Ask Celes – How Can I Turn My Weakness Into a Strength?

Ask Celes

Hi Celes, my resolution for 2013 is to turn my weakness into a strength. Do you have any idea how to start ? Thank you. ~ irazhane

Any weakness can be turned into a strength. Likewise, any skill you have can also be turned into an expertise. It all boils down to practice.

Have you heard of the 10,000 hours rule? It basically says that when you spend at least 10,000 hours honing a skill, any skill, it will turn into a talent. You can read more about this concept here: 10,000 Hours To Develop Talent.

I strongly believe that talent, or strengths as you are asking, is NOT something that we were born with and can’t change. Some of us may be born with propensities in certain areas, but these do not have to define us. E.g., You don’t necessarily have to be an accountant just because you are good with numbers. Some of us may be born with zero abilities in other areas, but these do not have to define us either. E.g., You need not forgo a career in writing just because you aren’t good in writing.

For example, people often ask me how I came to write so well. In fact, some of the Ask Celes questions are precisely that. Some people, actually many, often conclude that I was born a writer or I have a natural flair in writing to be able to do what I do today. Even though these people have an interest in starting a blog or pursuing writing (say journalism or freelance writing), they would say it’s not for them because they can’t write.

(For the record, I do not think I write well; it’s just something people tell me. I think I have much to improve, such as being sharper and being more concise with my words.)

My answer to their question? Lots and lots of writing. I was never a writer; I was a science student in high school and junior college, studied business administration in university, and worked in corporate brand management after I graduated. I’m still not a writer in that I do not see my profession as writing and I have never published any physical books. I’m merely someone who runs a blog and uses writing to reach out to the world.

In that regard, writing has merely been something I have developed in the past four years from being a non-skill to a professional strength. Because I had spent (and continue to spend) so much time in writing, there was no way I could have changed in this skill except to become better. It was almost a given. Seriously, one has to become better when one is investing that much time in something. There is nowhere to go but up!

People have also asked me how I came to be so good in coaching. (Again, this isn’t something I think, just something people tell me.) Like my writing, this was through lots and lots of doing. This included one-to-one coaching, group coaching, self-coaching, coaching readers through my articles, constantly understanding people to know how I can help them, and constantly pushing the boundaries in how I can help others.

If you think about it, I have actually done my dues and clocked more than 10,000 hours in both writing and coaching since the start of my journey. I started my blog and personal development business in December 2008. It’s December 2012 now. Since I literally spend all my time thinking about how to help others grow or how to develop myself, I have spent 14,600 hours since then developing my skills! (14,600 hours = 10 hours a day x 365 days x 4 years!)

Whether you are currently weak or strong in something (a skill, subject, whatever) does not define how good you can be in it. What defines how good you can be in a skill/subject is a function of (a) your dedication in building that skill/subject and (b) your passion towards it. Your passion is important because at the end of the day, you need to invest a lot of time to develop expertise in anything at all. (Sorry, there isn’t a shortcut in life in case any of you were looking for one.)

Even if you really suck balls at something at this moment, you can still build it into a strength. Perhaps you may start out shaky, but that’s a given since it is something you are weak in after all. (What, were you expecting some dramatic movie moment where you miraculously ace something you are weak in despite never having practised before? No way! Everyone starts off as a beginner, always! Even the best sportsmen, golfers, business people, and leaders!)

While your first try may be horrible, you will get better with your second try. And even better during your third, fourth, and fifth tries. By your tenth try, you would be no longer be fumbling as much. By your twentieth try, you would be starting to get the hang of things. By your hundredth try, you would be noticing blind spots you never knew were there. By your thousandth ‘try’, this skill would oddly feel like a natural part of you, like it has been one of your limbs all along.

You can’t change what you were born with but you can change how well you become in something through rigorous practice and a wealth of experience. The more time you spend on something, the better you will become. The point is to get clocking on your developmental hours, vs. being obsessed with getting things perfect. The former is a surefire way to improve. The latter is the surefire way to kill your growth and fail in life.

Inspirational Quote: “If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything.” ~ John Wooden

More failure quotes at Personal Excellence Quotes

The long and short of it is to invest your hours if you want to become better in something. If you want to be an expert in it, then simply invest more hours, significantly more than what others would put in.

I continue to invest my time in writing, coaching, building my blog, and helping others grow every day, and because of that, it becomes difficult for other people to usurp the expertise I have built in this area. Likewise, when you continuously invest your hours in something every single day, the only direction you can move in is up. And it all starts with that first second/minute/hour you invest in it today.

More on skill building:

This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

  • Arvind

    Wooowwww…. Great… Thanks a lot for publishing this article. It made my day and days ahead.. Thanks.

