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Why Should We Sharpen Our Strengths?

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5 Reasons to Sharpen Your Strengths

By Shane Bender

Recently, I took part in a Toastmaster club and area contest. I had to listen to a speech and give a 2-3 minute impromptu evaluation for the speaker. None of this is anywhere near my strengths. I ended up getting 2nd place out of two contestants in the club contest. The first place contestant could not make the area contest, so that defaulted to me. I then ended up getting 2nd place out of two contestants in the area contest. Now, I must fully admit that this did not leave me feeling good about my speech making abilities. Actually, I am not sure why I even signed up. Then, I started thinking about my strengths. Should I be surprised? Does what I place in the contest really matter? Should I have signed up in the first place? Was this even a good use of time?

Do you have any of those thoughts when you lose to a competitor or a customer, or life just doesn’t go well for you?

Focus on Strengths

Before I started my business nearly 2 years ago, I bought a book called “StrengthsFinder 2.0“. I recommend anyone to check this out and take the assessment to learn your strengths.

My strengths are Analytical, Discipline, Responsibility, Consistency, and Harmony. Without going into them much, they are not suited well for an impromptu Evaluation Speech contest, except maybe for showing up. I guess showing up is half the battle because I ended up 2nd place in the Area contest by showing up and following through. There is a Strengths Finder coach who is part of my club, and I asked her about this. She said, “Our strengths don’t tell us what we DO, but rather they tell us HOW we do things”. In other words, by understanding our strengths and maximizing those, we can be excellent in our own way.

How Do We Maximize our Strengths

1. Understand Yourself

We probably will spend most of our lives doing this. The earlier we understand ourselves and how we function, the more we can lead others. You might have heard that you can’t lead others until you lead yourself. One of the first steps is to take the StrengthFinder 2.0 assessment. There are also many other assessments such as the DiSC Profile or Myers Briggs that are helpful.

I would say that sometimes when I take these assessments, I think of them as limiting. For example, if it says you are an introvert, then you could feel a limiting belief that you cannot lead or influence others as well as an extrovert. We have to be careful not to take the negative stance, but the positive aspect of the strengths.

2. Understand the “Sharpen the Saw” Concept

In Steven Covey’s famous book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he has a story of two people chopping down a tree in the woods. One person is sawing as fast and hard as he can. He is working very hard. The other person is taking a break periodically and doesn’t appear to be working nearly as hard. Eventually, the tree of the person that was taking periodic breaks came down first. This made the other person upset. He asked how his tree came down first when he stopped for so many breaks. He simply said that each time he sat down to take a break, he would sharpen the saw.

We all must work toward improvement so we become better versions of ourselves. Once you know your strengths, then work to understand how you can use those strengths. It is easy to get frustrated, depressed, or disappointed. Your goal is simply to try to be a better version of who you were yesterday. The comparison trap can be counterproductive to many people.

3. Listen to Podcasts and Other Leaders

I can’t begin to tell you how much I have learned from Podcasts or listening to the wisdom of other Leaders. It is essential for anyone to be successful. Have you ever been listening to the radio and a song comes on that you have heard 20 times in the last week? Then, it rolls to a 10-minute commercial break. You then try other stations, but it seems that they all timed their commercial break at the same time. Then, you start to listen to talk radio only to discover that you start to get depressed as you think the nation might break into civil war, a racial riot, or a natural disaster could happen at any time. Depending on your nature, this could have very negative effects on your performance.  My suggestion is to listen to quality podcasts.

Michael Hyatt has a great post called “3 Ways to Go Further, Faster” that has some great advice.

Check out the “Sharpen Yourself” list to learn about the top 5 podcasts that help any small business owner be more successful. Click here to download

4. Read More

One thing about reading is that there is no lack of information for us to consume. There are probably more people than ever wanting our attention, and it is easy to just tune it all out. Now with Audible it is easier to read books than ever. The only thing about Audible is that many of us only retain 20% of what we hear, so we probably forget to apply the concepts. I recommend Ebooks so you can highlight and then go back and review and download your highlights. Also, throw in a fiction book from time to time to help you grow more. Personally, I have always been a fan of John Grisham or JRR Tolkien when reading fiction, but it has been a while.

Check out the “Sharpen Yourself” list to learn about the top books in starting or growing a business that I have read so far. Click here to download

5. Use Technology

We all know technology is changing at a faster pace all the time. Sometimes it can lead to more distractions, such as misuse of smartphones. Overall, it can’t help us do routine and boring tasks much faster. Then, we have more time to sharpen our skills. I am finding new technology all the time, so it can be distracting just trying something new. Consider technology that helps you process emails, remember tasks, organize information, or learn something in a flexible and inexpensive way.

Check out the “Sharpen Yourself” list to learn some ideas of how I have used technology to save time in an affordable way. Click here to download


As I think more about this speech contest, I am glad I did it. At first, I thought it might have been a waste of time. I ended up using it as a blog post. I learned more about myself and how I can use my strengths better. I even ended up sharing contact information with the other contestant when I realized there could be business opportunities. Not a bad way to sharpen my strengths.

What strengths do you want to sharpen, and how are improving them?