Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

The Weaknesses We Shouldn't Ignore

These days, it's fashionable to talk about building on one's strengths at work. After all, if we work primarily in teams, it doesn't make sense to try to be good at something that someone else is already much better at, comparatively. Rather, we're advised to build on our unique strengths - and not waste time on our flaws -  so that we can increase our contributions in team settings and advance our careers more rapidly.

That may be true, but this weekend's thought-provoking piece by David Brooks reminded me of an equally important truth: we must work to improve the flaws in our character.

He says:

Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character. But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys.

What that means to me that if we ignore the flaws in our character, we're ignoring our humanity and a responsibility to others to try to be good. Ignoring our character flaws is tantamount to allowing our core sins to fester and permeate to others.

My deepest sin is probably lust (broadly speaking) or maybe greed. That's not a "weakness" that I'm willing to ignore, even though building on strengths is what I'm "supposed" to do.

In the workplace, it may make sense to focus our efforts on building strengths. But in life - and to be fully human - it also makes sense to work on on vanquishing the deepest sins of our character.