Monday, November 17, 2008

Thirty and Thriving

I turned thirty last week.

My birthday week was wonderful, the best I've had so far. To all of you who made my day really special, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So how does it feel to be 30?


I know there's nothing that really changes when you reach the big 3-0 but I feel like some changes have happened inside of me.

For one, I have to admit that I feel less awkward. I really feel like I had a puberty extension when I was in my late 20s. I was breaking out, I was having all kinds of mood swings. I was also somewhat clumsy and well, just awkward. Now, my skin has cleared up significantly, I am not as on the edge as I would usually be when faced with certain situations, and I don't feel so awkward anymore.

There are other changes, but I can't really say much about them right now. But I'll blog about them soon enough.

I never thought I'd say this but being thirty rocks! :-)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Discovering my talents through Strengths Finder 2.0

I finally got a copy of the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath last Thursday. For those of you not familiar with this book, it's the improved version of another bestseller entitled Now Discover Your Strengths. These books, as the titles imply, help you find out what your top strengths are and explain how you can work at improving those strengths. Instead of trying to become better at what you're weak at and end up just being mediocre at those things, the books explain that we should put all of our time and effort in becoming better at what we're naturally good.

Makes a lot of sense, of course. But I was surprised to find out after taking the test that I was off base all along. How frustrating that I didn't even know what my top talents were.

But now that I know what they are, I can at least try to work on becoming better in these areas.

Here are my top five talent themes:

1 Strategic: The strengths discovery report says, "Instinctively, you automatically generate numerous ways to enhance, upgrade, revise, correct, or revamp a process, action plan, or itinerary. Your suggestions often influence how a project will unfold in the coming months, years, or decades. You tend to find fault with your own and even other people's talents, skills, and/or knowledge. Fixing people or things ranks high on your favorite activities. Because of your strengths, you pay close attention to what is going on around you. You listen. You quiz people. You read. You probably take notes on key points. As you accumulate lots of information, you disregard what is unrelated, and pay heed to what is really important. The more you reflect on what you know, the more problems begin to reveal themselves, and eventually solutions start taking shape in your mind. Finally, given the situation, you select the best plan from your list of options. Driven by your talents, you generate ideas quickly. You draw clever linkages between facts, events, people, problems, or solutions. You present others with numerous options at a pace some find dizzying. Your innovative thinking tends to foster ongoing dialogue between and among the group's participants. By nature, you are a self-reliant person who needs time alone to think and work. You generate innovative ideas and propose systematic programs of action. You likely identify recurring configurations in the behavior of people, the functioning of processes, or the emergence of potential problems. It’s very likely that you can design innovative plans. You probably raise issues and identify recurring obstacles as you generate tactical options. Problems and possible solutions become apparent to you. Once you outline action steps, you quickly execute them one by one. You refuse to waste time questioning your ideas after everything has been set into motion. "

2 Activator: The strengths discovery report says, "'By nature, you are very decisive about implementing upgrades or making enhancements. You probably realize that great ideas without action are totally meaningless. You occasionally become frustrated with individuals who lack the gumption -- that is, boldness -- to transform their original thoughts into tangible results. Because of your strengths, you derive much joy from starting new projects, jobs, or courses of study. Before moving ahead, you automatically think about the things you need to upgrade, perfect, or do better. Instinctively, you step forward to take charge of start-up projects, processes, procedures, or initiatives. This is most apt to occur when you know your talent, skill, and/or knowledge perfectly match the task at hand. You carefully select the endeavors you are willing to spearhead. When you lack the expertise required for success, you wisely let someone else assume the leadership role. Chances are good that you rarely avoid telling people about yourself, your experiences, or even your shortcomings. You reflect on what you should do better, more completely, or more perfectly. You are comfortable admitting all sorts of things about yourself. Driven by your talents, you commonly influence people to produce results, sign up to work on projects, or rally around causes. When you take time to know them as individuals, many people are willing to move into action at your prompting. They are apt to realize you appreciate their special qualities, talents, interests, or experiences. "

3Connectedness: The strengths discovery report says, "Chances are good that you sense every event is somehow the consequence of a series of actions, reactions, or lack of actions. You can accept that which cannot be fully explained using logic. You say there are no accidents. You are confident that things are linked together for a purpose that may or may not be revealed to you. Driven by your talents, you have no doubts about being linked in some way with everything in the universe. This includes all creation and all humankind. Instinctively, you consider people more important than things. The value you place on humankind guides your decision-making. It also influences what you say and do as well as what you choose not to say and do. It’s very likely that you rely on your awareness of others' feelings, thoughts, and needs to guide you into and through partnerships. You consider various ways to initiate, nurture, and sustain the linkages between individuals and groups. You bring people together. You help them discover reasons to cooperate and support one another. By nature, you sometimes sense a special bond with certain individuals regardless of whether you have met them. Perhaps time or distance does not prevent you from feeling closely linked to specific people or the lives they lead."

4Relator: The strengths discovery report says, "Chances are good that you typically do your best work when you can bring your expertise to an enterprise. You prefer activities that keep you busy from start to finish. By nature, you routinely make the complicated very easy to understand. You are attracted to the basics of an idea, process, regulation, theory, or program. While you know every intricate piece of information, you place a higher value on identifying key points than on collecting too many details. It’s very likely that you embody the adage: "If you want to get something done, ask a busy person." You deliver peak performances when you can tackle a task. You experience tremendous satisfaction each time you accomplish something. You probably like being held accountable for your actions and words. Driven by your talents, you describe reading as a pleasure, not a chore. Generally you gain insights and acquire information whether you prefer fiction or nonfiction writing. You are likely to pull together ideas from printed materials or Internet sites. Typically you can talk about complicated topics or situations by highlighting only the basic points. Usually people can grasp what you are saying the first time because you refrain from burdening them with every detail you know. Instinctively, you are frequently sought out by people whom you have gotten to know on an personal basis. They come back to you again and again because they trust your judgment. Many of them realize you tailor your words of wisdom to fit their unique needs, strengths, limitations, goals, or personalities.

5Empathy: The strengths discovery report says, "Driven by your talents, you recall that as a child you were very attuned to the moods, feelings, expectations, and values of your elders. Your awareness of what these authority figures were thinking and feeling undoubtedly helped you govern what you said and did. Chances are good that you demonstrate a natural fondness for human beings. As a result, many individuals are attracted to you. They sense you really understand what they are feeling, thinking, or experiencing at the moment. People usually appreciate your willingness not to discount or belittle their emotions, ideas, or reactions to events. By nature, you know how to brighten others' lives when you sense they are feeling low or despondent. You probably have a hard time ending a conversation or a visit when the other person is still sad, grieving, or anxious. It’s very likely that you affirm others for who they are. You celebrate their unique gifts. Your encouraging words inspire and embolden people to be their real and true selves. Instinctively, you bring a keen awareness about human behavior to the classroom, laboratory, seminar, playing field, or tutoring session. You spontaneously tune in to what individuals are thinking and feeling minute by minute. These insights are likely to make you a better educator."

The book and report also have an action plan guide to help me strengthen these talent themes. It's so weird because I never got to really think about what I was good at before. I never took the time to sit down and process these things. All that was obvious to me were what I was really bad at and fixing them, which only proves that I have natural Strategic tendencies.

Anyway, I highly recommend that you get a copy of the book so you can find out your strengths, too. And I would love to know what they are. By the way, please do not buy a used copy of this book as it contains a unique code that you need to be able to take the online test. If you buy a used book, chances are the previous person has already used the code to take the test. So you'll just end up having to buy a brand-new copy of the book.