Unappreciated Strengths

We tend to take our strengths for granted.

If something comes easily to us, we tend to think it comes easily to everyone, and if it comes easily to everyone, then it isn’t all that valuable.

But it doesn’t come easily to everyone.

It is valuable.

You know what those strengths are for you. They’re the ones, when others say, “Oh, wow! You did an awesome job with this!” you respond with, “It was no big deal.” Your intention is not to minimize, you’re simply acknowledging the fact that it wasn’t that big a deal for you.

Consider this: What is easy for you isn’t easy for everyone.

This strength of yours? It is a big deal.

Writing is a strength of mine. When people would ask me how I wrote, I never knew how to answer. ‘I just put the words on the page,’ I would think. ‘They come into my head and I write them down.’ I didn’t even understand why they were asking. Wasn’t this like asking how I drink water?

I’m helping a friend overhaul her website and relying heavily on what I learned through the process of overhauling my own.

After I sent the mockup to the web developer, cc’ing my friend, the developer responded with this:

“Great work! Are you sure you haven’t been holding out on me and you do this for a living?  

I replied:

“I’m glad you liked what I sent. I’ve been blessed with a rare brain—it’s both verbal and visual and it learns really fast.”

I wouldn’t have been able to write that a few years ago because I didn’t recognize my own strengths.

What opened my eyes to them was the fact that leaders at the organization where I worked kept sending people to me to talk about how I built powerpoint decks. A deck, when done right (not as a slideument), is a visual story, and I love to tell them.

“What’s the story?” “What’s the architecture of the story?” How do we tell it visually?” “What words do we need to support the story?” All those questions play to my strengths.

What about you? What are your strengths?

 Big clues are:

  1. It’s generally easy for you.
  2. You generally enjoy doing it.
  3. Other people often compliment you on it.
  4. You tend to be a little surprised by their compliments.
  5. If others ask how you do it, you have a hard time explaining because it comes so easily to you.

If you’ve been keeping track of your answers to these exercises somewhere, add your answers to these questions with those.

Corona Commentary

On May 5th,  the management of my condo building sent an announcement requesting that all residents and guests wear face coverings while in the public areas of the property, both inside and outside the building.

I thought it was a little extreme. In the US, aren’t the numbers of new cases on the decline? Aren’t things getting better?

Coronavirus infection rate in the US, showing a decline
© New York Times

Answer: It seems like things are getting better in the US because of the decline in the total number of new cases. But that’s only because the large numbers for New York City are skewing the curve. If you give New York City its own line and keep the rest of the country on the original line, the infection rate looks like this:

Chart showing number of coronavirus cases in New York declining, but increasing in the rest of the US
© New York Times

In the rest of the country, the infection rate is increasing, even with semi-social distancing. And if you take the other two big hotspots—Detroit and New Orleans—and move them to the line with New York City, the graph looks like this:

© New York Times

After about April 7th, New York City, Detroit, and New Orleans were all seeing declines in their number of cases. But in the rest of the country? Cases were going up.

Let’s look at a bigger world and see what happens once infections start to show up. Let’s compare what happend in three different places after each hit their first 100 cases. We’ll use Ohio (because I live here now), and Berlin (for Germany and my friend Sabine), and Israel (for my friend Adam).

A graph of Coronavirus cases in Ohio, Berlin, and Israel
©Bing, coronavirus trend worldwide

Purple is Berlin. They had a lot of cases—more than Ohio or Israel when they hit their first 100, but after a short, sharp rise, Berlin quickly leveled off, flattened their curve, and held that curve down. Israel had a longer, higher curve up, but it’s leveling off. And Ohio? We’re on the rise with no indication of flattening.

Ok, my nerdishness around graphs is showing, so I’ll restrain myself to just one more.

The graphs above help us compare infection rates, but let’s focus on volume. Let’s look at New York City, because it’s the major hot spot in the US, and let’s compare it to places with a population of a similar size. New York state has 19MM people. The Netherlands has 17MM, and Taiwan has 24MM. We’ll take those three places and add in Ohio (12MM), as a comparator from the previous graph (and because I live here). New York is yellow, The Netherlands is blue, Taiwan is green, and Ohio is red.

Graph showing coronavirus infection rates, with New York state at over 300,000 and The Netherlands, Taiwan and Ohio at less than 50,000
©Bing, coronavirus trend worldwide

If you ever needed an example to show the importance of paying attention to the scale on the Y axis, this is it.

Even though spring is here and the days are bright and it’s tempting to become lax in our preventative measures, looks can be deceiving.

The virus is still out there and in many places, on the rise. Please continue to be careful, for yourself, for those you love, and for your community.

Chewing the Cud of Good

Light reflecting off water

Thankful for the way secrets and shame shrivel when exposed to the light of empathy. Several friends, after reading my post on Marshmallow Life, said, “If you ever feel like that again, call me. Day or night, any time, call.”

On that blue Sunday, I had thought about calling someone but was too ashamed. Not anymore. I am relieved to have shown my secret, to have let it out so my friends can help me. (And in case you’re wondering, the blue cloud hasn’t returned. I’m still feeling good.)

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