by: Minda Harts, Founder, The Memo, LLC
Have you ever scrolled through social media and felt like you needed to be someone else? If “so and so” is posting on Instagram five times a day, we feel the need to post six. If “so and so” does a TedX talk, we have to figure out how to make it to the main Ted stage.
All of this is exhausting and will eventually drive you crazy and cause burn out.
At the end of 2017, with the help of many people, I closed a book deal with Hachette Book Group, Seal Press. When I started the process, I heard from a lot of potential publishing companies "well so and so wrote a New York Times Best Selling Book, let’s use that formula."
I was clear from the beginning that I didn’t want to write a book like “so and so.” That story has been told, and that area is their strength. That book has already been written, and that is not what I have built my platform on. My goal is this: to help advance women of color in the workplace.
Often, we can put ourselves in a box or allow others to define our strengths. Albeit, I wanted to write a book for women of color, I was firm about not compromising and trying to be someone else just because some publishing house thought following someone else's script was a winning formula (not Seal Press, they like my strengths).
I knew what my strengths were, and I had to play to those, and not someone else's -- despite what might be best-selling. In my career, I have found that playing to my strengths helped me move up the ladder! Additionally, I was more “successful” when I didn’t focus on what other people in my office were doing. I had to put on my blue blockers and focus on my own goals and aspirations.
It’s time we stop comparing and self-deprecating.
As Bruno Mars would say, you just “Drip in your finesse.”
Here are two things that helped me focus on my own strengths when the world tried to tell me to focus on other factors:
1) Don’t Focus Solely on Your Weaknesses
Let’s first get this out the way...We all have areas that might need extra care and attention. Does that mean you have to beat yourself up about them and be self-deprecating? No, Queen. Identify those areas for growth, and work on turning those weaknesses into more superpower strength. For example, there was a time when public speaking was not something I felt was a strength of mine. In order to level up, I had to take public speaking courses and practice speaking up in meetings. Now, people pay me to come and speak. Look at God! I don’t say that to boast, but I mention it because if I would have let public speaking stay a weakness, it would be hard running a company like The Memo. Also, if you have a fear of speaking up in public, it’s hard to be effective at your seat at the table. We need your voice! If this is something you could use extra help in, check out our public speaking boot camp.
2) Identify Your Strengths.
What do you observe about yourself that embodies strength? What have others said they love about you? When I have conversations about passion, I encourage people to write down what they’re good at. And, I don’t want you to say, I am not good at anything, because you and I both know better. Once you take a look at your list, attempt to incorporate those in your everyday life. Don’t let your strengths and passion areas go dormant. Feed them--work on going from good to great! As COO of Starbucks, Rosalind Brewer said, “Get to know yourself, and get to know what your strengths are. Play into those strengths and try and multiply the opportunities in your life with resources.”
Recently, we finished a 12-week Civic Accelerator for Points of Light sponsored by Starbucks, Hilton, and PWC. The Memo was one of 11 social startups chosen to participate. Being in an accelerator exposes many of your weaknesses. During the second month of the program, there was an activity where the other 10 ventures had to openly discuss your company while you just sit and listen. They discuss the good, the bad, and ways they think your company could improve. Before it was our turn, I was sweating bullets and almost sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to hear what they had to say--I was scared. By the end of the program, this activity became one of my favorites. Sometimes we are so stuck in the weeds that it’s hard to see what we’re good at, and what areas for improvement we have. Every time my peers spoke about our areas for improvement, they were opportunities for us to excel.
Nothing is ever truly a weakness unless you decide to do nothing about it!