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Exploiting Your Strengths

October 1, 2019

Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite books of all time—Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People—and though I’ve heard it before, one particular story captured my attention in a new way.

One day, a mouse skittered into a fifth grade classroom and caused an eruption of squeals as students jumped, stood in their chairs, or sat on their desks. The teacher asked her class to quiet down and remain calm. The mouse was nowhere in sight, and every student looked around for it frantically—except one. 

Stevie Morris sat unfazed, relaxed in his seat. Although Stevie was blind and couldn’t see the little mouse, he had a heightened sense of hearing and knew exactly where the critter was hiding.

The teacher knew this about Stevie, so in front of whole class, she asked him to use his gift to help them find this furry creature. His classmates watched in amazement as “Little Stevie” walked right over to the mouse’s hiding spot and became their hero.

Stevie Morris told this story in an interview later in life. He recalled how this moment, when his teacher pointed out his gift of hearing in front of the whole class, gave him the courage to fully leverage this gift. That decision to focus on his strength, not his weakness, helped him become one of the most influential musicians of all time.

Never heard of Stevie Morris?

I bet you know his stage name—Stevie Wonder.

This is one of my favorite stories about identifying and exploiting strengths. It’s important when we look at ourselves, and it’s important we think about others. 

So often in education, in work, and in our family lives, we focus on improving areas of weakness. When a child brings a report card home with a few A’s, a couple B’s, and one D, their parents’ first reaction is to ask why the D is there and focus on the subject that needs improvement.

However, a lot of times when we stop focusing on our weaknesses and instead work to leverage our strengths, we are far more effective. In other words, when you focus on maximizing your strengths instead of improving your weaknesses, you make the greatest contributions to the world.

Let me leave you with two questions to consider this week.

1. What strength do you need to work on maximizing?

Maybe it’s your ability to connect with people, your gift of writing, your creative bent, or your ability to teach. Whatever it may be, develop that strength and use it to positively impact the world around you.

2. How can you consciously call attention to and encourage these strengths in the people in your sphere of influence?

If Stevie Morris’s teacher never called out his gift of hearing, think of what the world might have missed. Let’s strive to be the kind of people that call out the strengths in others and give them the courage to do great things.


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