Do you know what Peyton Manning is really good at? Playing football. Do you know what he’s probably not very good at? About 10,000 other things that aren’t football.
And guess what, that’s okay. Because Peyton Manning is one of the most recognizable and successful athletes on the planet. And he got there by being really good at football. So you, as an entrepreneur or businessperson, should follow suit. You should focus on what you’re good at and start admitting to what you suck at doing.
Why? Because no one ever became a raging success for being “somewhat good at a lot of stuff.” In fact, you rarely if ever stand out unless you focus on your strengths. No one ever refers their friend to “my mechanic who’s also not so bad at web design” or their “chiropractor who does some moonlighting as a voice coach.”
Instead, people refer and recognize those that stand out in their field. The same goes for business. Whether you’re working for someone else or for yourself, you should be focused on making your strengths stronger and mitigating the damage your weaknesses can cause.
If you were to constantly be focusing on where your weaknesses lie and how you can improve them, you’d never get out of the starting blocks. We’re humans. We’re chock-full of weaknesses. And that’s okay. Because everyone has them. The trick is to find the ones that could be damaging for your goals and mitigating them.
For instance, if you’re a charismatic person that has great ideas and wants to share them, you may want to go into public speaking. But if your vocabulary is full of “ums,” “likes,” “you know what I’m sayings,” and other verbal crutches, you might have a hard time making people believe you’re an authority. So, address that weakness. Work on your speech patterns and vocabulary habits to eliminate those words from your speech. Once you’ve done that, you can focus on making yourself the most remarkable person to step foot on a stage.
However, if one of your weaknesses is a poor singing voice, then really ask yourself if that’s going to impact your ability to be a motivational speaker. The answer is probably no. Now, I’m not suggesting you can’t strive to be a better singer. If that’s one of your goals, then by all means, go after it. Instead, what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be bogged down by your weaknesses that have no bearing on you becoming a huge success.
Write out your goals. Now, list your strengths that will help you achieve those goals. Next, list the weaknesses that could cause you to stumble.
That’s it. What’s on that paper is what matters. If your fear of open water keeps you from ever scuba diving, but it has no impact on you becoming the VP of Marketing, then leave it off the damn list.
Now you start optimizing your strengths while mitigating your weaknesses. Remember, you don’t need to make your weaknesses strong, you just need to mitigate them to where they won’t be a stumbling block.
Now that you’ve identified what attributes are going to carry you to success, you need to magnify them. You need to spend all possible time honing them from strengths into masteries. You want to ensure that it becomes impossible for someone to meet you without them getting a sense of just how good you are at your chosen skill set.
Why? Because no one is going to come to you and say:
“Hey there, friend. I’d like you to tell me what you’re great at. You see, I have all of this money stacked up in the corner and I’m waiting to give it to someone that I deem worthy.”
I believe that I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that this scenario has never happened. Not once. If it has and you’d like to dispute my claim, you can go ahead and email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll get right back to you. I promise.
No, that scenario is never going to happen. Instead, you need to grab the opportunity by the horns and ride that thing bareback for eight seconds. And you do that by making your strengths palpable to everyone around you. Everyone at your office should know you’re the person to go to for “x” or “y.” When executives are discussing who they need to promote, your name should be tip of tongue because you’re the best at “x” or “y.”
You should also stop spreading yourself so thin to try and impress your boss or those around you. Because when you’re spread thin, you produce thin results. Instead, demand that you get the projects you excel at and then produce the best damn results they’ve ever seen. That’s something that gets noticed. No one discusses the “meh” results that were turned in.
Here’s a little secret: Everything I just said pertains to businesses as well as individuals.
Don’t believe me? Think about it for a minute. Unless a company has 100 billion dollars to burn–think Amazon–it’s incredibly difficult for them to be exceptional in more than a few things. And this isn’t news. This has been discussed hundreds of ways:
- “Pick your vertical”
- “Stay in your lane”
- “You can’t be everything to everyone”
- “Go deep, not wide”
And so on, and so forth. But what all of these sayings are trying to convey is that you should make your strengths overwhelming and you should mitigate your weaknesses.
People will look to your company as a thought leader and an authority in your space if you focus on what you excel at. Your thought leadership will cause clients to flock to you for advice, services, and information. And the best part of thought leadership is that sales cycles shorten drastically. Half the battle when trying to gain a customer is convincing them that they can trust you and that you know what you’re doing. If they come to you because of your thought leadership, then that half of the battle is already won.
Everyone remembers the best and the greatest. Hell, we even remember most of the top 10–think Larry Bird. But you know who we don’t remember? The “do-it-all” players who never enter the hall of fame, never get the spotlight, and never excelled at any one thing. We remember that Jordan was the best scorer the NBA has ever seen. We remember that Gretzky was “The Great One.”
So, stop being middling at many different things and justifying it by calling yourself “A Jack-of-all-Trades” or “A Renaissance Man.” Those are cop-outs and most likely gross over-exaggerations. Instead, commit to being great at something and admitting you suck at the things that don’t count toward your success.
—Mike Templeman is the CEO of Foxtail Marketing, a digital-content marketing firm specializing in B2B lead generation and nurturing. He is passionate about tech, marketing, and small business. When not tapping away at his keyboard, he can be found spending time with his wife and kids.
This article first appeared in FastCompany. You can read it here.