fostering a community of people interested in exploring strengths
If you're as addicted to TEDtalks as I am, perhaps you've already watched this 2010 Princeton University graduation address by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos: http://www.ted.com/talk /jeff_bezos_gifts_vs_choices.html
It’s a pretty good talk: authentic and personal. One could say that it’s a talk in support of strengths. But there are some wacky interpretations floating about. I’d love to have a conversation with Mr. Bezos
to make sure he’s saying what I hope he’s saying…If I may be so bold, I wish he’d allowed me to read his speech prior to delivery. I would have hit the nail at a slightly different angle and perhaps a little harder…
The TED summary says: “…Amazon founder Jeff Bezos makes the case that our character is reflected not in the gifts we're endowed with at birth, but by the choices we make over the course of a lifetime.” Hmmm. I’d tweak that just a little. Isn’t it actually that “our character is reflected not in the gifts we’re endowed with at birth, but by the choices we make in how to apply those gifts over the course of a lifetime?” The URL (as you see above) says “gifts VS choices”. I’d rewrite that too: choices VIA gifts. Subtle perhaps, but, very important. Our greatest opportunity for success lies in the positive engagement
of our greatest talents. It’s not just enough to make great choices. The choice has to be borne from inspiration, passion, commitment, and TALENT. We have to be true to our core selves. Only then will we make lasting, meaningful, fulfilling contributions. Bezos speaks about being a garage inventor as a kid. He was always creating unique (sometimes useless!) contraptions. When he was considering leaving his well-paid job to “invent’ Amazon, his wife supported him, encouraging him to “follow his passion.” The decision was inspired by his strengths – not simply an idea out of the ether. It was a great choice, yes. And it was a choice inspired by his gifts!
I love all the questions that Mr. Bezos asks at the end of his speech. For example: Will you follow dogma, or will you be original? Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure? Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions? When it's tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless? Superb questions. Let me assure you, when you start with your strengths you’ll be a miles more inventive, inspired and resilient. Following someone else’s concept of the good that you “should” (strongly dislike that word- more on that another time) be doing, will only see you withering when times get challenging. You need the fuel of your strengths to sustain you.
You’ve probably heard people say a strength taken too far can turn into a weakness. Nonsense. I’ve always had a problem with this. It’s actually a strength coupled with a poor choice that results in negative
outcomes. It’s a misguided or misapplied strength or an unskilled, underdeveloped talent. It’s certainly not an overdeveloped talent. Keep honing, building and breathing life into your unique gifts.
It’s not gifts vs choices. It’s choices via gifts. Make great choices for sure. Great choices inspired by your greatest talents. Start with and stand by your strengths, people.
Challenge: This week, consider what drives your desire to follow the strengths path. Are you making the best choices? Are you applying your talents in service of the greater good?