Justin Ricklefs


The Strength to Look at the Struggle

Click around on a few “life hack” websites or listen to some “management” podcasts and you’ll hear something like this:

The key to success is to focus on your strengths. By doing this, you’ll limit the exposure of your weaknesses. Your strengths are the secret to happiness and success.

My life calls BS on that line of thinking.

But the problem is, it really works!

Until it doesn’t.

And when it doesn’t work any longer, you have no choice but to stare your weaknesses right in the face.

And for me at least, that has been a really painful, long journey because I ignored those silly little weaknesses for so long in the name of riding my strengths to the ground.

Really good at making people happy?

Focus on that but just ignore the codependent insecurities that lie underneath that skill.

Talented at seeing the “big picture” and people think you’re a visionary?

Keep staring off into the distance at big ideas because it’s too painful to stay in the present.

Have unending “good ideas” to pursue because you’re so creative?

Buy new domains, research new businesses, read tons of blogs, just don’t settle into any one idea because it may crash and burn and you’ll have to own the failure.

Get the point?

I could go on about the strengths I focused on for years, ones that helped me climb some rungs on a ladder but ultimately took me farther from something really critical.


See, I don’t think it’s as black and white as focusing on your strengths and ignoring your weaknesses.

I think we’re all a big crock pot full of both. And it’s really hard to separate and determine which is which. The flavors have all blended.

What tastes like a strength may in fact be a crutch or a charade.

What smells like weakness may in fact be the path to healing and growth.

If you’re focusing on your strengths only, I’m sure it feels like it’s going great for you. Because it likely is.

But at some point, the ride stops. And if you’re anything like me, it comes to a screeching halt when you least expect it, when you feel like the strengths are really getting you someplace.

And when it does stop, those pesky weaknesses are still lingering around, waiting to be acknowledged.

So maybe that’s the real strength?

To look at the struggle. To listen to the pain. To dance with the weakness.

And in doing so, maybe that’s how we actually get stronger. Though it doesn’t look anything like a life hack or a management technique.

It looks like a path to wholeness.

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