Every strength has a corresponding shadow.
You and I both have things we are great at. Things which seem to come easily for us, or are pointed out by others. “You’re so good at this” or “I wish I could do that or be like that!”
For each thing we are particularly strong at, there is a “flip side” to it which can affect us – or others – in a darker way…
…if we allow it.
More often than not, we’re more worried or fearful of the shadow than aware of the strength. There’s a scene in one of the Harry Potter films where Harry is expressing a fear that he’s connected to evil and somehow “becoming bad”.
His godfather tells him the world isn’t split into good people and death eaters.
“We’ve all got light and dark inside us,” he says. “What matters is the part we choose to act on.”
That’s always the point. It’s our choice, our attitude. I’m not able to affect whether a flight is on time, or an event is cancelled, or whether the house I want to buy is available.
But I have complete control over what I do with that information, and how I choose to react to it.
I can also choose to focus on my strengths, and not let the shadow overwhelm me. After all, that’s what shadows do, if we allow it. They can creep forward and move in until we’re hidden or even cowering in the darkness, when a few steps might bring us back out into the sunshine, into the light.
I encourage you this week to take some time to think about your strengths – really recognise them and praise yourself for them. Yes, recognise the shadow too: but give more attention to the strength, because it’s light which always overcomes the darkness.
Here are some of mine, to help you get started on this exercise.
Strength: connecting others
Shadow: not asking for what I need
I’m really, really good at connecting the right people together. I don’t care as much about what might be considered “success”, as long as the person is someone of integrity, people who are creative and generous and who love to go deep. When someone needs something, or asks for help, I’m the first person to say “Ooooh, I know someone great who could help you!” and will rush off to connect them. I’ll even check back to see how it went and see if there’s anything else I can do.
On the flip side, I can forget (in all of my generosity and connecting) to ask for help, myself. Or to ask for what I need and want. I’ll do another Note on it soon, but here are some of the things I’m wanting right now, if you know anyone and want to connect me!
- Podcasts I can be a guest speaker on: Ideally to an audience of accountants, but also any creative business owners or those building a personal brand
- Speaking engagements or events: Same as above! Online welcome, but live and on-stage even better, ideally for 2024.
- Sharing my book with accountants: Either a social post about the content of the book (why it’s valuable for accountants), or some other mention which will get it out to more accountants who will find it helpful.
Writing flows out of me even on my worst day. (Actually, sometimes a tough day provides a lot of content for writing!) I’ve learned long ago that even if I cut off writing in one area, it will pop up in another. For years I wrote blog posts, articles, social posts…and now I’m writing books. I’m back to writing these Notes every week. I love it and I’d write and publish books even if only one or two people bought them.
On the flip side, i really struggle to record video.
I do it because I know it’s a good and helpful thing, particularly for my business, but it’s not my favourite and I often find myself putting it off. “I’m tired – I’ll do it tomorrow when I have more energy.” “My hair doesn’t look good today.” “It’s getting dark – I’ll wait until I have natural light.” (That last one comes up a lot in a Scottish winter!) I give a lot of advice to accountants about recording video, and it’s still an area for me to work on. I even have a sneaking suspicion that recording daily reels might be a good exercise (but I’m avoiding that too). Feel free to shout if you relate to this.
Strength: goal orientated
Shadow: hurrying forward small actions and delaying the big ones
I did one of those personality tests once which told me I was over 90% goal orientated – meaning I love to achieve something, to tick it off the list…whether it’s large or small. This means I will be driven to finish and publish a book (a large goal), but I will also be driven to respond to all my Slack messages (a tiny and daily repeating goal). It’s positive that I will be consistent and focused until I achieve the goals I have…
…but the flip side is my goal orientation sometimes prevents me from slowing down. Being present. Sitting with things.
Or even letting things go. I’ll finish a book out of sheer stubbornness, even when I don’t like it and am not interested anymore, but I only have 50 more pages to read and once it’s done I can write it down on my list of books I finished. I’ll keep driving at an idea I had for the business or the team, even when we haven’t had that much interest in it and I’d be far better turning my attention elsewhere.
Strength: expertise and experience
Shadow: talking and not asking
Having worked with accountants for over twenty years, it’s rare that I get a question I’ve never been asked before, at least when it relates to accountants and marketing. I enjoy sales calls and often can lead the conversation to what they are wondering but don’t know how to ask, because I’ve been there so many times.
On the flip side, this can lead to me presuming I know what the person will ask, or jumping to the answer too quickly. After all, the best sales calls are 80% listening and 20% talking, because you ask the right questions and let the person get to the answer themselves. This is something I’m working on, and the whole PF team are working on it too. How can we ask better questions? What does the person really need to know?
In light of that last one particularly, I’d love to hear from you…What is one of your strength-shadow combinations? Where does that come from for you?