A few years ago I was one semester away from graduating from college. At Christmas I gave each person older than me a piece of paper that read: It is often said that people wish they knew now as much as they did when they were younger and knew everything. Well, I’m 21 and about to graduate from college. Tell me something I don’t know. The responses were hilarious, insightful, really uncomfortable, and occasionally straight up puzzling.
The puzzling one came from my 92 year old grandfather. I was (as was each of my siblings) his favorite grandchild. We could do anything and he would clap and say that it was the best ever. His response? “You don’t know yourself.” Right. Wait, what? He died a few years later and, of course, I never did ask him about it.
A few years later I was at a conference and the main speaker said, “When you get back to your rooms tonight, if you dare, make a list of your 50 greatest weaknesses.” So, I did. It was really hard. Not emotionally…so much. It was just difficult to be that specific in ways I…struggle (to say the least). The next morning he spoke again but didn’t mention the list. So, in between sessions I asked him. Like a wannabe guru he replied, “Oh…you will…you will.” So I thought about it and you know what? I didn’t. So after the third session (when he again didn’t mention it) I went up to him (he loved me at this point…and by “love” I mean “I don’t think anyone ever actually made the list and I was annoying the crap out of him”). He finally said, “until you know your true weaknesses, you will never know who you are. You will always just fear having faults in the first place.” Well, thank you grasshopper.
Only, he was right. Looking at them on paper I felt somewhat liberated. I thought of my grandfather and smiled. Perhaps, if but for a moment, I was getting to know myself. A few years later yet I was told at another conference, “An unguarded strength can be a double weakness.” Crap. Weaknesses I knew but strengths…let alone an unguarded one? Hmmm. So, yeah, you guessed it, I asked him about it (he was a different guy from the weakness guy mind you). He was quick and blunt. “Tell me one of your strengths.” I replied that I can be somewhat funny. He went on, “Now, has your humor ever gotten you into trouble?” Ah. The light bulb went off, again.
So I now have an understanding of how tremendously faulted I am while my strengths can REALLY get me into trouble. THAT’S A RELIEF. But in all seriousness I did come to a new truer understanding of myself. I realized that I shouldn’t go to conferences anymore.