weak areas. This is a mass misconception that you have to be extremely good in order to make an impact.
You only need to be proficient enough in your weak areas to make meaningful contributions and connections to your core strengths and skills. Think of them as exercises to stretch your boundaries and current domains of knowledge.
So how do you train up your weaknesses? Here’s a three-step process I often use on myself that may work for you:
Identify the weak skill and what are the things that are holding me back. I look at it for what it is and from a complete beginner perspective.
Why? because in this particular area and skillset, I am a complete beginner.
I accept that I am a complete beginner — but one that can improve over time.
I isolate the pathways required to get to a proficiency level.
To do this, I break it down into all the potential pieces I need and then selecting the few that are easiest to excel at. I arrange this hypothetical jigsaw in a way that is more akin to progress stepping stones.
Most of the time, I get the order wrong on the first try — but there’s a game plan with pieces of the puzzle ready for me to kickstart my training with.
And start again when I pause, stop, get discouraged, or sidetracked.
When you’re in a domain that’s outside your field of expertise and comfort zone, it’s easy to give up.
That’s ok too.
It’s ok to give up. Think of it as a temporary pause and then pick it up again — but maybe a different jigsaw piece from the previous step.
Things don’t have to be in order. At some point, the picture will reveal itself and you’ll finally figure it out.
Proficiency will come when you make enough dots to connect and create new pictures out of nothing.
When it comes to training up your weaknesses, there will be an initial feeling of burn.
However, it’s a good kind of burn. When you feel it, it means that you’re pushing yourselves just a little further than usual, increasing the elasticity of your entire skill sets and giving yourself the ability to create something new. Innovation in work and thinking comes when you put multiple ideas from different sources, spaces, and places together to make something new.