Jan 26, 2011

Life Of Adventure - Strenghten Your Strengths

Today I'm super excited to bring you a guest post from Sam Spurlin, who blogs at The Simpler Life.

Piano playing

Mozart wasn't an architect that became a badass composer in his free time. His strength was musical and he worked tirelessly at developing that into something remarkable. Living a life of adventure can be as simple as figuring out what you're already good at and practicing it until you have developed a world class talent.

I'm a firm believer that the best use of your time is making your strengths stronger, rather than elevating your weaknesses into mediocrity. In fact, it has become another tenant of my Life of Daily Adventure. I've already written about learning something new everyday, doing interesting things with food, and expanding your musical horizons can add a small dose of adventure that a simple life thrives on. Now, you get to focus on making yourself even better.

Life of Adventure #4: Strengthen Your Strengths

A life of adventure is one filled with passion, excitement, and new experiences. That's why a large portion of my writing on this topic is centered on the idea of learning and doing new things. However, I think there is a ton of value to be gained from figuring out what you're good at and practicing it over and over and over until your talent really stands alone.

First, What Are You Good At?

Before you can work on your strengths, you have to figure out what it is that you're good at. Lots of people already know where their strengths are. Some of us have a natural affinity for art, writing, interpersonal relationships, programming, or managing people. However, don't confuse "natural affinity" with "I just wasn't born that way". Sure, lots of people seem to be naturally gifted, but behind that veneer of effortless talent is often hours upon hours of deliberate practice.

If you don't know what your strength is, let me suggest a couple resources. First, the book Now Discover Your Strengths is one of the best "strengths finder" books I've ever read. It will help you figure out where your natural talents may be so you can focus your development efforts more effectively. There are lots of other personality tests tests available online that have varying degrees of relevance to this exercise. I wouldn't put too much stock into any one type, though. Instead, try 3 or 4 and see if any recurring patterns or themes show up in the results.

You Know Your Strength, Now What?

Once you've figured out what you may be particularly good at, it's time to get down to business. Set aside a few minutes (or longer) everyday for deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is not just "noodling around" or mindlessly going through the motions. Deliberate practice is what world class talent is built on. It has a goal, it's difficult, and mentally draining.

One of the best books I've read about developing talent is The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. He writes about the various talent hotbeds across the country and the characteristics they all share. One of the most obvious similarities is the culture of deliberate practice that they all encourage.

Let me use myself as an example, I believe my strengths to be communicating in writing, in conversation, and in making complex ideas easy to understand. When I sit down to "practice" writing, it usually ends up being a blog article. Sometimes, though, I'll spend time writing in a completely different genre just to stretch my abilities. I'll spend lots of time by myself jotting down ideas, taking complex ideas and reducing them to their simplest components and then rejoining those components into something easy to understand. I do that every time I write a lesson plan, create a digital product or write a blog post.

Working on your strengths is the surest way to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Any "master" that you admire in a given field of work has reached that status through deliberate practice and commitment. Living a life of adventure is built on the idea of being proud of who you are, challenging yourself, and becoming a better person. There's no reason that becoming better at what you care about has to be an expensive affair.

In fact, I've been doing it for the past 45 minutes and all it cost me was a small coffee and the electricity to run my computer.

Is your life of adventure supporting your strengths?

Sam Sam Spurlin helps people live more consciously through his writing at The Simpler Life. He writes e-books, articles, and connects with his readers via any means possible. He believes that any positive change in the world starts with people living as consciously as possible.

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