Where we’re in school, our intellects are judged by the grades we receive or our performance in some form of sports. We are constantly pushed to explore everything that the education system has to offer – however limited that may be – to essentially get into college. Yet, there is no focus on expanding the strengths available to people in school. AP tests set aside, let’s say you are good at a subject, the system doesn’t push you to further explore the subject. It depends upon self-learning and methods like Olympiads and competitions hoping that their one star student will bag the trophy.
Imagine what it would be like if schools really understood the importance of improving strengths instead of questioning why you got low grades. One of the most misleading examples of this we have seen is when students are barred from playing sports because they got lower grades. Imagine if they got better coaching instead of the force towards learning the Pythagoras theorem. This is not to say that learning math and sciences is not important, but understanding the extent of the usefulness of math and science and to what end a student should really learn it.
Strengths are for more than Students
Now, this post isn’t exclusive for students going through the schooling system, but it can be considered a good start. I know that a lot of schools in America have started offering special classes for students to choose from and that these classes reflect college-level seminar classes. These are usually 1 credit classes or low priority classes that don’t affect graduation and still offer students an opportunity to explore their interests and develop skills. From woodworking and photography to biophysics and calculus courses. This is a good step forward for what we can be doing to push people towards developing and strengthening skills that they can recognize.
I read somewhere that success (a word with multiple perceived meanings), is measured by who you are, not who you aren’t. It makes sense, you wouldn’t ask a professional baker to do your taxes, well at least not without knowing if they’re any good at it. One of the most commonly asked, and commonly annoying questions, in an interview is – what are your strengths? Businesses do a strengths analysis frequently to understand themselves better as well. The frequency and the focus on the strengths in real-life points towards a fact glaring at us in the face. People care about what you can do.
This could mean a Better Economy
In the US, sports-related jobs account for nearly 500,000 jobs. WIth some very lucrative jobs in the mix, making the industry worth over $14 billion. In India, fields like particle physics and experimental biotechnology are virtually non-existent because anyone good at science is pushed towards becoming an engineer. So much so, that annually the number of engineers produced in India has crossed the entire population of Switzerland.
On one of my favorite podcasts – My Indian Life by BBC World Service – there is an episode where Kalki, the host of the podcast is talking to the woman behind the Indian Mars mission Mangalyaan, or the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), BP Dakshayani where Mrs. Dakshayini is boasting about her skills in the kitchen. As much as I found it entertaining, it also pointed to the fact that it isn’t enough to be the world’s leading rocket scientist, as a female, she was still pushed towards learning how to cook for her family.
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This brings me to my next point, it may seem like that knowing how to cook is great and having multiple skills is awesome, but we should not adopt the need to learn certain skills to please someone else if it is not your main agenda. We have been constantly focused on improving ourselves, and I believe everyone can agree on the fact that there is no mould that one can jump into and become the best version of themselves. Of course, in my opinion, one never truly becomes the best version of themselves – because that would be perfection – and humans aren’t perfect, but I also believe that many people go about it the wrong way.
Lacking in so much – Complete in so much more
When looking to improve ourselves, we end up focusing on things we lack. “Oh, I can’t cook, I should improve that” or “I haven’t been spending enough time reading because of another habit of mine.”
In most circumstances, I think it would be completely normal, even encouraged, to focus on things you lack and you would like to gain. For example, cooking is an amazing way to relieve stress for me, but I would not recommend it to people who find it stressful and if it does not add to them at all. If you already have a hobby that makes you feel really happy, why don’t you learn how to improve it instead of learning another thing that may not make you happy. It’s alright if you don’t cook, you can always learn how to make more money to buy the food. There are tons of services that send you ingredients weekly along with recipes so you don’t have to learn the skill to use it.
I will address the fact that a lot of the methods I have mentioned are a privilege that some may not be able to utilize, but I think there’s always a way to enhance your existing skill set instead of building a broken toolbox.
Changing the World
Changing the world sounds like a distant dream until you realize, you don’t have to change the world for everyone. You can choose to change the world for yourself and that is enough. It is a long process to become comfortable with the idea that it is you that matters.
Little drops of water make the mighty ocean and making sure that you have changed the world for yourself is the first step to be able to move forward and make a difference to someone else. You wanna pick up reading and cooking? Try reading a cookbook. You know you are good at marketing but are looking to improve yourself, market more than what our job gives you. Start a website showing people marketing.
An extremely fine example of this is Neil Patel. This man is a millionaire and a professional marketeer. He writes blogs, runs an ad agency, makes videos on Instagram and has an extremely adorable family. All of this seems like a struggle at start but if you dig into this a bit more, you’ll see that he started his ad agency, then, to improve his work – he started a blog on marketing and ads. He hired some people to make an SEO (search engine optimization) tool for his website and then made videos on Instagram about marketing as well. I’m sure he’s learning a lot of things by uploading those videos constantly and reading the statistics on them.
He has really reformed what digital marketing is to people and has nearly become synonymous with search engine optimization tools. He must have read a lot and worked hard, but it didn’t take for him to learn a completely alien skill to improve himself – and he managed to change the world. It’s baby steps. You improve a habit, you strengthen that habit, and then you just keep growing that till you have made an impact on the world.
As the global connections increase, national borders blur, and corporations become responsible for upskilling as well as reskilling people, we are already seeing a massive change in how the world functions. People have become experts in their respective fields to create a space for themselves in the world. In the competitive environment that ensues technological development, it has become increasingly hard for people to get by with superficial skills.
In the end, I just want to say that becoming an expert in anything is hard and strenuous but, you can do it and the fear of inferiority should not be holding you back.