Know Your Strengths

September 17, 2012
CSSquirrel #99: Know Your Strengths

I count myself lucky to know Dylan Wilbanks. He’s an intelligent, well-spoken man who thinks and says things in a way that makes me intensely jealous of his erudite nature. In today’s comic, he witnesses the Squirrel in a hare-brained moment as he embraces his strengths in the wrong way.

Hustle is Hype is a piece written by Dylan that he posted with some trepidation on how it would be received. In it, he presents the radical proposition that we don’t need to work ourselves to death, that “hustle”, the 80 hour workweek that the tech start-up world tells us we need to be great and successful, isn’t a sign of greatness, but weakness.

He dares to suggest, rather outrageously, that we should embrace our strengths and have some focus. That we should work smart instead of blindly working long hours. That if you’re good at something, you should work to be great at it, instead of trying to re-do all the work of the rest of your team.

He even suggests, and I know this is going to disgust you, that we should trust the people we work with. That we shouldn’t be threatened by talent in our co-workers, that we should embrace their skill and encourage them to use it rather than suffocating it .

When it comes down to it, Dylan has the audacity to state that we should dare to live quality lives. He states that we should concentrate on the quality of our talent and skill rather than bleeding out all our time in the office in an quantity-focused 80 hour work week of bleary-minded labor.

Some people are offended by his post, believe it or not. People who may be missing the point of “focus versus hustle”, or who think he’s preaching “specialists versus generalists”. People who don’t get it.

Well, I do get it. I know I’ve had a tendency to burden myself down by overreaching, juggling too many plates, trying to drill down too deeply in too many skill-sets when I’ve got team members that can do the same job better and faster. Basically I’ve frequently burnt myself out instead of giving myself the opportunity to excel at the things that I’m best at.

A real team, in any environment, is one that may have an overlap of skills, where each person can take on another’s tasks if the need exists. But more importantly the team plays to its strengths, making the most use of each person and their skills to the best end results. There’s a great deal of trust involved, when each person in a team takes on what they do best and relies on the others to do their part, letting them do the same.

The kind of trust that pays off.

Stop working yourself to death. Find your strengths, trust your co-workers, and maybe get home while the sun’s still out.

Sounds good to me.

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