Recently I have been inspired by the work of Ray Dalio, founder of the worlds biggest Hedge Fund Bridgewater Capital. Anyone familiar with Dalio knows that he preaches a concept called ‘Radical Truth’ , which encourages everyone to objectively evaluate themselves in order to understand how to progress. In this post, I discuss my top five weaknesses, identified through a painful analysis of my lifes failures. Whilst this is a self-reflective post, hopefully it will encourage you to explore your own vulnerabilities and encourage you to kill them!
I am appalling at focusing on anything. The ease at which I am distracted is unlikely to be matched by any living organism. My procrastination and obsession with ANALYSING prevents me from DOING, and achieving real progress with anything – often due to attempting to multi-task or do many things at once. My focus can be interrupted by my phone ringing or a casual conversation, and most frequently because of my hyper-active mind. My mind races quickly, moving from thought to thought, and constantly generates different ideas. I struggle to keep on one track and happily bounce between conversation topics, to the annoyance of my girlfriend. My creative and dynamic mind contribute significantly to my inability to focus, and thus what can be a strength in one realm manifests a weakness in another.
- Realise that the future you will suffer from your procrastination and answer for your lack of progress
- Consciously accept your struggles to focus, and narrow in on doing fewer things with greater attention and effort
- Set clear definable goals that you are COMMITTED to
- Create small to-do lists that break tasks down into actionable items providing an easy path to follow
I struggle to finish what I start. I often have great ideas and want to get involved with everything. This means starting a lot of things, and objectively I seldom finish them. I believe this is inherently linked with a lack of focus and spreading too wide. When you involve yourself with too many activities, it can be difficult to dedicate fully and actually complete them. The real danger is developing bad habits – one of giving up early and increasingly with less resistance to convince yourself. The consequence of this? Lack of progress and ultimately an ability to truly realise the rewards/benefits of what you are doing. For example, if you don’t finish a 6 week course in Python, chances are you didn’t get anywhere near what you could have out of it, and chances are you can’t code!
- Commit to the principle of finishing what you start
- Be selective about what to start and focus on – try to do one thing at a time
- Adopt the 80:20 rule to help decide what delivers the results
Skill and Expertise
My talents are very much people and relationship based. I find it very easy to build relationships with different people from different backgrounds. Working with people is what fundamentally interests me, and I am energised by positive interactions. The flip side of this is that I lack more tangible skills and expertise. Having studied a Geography degree (entirely based on critical thinking), I don’t have the hard engineering or scientific background which demonstrates expertise. I chose to focus more on intangible softer skills like communication, speaking, coaching, and building relationships.
The issue is that I haven’t sought true expertise in even these fields, such as a qualification or advanced degree. There is no excuse for not searching for a deeper level of understanding, and in my case I should be adding some hard skills to complement my existing strengths. In today’s world is there any excuse not to learn a coding language or some form of technology? Ten years down the line will I regret not investing the time in something tangible like programming or data science? My guess would be yes and I think most people need to address this themselves.
- Invest in yourself by finding a useful skill you want to learn (in my case technology)
- Strive for expertise in your field to build credibility and earn your rewards
- Complement your existing skillset with something that you lack
Paralysis by analysis
As someone with a highly active mind, I am always thinking and analysing, generating ideas or different ways to do things. The phrase ‘paralysis by analysis’ was coined to explain how OVER-ANALYSING can prevent one from actually DOING. Spending too much time thinking is the enemy of productivity. Ultimately I have on many occasion spent far too much time overanalysing or ‘majoring in the minors’. It appears to be an increasingly millennial trait that is fuelled by the sheer amount of information available to people now. It is far too easy to google anything and research for hours on end. In reality it can be counter-productive and I would personally be served better by focusing on learning by doing. Talk is cheap and easy. It takes a much more impressive individual to actual take an idea and do it. This is why everyone talks about starting a business and conveniently never does it. You can research or analyse all you want, it comes down to taking action. I have suffered from this all my life however the first step is to acknowledge it. I must work hard to actually learn by doing, reducing my reliance on analysing the perfect way, which does not exist.
- Take imperfect action and don’t wait for stars to align – they won’t
- Learn by doing not by seeking validation or over analysing
- Everybody can talk but few can take action – make it your brand to be a person of action/
Inconsistent work ethic
One of my colleagues is an absolute clown. His most recent personality test revealed key traits such as arrogance, intolerance, and I would like to add delusion. Yet one trait I absolutely admire is his incredible work ethic. Despite being spoiled even in adult life, the man is an absolute machine dedicated to his job. In contrast my work ethic fluctuates like British weather. On some days I am clinical and insanely productive, whilst on others I count the seconds till home time. I really believe this has held me back significantly in my career. Although I have been successful and been promoted year on year, these are material achievements at early stages – merely paying your dues. In order for me to progress to management levels, I need to differentiate myself. Work ethic is a choice and will reward you if approached properly. I know what I could do to be the very best in my job yet I don’t’ pursue it. That is a conscious decision I have taken based on my chosen work ethic. I have accepted being good despite knowing what it takes to be great. The question becomes whether I am OK with this, and deep down I am not. I am not the sort of person who wants to be average, yet to avoid this outcome my work ethic must match the goal.
I have fallen prey to the millennial attitude of wanting success without working for it. Nothing worth having comes easy and you reap what you sow. I have been lucky to this point, however moving forward I need to change. Perhaps what we all need is a mentor – someone who has what you want and inspires you in some way. They say you are the average of the people you surround yourself with. If this is true then it’s time to find some mentors who can rub off on me positively.
- Work ethic is a choice – develop your own principles
- What can you do to be the very best at your job? List it and create an action plan
- Don’t be a millennial
- Create personal consequences and standards for yourself to avoid falling into habits
- Seek mentors with work ethics that you admire
Your turn now!
Hopefully this blog will encourage you to look at your own weaknesses objectively, and more importantly come up with an action plan to overcome them! Please feel free to comment and share your own thoughts and ideas, which may just help someone else on their way.