We all know I like quotes. I like to share them when I find one that strikes a chord, or I feel that it has personal impact or it can be applied to those around me. I enjoy chatting with others about how an elegant quote can say so much and inspire so much thought in only a few words. I am obviously not alone, and recently a friend and former colleague sent one out to his circle of friends and connections. (This friend focuses on creativity, and I recommend his blog for some fantastic observations about the world around us. We even collaborated on a story a few years ago.) The quote Bill shared a few days ago was from Brené Brown:
“Sometimes we’re tested. Not to show our weakness,
but to discover our strength.”
I hope you check out Brené Brown’s TED talks and other published materials. She speaks from the heart but with a background in social work and science. She shares her own struggle to resolve both the scientific process with human emotion. Her focus on courage and vulnerability is obvious with her personal stories right down to what she shares, without hesitation, about candid conversations with her therapist.
While that quote above flirts with her specialties in vulnerability and courage, for me it is highly relatable not only to my own life overall, but also to what nearly everyone in the world is experiencing right now with the Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. To call this worldwide outbreak a test might be the understatement of the decade but I believe it may just be one of the most significant tests any of us experiences in our lifetimes.
Never in my lifetime, nor in that of most of my readers, have we encountered such a multitude and diversity of impactful and life-changing events all related to this virus and its impacts. We’ve lost our routines and planned events. We’ve canceled vacations & celebrations, lost fortunes & jobs. We’ve missed hanging out with friends and interacting with colleagues. We’ve lost loved ones.
But we’ve also changed our lives. We’re finding that we’ve simplified where we didn’t think we could. We’ve enhanced that which we thought might be out of reach. We’ve reconnected with people, often in new or creative ways. We’ve taken up reading or learning again, we’ve cleaned out our bedroom as well as our mental closets. Or maybe we haven’t been able to do any of that, but we’ve worked and provided for others who need our help now more than ever. Or maybe we’ve just been forced into a situation where we’re alone with our thoughts. Maybe we’ve learned that being alone with our thoughts isn’t as terrible as we were expecting.
To say we’re coming out weaker would be to give too much focus to those obviously and tragic negative impacts. Getting through this barrage of challenges is enough to highlight our strengths. The things we’ve accomplished (or survived) are worth celebrating! Whether we’ve started a new company or endured social and physical isolation, we’ve demonstrated our ability to survive and improve!
Compare the Current Events to Your Life
And while these past several weeks have felt like a lifetime for many of us, compare it to your actual life. Think of all the tests you’ve passed and the strengths that were refined over that time, either as the way you solved the test or the strength you gained from passing it. Being picked on in school, dealing with attraction, making good grades in school, dealing with family hardships… losing a job, even dealing with personal relationships as they evolve. All of life is a series problems which we must try and solve. This current series of problems, while concentrated, blended all together, and forced upon us all at once, can be overwhelming at times. But I’d wager that we’ve probably been faced with similar issues before, though maybe not all at once. Let’s use those prior experiences as exercise. Those exercises which strengthen our lives. One day in the future, we’ll look back on these events as life-altering growth opportunities and it will be up to us to embrace it and not squander the strengths we gain here.
If you’re reading this, I know you have at least one friend willing to listen and offer observations. You’ve got someone who has a knack for seeing the strengths in others and helping you see it in yourself. Maybe that’s a strength that I’ve gained from the tests life has thrown at me over the years.
I’ve already written about some of my life’s challenges which tested my resolve and strengthened my very being. Those challenges could have very easily highlighted my weaknesses and demonstrated how this world was not designed to help me succeed. Instead, we looked at the tests not to focus on that which I couldn’t do, but to show those things at which I could excel.
It was obvious that I was never going to be a bricklayer or professional sportsball player. (Though how many even succeed at professional sportsball?) Rather than dwell on my limitations or weaknesses, we instead focused on the strengths I’ve been granted in this world. An early curiosity was encouraged. An aptitude for math and science was cultivated. A passion for history and the arts was not as immediately present, but I embraced those passions as I matured in life. My independence was reaffirmed every step of the way. Throughout it all, the happiness and optimism of that kid in the picture was on display. While I might not be quite the ham that was showing off in that picture anymore, I still like entertaining. I like sharing stories and experiences. As many of my friends will attest, I love to share; sometimes too much!!
So besides the accomplishments in academia and my career, maybe by true strengths are tied to those soft skills and abilities. I love putting myself out there to share my experiences and knowledge and as soon as this mess is over, I look forward to doing that in person. Whether it’s at the office, or behind the tasting bar at the winery, I have a story to share. And while my eternal optimism often feeds my repetition compulsion, and the relentless hope I experience prevents me from moving on from one test to another as quickly as I probably should, maybe that’s also a strength in dedication.
Maybe happiness is my greatest strength. I’m generally a happy guy, even given the challenges I was dealt in life. Coupled with my desire and ability to tell a story, I should really start a blog or something! 😉
So… what’s your strength?
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