Playing to strengths
I played the violin from elementary school through my first year in college, and rather enthusiastically, I might add. I didn’t play well, but I loved it. Let me clarify, what I really loved was the beautiful sound of a well-played violin… and that was rarely mine.
But as I said, I played enthusiastically, often in the last seat in the last row, but hey, someone’s got to sit there.
Finally, in college, our conductor took me aside and asked if I would consider putting soap on my bow rather than rosin. Soap, you see, would render me silent. I could still be part of the orchestra and still learn and perform the music, but I wouldn’t be the odd squeak heard too often in rehearsal.
At first, I was indignant, and I was determined to practice more. Never would I put soap on my bow, I would quit first. I huffed and puffed to a good friend who was classically challenged (he only listened to music with words and a beat you could dance to) and he actually laughed at me … he’d heard me practice.
But then he said, “You aren’t a music major, why is this so important?” That was the quintessential question that stopped my tirade and the answer became perfectly clear: I wanted to be a part of something bigger, not just a listener.
But in reality, listening was what I did best, not playing.
This is one of my first recollections of letting go of that need to be a member of the orchestra group, or of any group for that matter, and of finding peace listening. It was humbling to learn that in letting go, I could play to a strength, rather than fighting a weakness.
And as I learned through many more encounters with family, friends, students, colleagues and others, it’s important to understand where you may have weaknesses. But when it comes to what you focus on, why not concentrate only on your strengths?
Because when you put emphasis on what you do best, you don’t spend so much time trying to fix your shortcomings: you use your talents, knowledge and skills – your strengths – to do great things you enjoy.
At Philanthropy Ohio this month, the staff will participate in a workshop designed around the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. My hope is that by exploring how we naturally think, feel, act and perform – as a staff and individually – we can figure out what our strengths are and then build on the areas where we all have the potential to grow and flourish.
I’d love to hear about the ways you and your organization play to your strengths and what your successes have been.
And by the way, happy 176th birthday, Peter Tchaikovsky.
It’s a great day at Philanthropy Ohio,
Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.