Is your biggest strength your biggest weakness?

by Sandy L on September 22, 2010

Bees Nest Flower Bed

This post is dedicated to Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. She is currently looking for a more exciting job and I thought it would be a good exercise to think about as one prepares for interviews.

I inherited a trait from Babci that I can only describe as the ability to have an “intense focus on the task at hand.”  In fact, this weekend I had an extra 1/2 hour before a date, so I decided I would take a few minutes and start cleaning out my flower bed.  To make a long story short, as I was cutting down my bee balm, I ended up standing in a bees nest. I didn’t even notice the bees swarming around me until I started getting stung.  When I looked down at my feet,  there I was standing right near a bee hive hole with bees swarming all around me.  I asked my husband to take a look at my sting and then said “I can’t believe I didn’t notice I was standing in a bees nest.”  His response “I can believe it.”  Oh yeah, I guess I can totally ignore everything around me once my mind is fixated on something. Oops. I did it again.

The reason I know I inherited this trait from Babci is she once made me drive to the hardware store during a really bad snowstorm to get a can of metal paint.  She decided she wanted to paint our old claw foot tub and she needed that can of paint RIGHT NOW!  She nagged me like it was the end of the world until I finally put on my snow boots, went out during the blizzard and got it. I made her go with me and slid around on the roads a little extra just to make her realize how foolish her request was.  She never did end up using that can of paint. It annoys me to this day. On the flip side, during gardening season, she can stay outside for 12 hours straight and get a big chunk of work done with little to no breaks.  It’s both her biggest strength and biggest weakness.

At work, I see my strength/weakness in use all the time. It’s fabulous when I need to get a job done. Once I’m in the zone, I’m unstoppable.  The downside is that if I hit a roadblock, it can really be hard to switch gears to work on something else. The other downside is that sometimes I fixate on something not that important and I don’t prioritize tasks as I should. (ie, can of paint, vs personal safety) I think in general though, I like this trait. I like that I can work on something for 12 hours straight until complete physical exhaustion sets in. That’s handy.  So what about dealing with the weaknesses this trait brings?

Here’s what I think is critical:

  • Figure out what your natural gifts are.
  • Understand the pros and cons of said gifts.
  • Try to increase your awareness of when you are using your gift in a negative way.  If you don’t realize when you’re doing it, ask friends or loved ones to help with identification.
  • Tell yourself “Shut up Brain” and figure out what is the most logical thing to do is instead.  Remember, you control your brain, not the other way around. Your thoughts are just that…thoughts and nothing else. You have the ability to change those thoughts to something more positive and/or productive.

It’ll be interesting to see if either of my 2 kids inherit this trait. Right now it can easily be confused with impatience, so I’m not sure yet.

Do you have a strong character trait that is both a strength and weakness? What is it and how do you cope with the weakness part of the equation?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Everyday Tips September 22, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Oh my gosh, once I get started, I cannot be stopped. I can totally see myself sitting next to Babci in that car, driving recklessly to get that paint at all costs! My employer loved that trait in me because I would not quit with a computer program until it was perfect. They exploited the heck out of me because they knew it could get done. Great trait for them, not such a great trait for my social life!

I am also a very quick decision maker. I think on my feet, which is great in so many ways. However, it has also worked against me at times too…


Invest It Wisely September 22, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Very interesting… who would have thought your strength could also be your potential downfall? I guess self-reflection helps in seeing when you are going a little bit off the deep end. Sorry to hear that you got stinged! I have a bit of a paranoia of getting stinged, myself, ever since I was stung in the eye when I was a kid…


StackingCash September 22, 2010 at 1:26 PM

Being a perfectionist. It’s great when I accomplish a task with quality but if I feel I cannot do it perfectly, I just don’t do it :/


Money Reasons September 22, 2010 at 7:51 PM

Once I’m in a focused work mode, if I get disrupted… I kind of snap at people (even if it’s not verbal, I’m sure they can see it in my face).

Perhaps it’s from when I programmed, and was deep into thought and typing. I hated losing a grip over the logic by talking to questions others may have. I remember being on teams where the others would handle the presentation while I cranked out the code for the database system.


Squirrelers September 23, 2010 at 12:51 PM

Great topic. I would say I have two characteristics that fit the strength/weakness mold:

1) I’m more of a calm, big picture person.
Strength: I can avoid getting worked up over things that aren’t super important in the big picture. I tend to be someone that people can look to if they’re worked up, because I’ll calmly listen. I can diffuse issues, and be a source of strength for others.
Weakness: Sometimes, being too calm and laid back can cause you to miss seemingly little things that can grow into bigger issues.

2) I prefer to focus on one or two big projects or topics at a time
Strengths: I have been able to accomplish some pretty good things over the years when I have time to think, concentrate, and focus
Weaknesses: This preference makes me averse to multitasking at times. Maybe it’s just that us men aren’t as good at multitasking, as it’s often said:) If I have too many things coming my way, I tend to get “flooded” and shut down. If can I focus hard on short set of projects or activities, I tend to excel, and often at pretty high levels.

I just try to realize these things about myself, and put myself in a position where I can play to these strengths, while limiting exposure to situations that aren’t congruent with these strengths.


Crystal @ BFS September 23, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Thanks so much for this dedication! Good point too. My biggest strength is my empathy for others, which helps in customer service but it also leads to my feelings being hurt pretty easily when people get rude or abrasive. It’s hard for me to blow things off if I think a change I could make could help. I’m also very talkative, which is awesome when a boss wants you to keep them in the loop, but has led to many foot-in-mouth moments as well.

I have my first interview as a personal assistant today, so I hope my strengths show up and the downfalls stay away. I also hope this is a true interview and not just some Craigslister being an a$$, which seems to happen once in a while. I have my fingers crossed since it’s supposedly going to entail keeping his schedule and doing research and writing projects, which I do excel at in general as long as the subject material doesn’t put me to sleep. 🙂

BTW, thank you so much for your professional suggestions. I’ve already made some changes and you are totally right, BFS is a huge success that I should stress more even if it isn’t technically my “real” job. 🙂

I really hope you never give up blogging! I feel like we get to meet another little part of you with every post!


Sandy L September 24, 2010 at 5:33 AM

Everyday Tips and Money Reasons: Perhaps this is a trait that is a must have to be a good technical person. Problem solving can be tough and require quite a bit of concentration for long periods of time. You can’t just pop in and out of those types of tasks.

Sir Squirrel and Stacking Cash – I’m more of a big picture person and my husband is the detail oriented perfectionist. I love the 80/20 rule…focus on the 20% that gets 80% of the job done. I think if you’re on a team, having these two types together makes for a great combo.

Invest it wisely – my 1.5 year old was obsessed with trying to catch bees because they were “cue.” One day, I didn’t shoe him away in time and he got stung on the eyelid. Looked horrible.

Everyday tips – Good Luck on the interviews. I’ll be sending you good vibes.


Little House September 25, 2010 at 2:06 PM

I need to remember to say “Shut up Brain!” myself. Thanks for that reminder. 😉 I often obsess over things even while I sleep. Sometimes this is good because I can resolve problems during dreaming, but other times it makes for a restless night’s sleep. And let me just say I really depend on 8-9 hours of solid sleep a night! But you made a very good point; find your strengths and work with them. Just make sure they aren’t turning into your weaknesses!


Financial Samurai September 27, 2010 at 12:59 AM

That is some focus you got their Sandy!

I have quite a feisty personality when it comes to things I care about. Sometimes, I will get overly defensive and confrontational. The reason is b/c I care so much and that is my weakness. I not to stop caring so much and let it be. If someone can’t be helped or changed, so be it. None of my business!



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