Why Your Greatest Strength is Your Greatest Weakness

Dr. Abraham Maslow may not have been the first, but he rightly asserted,

"To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail"

When I first became a family man, it was the next hill to climb after succeeding at school and in my young career. When I tried using the same strategies that worked for me in school and at the office, it didn't go so well. It turns out that a strict, abstemious regimen works better for a single man than for a father of small children. That focus and work ethic had paid off with bonuses, early promotion to partner and the successful launch of a new business. For a small child, though, transcendent play is the relevant currency, and I really sucked at playing. (I do hope my children can forgive especially my early efforts.)

At this point in my life, this quote by baseball great Pete Ross speaks to me, and it is a lesson he was taught by Sparky Anderson.

“Some players you pat their butts, some players you kick their butts, some players you leave alone."  

Pete was himself, an aggressive competitor, known for knocking down defenders and yelling his disagreements. For him, I imagine, the "kick butt" strategy was his most natural hammer since it took him to the top of his sport and to national fame. And then be became a team manager. In that new position, his old greatest strength could become his greatest weakness. The wisdom of the quote is the conscious decision to develop multiple "tools" and to choose consciously which one to use.

Often, it seems, new challenges need new skills, but at least we often face new challenges consciously. It is easiest to pick up the wrong tool when we aren't looking in the toolbox but just grabbing instinctively. I, for one, tend to go first to my favorite tool, and I have to try to supervise my thoughts to choose more helpfully. While I should play strategically to my strength, I should not play my strength in every tactic.

One's greatest strength is also one's greatest weakness because the strength, like the hammer, gets used for the wrong tasks. The countermeasure is simple. Like Pete Rose, one must find other tools and figure out when to use which one.