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Managing Oneself: Identify Strengths

It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.

You can learn to identify your strengths by using feedback analysis. This is a simple process in which you write down every one of your key decisions and key actions along with the results that you expect them to achieve. Nine to twelve months later, check the actual results against expectations. After two to three years of use, you will know your strengths by tracking those decisions and actions where actual results fell in line with or exceeded expectations. Once you have identified your strengths through feedback analysis, you can use this knowledge to improve performance and results. You can make this happen in five ways.

First, concentrate on your strengths. Second, work on improving strengths. You may need to learn new knowledge or to update old. Third, recognize disabling habits. The worst, and most common, one is arrogance. Oftentimes poor performance results from an unwillingness to pursue knowledge outside one’s own narrow specialty. Fourth, remedy bad habits and bad manners. All too often, a bad habit such as procrastination or bad manners makes cooperation and teamwork all but impossible. And fifth, figure out what you should not do.

ACTION POINT: Use feedback analysis to identify your strengths. Then go to work on improving your strengths. Identify and eliminate bad habits that hinder the full development of your strengths. Figure out what you should do and do it. Finally, decide what you should not do.

Managing Oneself: How Do I Perform?

Performance that violates your values corrupts, and it will ultimately sap and destroy your strengths.

Just as different people have different strengths and weaknesses work and perform in different ways. For example, some people reading, others by listening. And few readers can become successful listeners or vice versa. Learning style is just one of several factors that go into making up a person’s work style. There are other questions that must be answered. Do you work best when cooperating with others, or do you achieve results when working alone? If you work best with others, is it usually as a subordinate, peer, or supervisor? Do you need a predictable, structured work environment? Do you thrive under pressure?

You also have to consider your personal values: are they comparable to or at least compatible with your strengths? If there is any conflict between your values and strengths, always choose values. Performance that violates your values corrupts, and it will ultimately sap and destroy your strengths. These are just some of the questions that must be answered. What is important is to figure out your unique work style.

ACTION POINT: Think through your work style by answering the questions in this reading. Think through your values. Do not apply your strengths to a position that will destroy your values. Find a position that is compatible with your values.

“Time is a game played beautifully by children.”


“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“My father taught me to work, but not to love it. I never did like to work, and I don’t deny it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh — anything but work.”

Abraham Lincoln

“I’ve learned one thing, and that’s to quit worrying about stupid things. You have four years to be irresponsible here, relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time, but you’ll remember the time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out with your friends on a Tuesday when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink ’til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does…”

Tom Petty

“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.”

George MacDonald


“Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read.”

Anne Brontë

“Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and He gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.”

Elisabeth Elliot

“My wish simply is to live my life as fully as I can. In both our work and our leisure, I think, we should be so employed. And in our time this means that we must save ourselves from the products that we are asked to buy in order, ultimately, to replace ourselves.”

Wendell Berry

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.”

Francine Jay

“A plongeur is a slave, and a wasted slave, doing stupid and largely unnecessary work. He is kept at work, ultimately, because of a vague feeling that he would be dangerous if he had leisure. And educated people, who should be on his side, acquiesce in the process, because they know nothing about him and consequently are afraid of him.”

George Orwell

“What do dogs do on their day off?; Can’t lie around – that’s their job!”

George Carlin

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”

Winston S. Churchill

“If their work is satisfying people don’t need leisure in the old-fashioned sense. No one ever asks what Newton or Darwin did to relax, or how Bach spent his weekends. At Eden-Olympia work is the ultimate play, and play the ultimate work.”

J.G. Ballard

“A day unemployed is like a bagel- even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good…”


“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.”

Josef Pieper

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows…”

W.H. Davies

“The dull people decided years and years ago, as everyone knows, that novel-writing was the lowest species of literary exertion, and that novel reading was a dangerous luxury and an utter waste of time.”

Wilkie Collins

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