“You and I are bound to fail, unless you put in
the time and effort to prevent it.”
Dr John Ng
For a long time, I have subscribed to this dictum of Peter Drucker: “Leverage on your strengths until your weakness becomes irrelevant.” Our weakness never becomes irrelevant, however. We have to deal with it.
Having studied, researched and examined many leaders who have fallen, I began to realize we all have weaknesses. And your weakness matters. Many men and women have fallen because of particular weaknesses in their lives, whether it was:
- The late pop icon Whitney Huston (drugs)
- Tiger Woods (affairs)
- Former New York Stock Exchange chairman Richard Grasso (corruption)
Examples abound, but they have one thing in common: Their weaknesses have become their downfall. Allow me to share two perspectives about weaknesses.
1. We All Have Weaknesses
“Be you ever so high, the law is still above you.”
It is unfashionable to admit that you have weaknesses, especially in our Asian culture. You have to be strong, or at least appear to be strong. Admitting weakness is a sign of weakness; it is to lose face, even when your failures are exposed. We often deny them and deflect the blame. Allow me to emphasize this: You will fail and falter from time to time but more importantly, you need to recover.
There are few types of weaknesses. Each one of us suffers from one or more of them:
- Personality Weakness
“Where does personality end and brain damage begin?”
This weakness arises from an over-utilization or over-indulgence of a particular personality trait. For example, those of us are more introverted tend to fall into ‘paralysis of analysis’ syndrome — endlessly examining a situation without taking action. On the other hand, extroverts can overwhelm people with ‘verbal diarrhea’ especially when they dominate discussions at meetings.
As an extreme extrovert, I have the tendency to talk and I am a poor listener. This is not helped by my recent discovery that I have hearing loss, especially when there is a chatter of voices or noises.
This weakness comes from untrained, undeveloped, or unmanaged weakness resulting from your over-utilized strength. For example, I am spatially challenged. I forget where I parked my car. I am very poor with directions. Sometimes, I can’t tell left from right, north from south.
I am also weak administratively. I tend to miss out the details. It can be very embarrassing when you make presentations with the wrong slides or with the names misspelt. This can frustrate my colleagues who are working with me and are anal about details. So, I can compensate my competence weakness by ensuring that I have someone who is stronger administratively or in details to proof read my work.
The other more serious competence weakness is an over-utilized strength that has led to your success. An over-utilized strength is a weakness. This is the flip side of every strength.
I am more of an entrepreneurial positive thinker. I know no fear. I see only the doughnut rather than the hole. Often, I am charging alone without realizing that my people have a hard time catching up with me. At times, because of my lack of detailed planning and execution, I fail in the execution of my strategy.
“Negative thoughts are like termites that chew up and spit out happiness.”
Another type of weakness has to do with our emotions such as anger, fear, lust, or jealousy. Usually, these weaknesses and lack of self-control in these areas can wreak havoc in our lives.
It can result in becoming a way of behaving, usually hidden from others except our closest family members and colleagues. These are activated by trigger words, situations and people and are aggravated when you are over-stressed, anxious and are experiencing a lack of sleep or rest.
These emotional weaknesses reside deep in your psyche. They are usually suppressed and repressed until triggered. Some of these emotional angsts have deep-seated psychological needs associated with deep rejection, unresolved bitterness and traumatic past experiences.
I have a foul temper, which I have denied for a long time. On the surface, I seem like a very nice amenable guy. Only my family knows how I can break out into a rage. I remember an incident when my daughter, Meixi was six years old. She was behaving badly in the car. I tried to stop her. I gave her repeated warnings but that made it worse.
I threatened her, saying, “If you don’t stop crying now, I am going to stop the car and drop you off until you stop crying.” Obviously, she didn’t stop. I jammed on the brake, opened the door, dragged her out of the car and left her on the side of the road in the middle of the night. All the pleadings from my wife, Alison, and Meixi did not work. She was wailing to no avail.
I literally drove off. I was in a rage. After driving for about 200 meters, Alison scolded me and demanded that I returned to pick her up. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and I drove back and picked her up. She was still sobbing away.
There were other incidents that made me realize I have uncontrolled anger. It was really scary. I realize now that this rage is triggered when I am over-tired and when I cannot get my way. I also realized that part of my rage is a result of my family history and learnt behaviors from my father, who also had a terrible temper.
2. You are Bound to Fail
Not only do you and I have weaknesses, you and I are also bound to fail, unless you put in the time and effort to prevent it. Your inherent pains, your subtle family values, your parents’ unrealistic expectations or your dysfunctional upbringing push you away from becoming great.
You become even more vulnerable when character weakness is coupled with the anonymity and accessibility of quick-win schemes, anonymous pornographic websites or association with friends who endorse your behaviors. The increasing pressure of life, the higher expectations from society, the inevitability of conflict escalation in this competitive world and the relentless pursuit of perfection will expose your weaknesses and make them even more apparent.
Worse still, you are made to believe that you can get away with it. You think you can hide and can never be exposed.
And it’s hard to admit your wrongs even when you know you are wrong. This is certainly another aspect in the web of weakness.
Although your strengths and weaknesses are twins in the same womb, it is never too late to master both of them for the betterment of yourself and society. As the Roman philosopher Seneca reminds us, “Every night before going to sleep, we must ask ourselves: what weakness have I overcome today and what virtue did I acquire?”
How much do you agree with the statement, “We are bound to fail unless we put in the time and resources to prevent it”?
There are more types of weaknesses that I talked about in my latest book, Unleashing the Greatness in You. There, I also share how you can unleash your greatness through the power of self-leadership. Go ahead and get yours today!