Reframing Our Weaknesses

Derek Dienner

August 4, 2020

I often joke around that God gave me an incredibly competitive drive with no athletic ability. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved sports and tried to play them, but again, I lacked the athletic talent and skills to pull it off. There is often a correlation between sports and competitiveness, especially for me. But as I got older, I found new ways to utilize my competitive drive. 

Ask my kids. 

Every little thing we do together somehow ends up as a competition. Who can race to the car and buckle up first. Who can brush their teeth the fastest. Who can finish their vegetables before everyone else. You could argue that this is a strategy my wife and I use to influence our kids to get things done and you would be partly right. But my wife is the same as me. We are both naturally competitive people, so most of our family time turns into a game of who can be the quickest and “best,” which we truly enjoy. It seems to be a lot about speed, and for whatever reason, speed is something I have often used to measure success. But as each year passes, I understand more about the importance of process and timing over speed as a determiner of success. Yet, even with that understanding, my competitive nature found ways to taunt me for a long time.

Okay, taunt may be too strong of a word, but in many ways that is how I felt for much of my life. Growing up, I felt frustrated with how competitive I was and my need to win. I constantly thought, “Why do I have all this competitive nature?” I always had to beat my previous time or do better. It felt like a constant struggle to be so competitive with every little thing I did. As time went on, my competitiveness began to be part of my work life. Business became a huge outlet for my innate drive for competition. This felt like a better place to focus my drive, but it would still get under my skin, since I deemed it as a great weakness I carried around.

And this is where I was wrong.

It all began when I took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test by Tom Rath. The test takes you through different scenarios and questions asking the testee for honest answers. When you finish, you receive your top five strengths, examining each description and learning ways to grow in those strengths. Low and behold, my number one strength was competition. I stared at the screen and thought, “This is probably the first time in my life where I recognized competition as a strength.”

This was a turning point for me.

I’ve always thought my competitive nature was my greatest flaw and negative attribute, so when I saw my results, it made me emotional. I began to understand that some people don’t have the inner drive to continually push for more. They may have a hundred other strengths, but not this one. It gave me hope to embrace my competitive nature rather than fight it.

Japanese author, Shusaku Endo, once wrote, “Every weakness contains within itself a strength.” I think we are often told that our strengths are weaknesses, which places a negative spin upon our strengths. But what about our weaknesses also being our strengths? When I get caught up in the need to compete as an end-all goal, this isn’t the healthiest option for me or my business. But I’ve also begun to see and appreciate competition in my business and what it can do positively. It can strengthen the market, which challenges and helps me grow and learn. On the flip side of that, I’ve learned not to let it get me down when I don’t get a job that a competitor booked. I can use my competitive nature to drive my business forward, but still live in an awareness to keep it in check when it leans towards becoming unhealthy to myself and others. 

Holding my competitiveness as a negative weakness over myself only allowed me to see the glass half empty. Out of a scale of one to 10, I’m probably a 1 or 1.5 (on a good day) in terms of basketball. Even with all the training in the world, I’m never going to be the next Michael Jordan. But I can positively focus more upon my strengths rather than letting areas of weakness overshadow me from taking steps forward. Yes, my strength may be a weakness at times, but by reframing the way I view this attribute, I am now able to embrace my competitive drive to fuel me to the next place I desire to be professionally and personally. This has become a catalyst for growth and learning in my life. 

Perhaps you have an area in your life that feels like weakness and it may be a weakness at times. But I encourage you to take a deeper look at your supposed weakness and highlight how it can be a part of your strengths in work, personal, and family life. As the great Jordan once said, “…if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.” We may not be able to shoot three-pointers like MJ, but we can choose to live in a way that positively propels our predispositions into our net.