Working on Our Weakpoints

Posted on Wednesday 25 January 2006

Sherry, over at Stay of Execution, has an excellent article about Doing Something You’re Bad At.

I’m going to quote most of it here:

A mentor of mine spoke to me on exactly this issue, about seven years ago. She grabbed some pens and pencils from a nearby can and held them in her hand, like this. She said, “Think of each pen or pencil as a skill or attribute you have, or a sense or ability of yours. And think of its height above your fingers as the level of development you’ve attained in that particular skill.” I nodded. Okay. “For most people, it’s kind of a random mix. It looks kind of like this, with all the pens and pencils at different levels.” I nodded. “During our lives, we work to increase the height of these pencils. That’s personal development.”

She then tapped all the pens and pencils down with the flat of the other hand, much lower. From the bottom, she poked a couple pencils up so they were very high above the others, as pictured here. “You,” she said, “look kind of like this. You have some very highly developed skills, that tower over the rest of them. And you have a lot of these pencils that are scrunched way down, and that haven’t really developed very much.” I gulped. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. “Part of this is that you were born this way,” she continued, gently. “But part of it is that these highly developed parts know really well how to get better. You’ve gotten very good at getting them higher up. But these other parts, well, you don’t really know how to do that — it’s a little bit clumsy and new and awkward. So you choose to put your energy into the pencils that are really high, because it’s easy to see progress that way.” I nodded.

“But these really high pencils, what’s going to happen if they get much higher? They might fall out. There’s nothing to hold them in. They’re not supported by anything around them. So they’re mad at these other ones. They look down from their mighty height at the low pencils, hunkered down there, and they resent them for not being higher, for limiting them. They are scornful and angry.” Yikes. “And that doesn’t make the low parts feel very good about trying to develop.” Ugh. “You need all these parts. There are things the low pencils can do that the tall pencils just aren’t equipped to do. They need each other. And the only way these low pencils are going to grow is if you give them some attention and some energy, and if you encourage them, even if they’re clumsy and awkward at first. Your highly developed parts can’t be mean to these other parts.”

Her mentor rocks… and now I want the readers of my blog, myself included, to go out and work on those short pencils…and do something we’re not good at, and try to strengthen our weakpoints.

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