    • Celes

      You’re welcome Arvind! :)

  • Karen

    great article! This, in my opinion, is one of the biggest difference between those that fail or succeed: willingness to put in the work

  • Bob

    Hey Celes,

    I love your information about the hours. Do you think that there are different levels of pay/rewards that come with each number of useful/effective time put into a subject? For example 2-3,000hours is when you really start to take off, see more and more possibilities on the horizon because you have spent the time to acquire the knowledge and see what works and what needs/gaps can be filled.

    • Bob

      After reflection, I think when we develop our thinking on a particular area we have different stages. At the initial stage nothing much appears to be going on. If we continue to apply more heat, we start to change states like a chemical reaction.

      For example, when crude oil is refined. At each individual level there are seven products which come from the original. These arrive at different degrees of temperature from large slow moving molecules that do not flow easily – bitumen – to small molecules that flow easily – gases -. It is the same with our thinking when we apply power and heat, we go from slow moving thoughts to fast moving thoughts, extreme flexibilty (if we choose to develop that far).

      Knowing this we can turn each situation into something good or great because there is always something to learn. As we learn we refine, sieve, sort, filter our ideas to produce new combinations, fresh insights, different perspectives. It comes from analysis and synthesis, it suddenly dawns on us how a process works and what we can do to turn it to our advantage.

    • Celes

      Hi Bob! I definitely think there are different levels of payoff/rewards that come from different amounts of time put in. I don’t have anything like this mapped out, but in the course of writing in the past few years, I can definitely see a difference in my command of the skill, from something that I’m trying to use, to something that has become ingrained in me, like a limb of mine.

  • JadePenguin

    What if “my weakness is that I care too much”, as sung by Papa Roach? :shy:

    Meaning how you care about others but they don’t realise how much you’re doing for them and treat you badly. And it keeps happening again and again. Eventually it feels you’re the only altruistic person you know and most people only abuse your kindness.

    We’ve all been there, no? :)

    • Celes

      When people abuse your kindness, it’s because you allow them to abuse it. It’s then up to you to decide whether you want them to continue to abuse your kindness or for you to take ownership of the situation and start associating yourself with people who do appreciate and reciprocate your efforts.

      Last year, I answered a question on how we can change someone. The bottom line answer is basically – we can’t. We can try to do things to influence the person, we can attempt to change the person, we can think that we are changing people, but ultimately people change because they decide to change. We cannot control other people, but we can control ourselves.

      In any situation where we are facing problems/obstacles/difficulties, it is always helpful to take stock and ask ourselves – What is the thing we can change here? How can we change our actions / focus so that we can create the meaningful, fulfilling life for ourselves? And in the case of this particular example you have raised, what can you do about this situation? Sure, people may be abusing your kindness – but what do you choose to do about it? Do you willingly let them continue to abuse your kindness? Or do you want to do something about that – perhaps move on to other people you can dispense your kindness to?

      • Bob

        Hi there Jade & Celes,

        I sympathise with Jade, I understand this way of behaving, having experienced it myself and thinking there is nothing I can do about it – victim mentality. Then after realising I can change how I respond to the situation I change my attitude, which changes my perspective and consequently my response the following time.
        The only thing you have power to change is yourself,to stop people exploiting your generosity. As Celes says it is realising you have a choice. For example when I was studying, a girl asked if I could do their work for them. I replied, “I don’t mind showing you how to do the work but I’m not doing the work for you.”
        Be strong and people you mix with will respect you more. If all else fails you can start to change the group of influence you mix with and share with others who reciprocate.

        • Celes

          For example when I was studying, a girl asked if I could do their work for them. I replied, “I don’t mind showing you how to do the work but I’m not doing the work for you.”

          I like the example you have shared, Bob. When I was studying, there was a time when my school was having a test (in a lecture hall). I recall this classmate who would often not study for her tests and rely on me such that she could copy the homework or get test answers (this had been going on for a while). She literally sat beside me and told me that she would be copying the answers from me later on. Tired of such antics, I just basically told her point blank that I didn’t think that was possible. She was shocked for a second there, then shifted seats, probably to someone else whom she thought she could copy from.

          It’s from putting your foot down and making the decision for yourself that you don’t want certain treatment to perpetuate. Lamenting might make us feel marginally better but would not change the situation; making the conscious choice within us, then taking the action to make things happen will. :)

  • Julie Beille-Foltz

    Thanks for sharing, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your vision of life.
    Reading you prompts me to get into action.
    Your positiveness is energizing.

  • Geneveive

    Thank you, Celes, for supporting me in my cause to not just focus on my strengths, but rather to follow my passion and run with it; I need to address and develop my weaknesses to fulfil my passion!

  • irazhane

    Thank You Celes! just finished reading your article about 10.000 hours, you’re right, for everything that worth doing dedication and passion is important, hopefully I can do it!

    • Celes

      You’re very welcome irazhane! I’m glad the answer helped! :)

  • v.vijayamohan

    As you said, dedication and passion are the keys to turning any weakness into success