I’ve got a weakness. You’ve got weakness. Even Superman has a weakness. In life, weaknesses are something we all need to deal with at some point outside of work, and they can be perceived as great disadvantages. How can we prevent those disadvantages from creeping into our business lives? The truth is, we can’t. One way or another, they’re going to appear; the trick is turning those disadvantages into strengths.
Nine years ago last October I was locked in a cell at the Baltimore Penitentiary, lost, confused, and delusional while experiencing my third manic episode from schizoaffective disorder of the bipolar type. I was about as low as a persona can get, so how is it that, nine years later, I now run several successful businesses and am responsible for four employees and over a dozen contracted workers? Because I accepted my disadvantage and adapted my business to accommodate it.
5 Ways To Turn Your Disadvantage Into a Business Strength
Knowing What’s Important
Success isn’t measured in dollars and cents; it’s measured in happiness. I’ve met plenty of rich people who were terribly depressed and unsatisfied with their lives, and I’ve met even more low income individuals who were perfectly happy with where they were. As a business professional, your focus should be on achieving happiness in your life. Equating happiness with unnecessary material things, like expensive houses and cars, is a great way to ensure unhappiness; be sure you truly understand what’s important before you even begin to account for your disadvantages.
Understand Your Disadvantage
No matter what it is—diabetes, poor communication skills, bipolar, pride, etc.—the only way to master your disadvantage is to first know what it is. If you don’t think you have a weakness, ask friends and family about areas in which you can improve. Then, work to understand that weakness. Read books, talk with experts, and do everything you can to grasp what you’re dealing with. Only then will you be able to develop a plan to adapt your business strategy to your disadvantage.
Once you understand your disadvantage, work on strategies to help alleviate its presence in your life. For me, dealing with schizoaffective disorder of the bipolar type involves frequent hikes and meditation. Once I knew that, I was able to develop my business around my disadvantage, not the other way around. Everything I did when setting up my businesses was designed to ensure that I would always have the time to incorporate frequent hikes and meditation into my daily life, even if that meant making less money.
It’s natural to try to prove to yourself and others that you’re strong and you have no weaknesses, but no matter who you are, you have a weakness. If you know your weakness, you’re that much more self-actualized than the person who thinks their invincible.
Effective business leaders understand that one of the keys to success is being able to delegate tasks to individuals who can complete them. When dealing with a disadvantage, it’s easy to try to take control, to try to counteract your weakness. What ends up happening is you take too much control, loading up your schedule to the point you can’t possibly perform your job well. You have a disadvantage and you’re going to need help.
In my case, after the first few years in business I took on an employee who was able to help me during those difficult times when I struggled with depression. Having someone to manage things when I was having difficulty allowed me to focus on getting healthy and happy again, and that made all the difference in the world. I was able to take time to hike and meditate, and those things ensured recuperation.
The Strength of Your Weakness
I spent time in numerous hospitals and met a lot of other human beings dealing with issues similar to what I was dealing with. During those encounters I learned that we’re all human, we all have weaknesses, and each of us is working to survive, and eventually thrive, in this world. This instinct to survive then thrive is natural to all living things, including all the animals, plants, and trees I see in the woods while hiking.
A disadvantage helps us develop empathy, and empathy is a powerful strength in business. Understanding the weakness in all of us allows me to approach clients as human beings, each with their own struggles and drive for happiness. When I talk with clients about their lives, I truly care, all thanks to my weakness strength. This helps build stronger bonds and loyalty, and those go a long way when negotiating contracts.
Putting It All Together
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a “weakness”, just areas where you need to improve or adapt. John Lennon once said, “No problems, only solutions,” and that’s how you should approach your disadvantage. It’s not a problem, it’s a solution waiting to happen. During my hikes in the woods, I’ve noticed one overarching theme: the living things capable of adapting are the ones that thrive. Don’t focus on trying to prove to yourself and others that you don’t have a weakness; identify your weakness and adapt your business life around it. Then you’ll discover your new strength: the ability to become strong where others often become weak.
Photo credit: Unsplash.com