Knowing your days on this earth are numbered certainly prompts a person to re-examine priorities and alter perspective. For Tom Rath, author of StrengthsFinder 2.0, a realignment of purpose came far sooner than it does for most. In mid-adolescence, Tom discovered that because of a cancer-producing genetic disorder, he would likely not live past 40. His strengths-based family (he is the grandson of Donald Clifton, creator of StrengthsFinder) nourished in him a sense of gratitude for the present moment and a desire to make a positive mark on this world that would endure long after he is gone. At the 2017 CliftonStrengths Summit, Tom Rath bestowed his wisdom and grace on over 1,000 strengths coaches as he shared his perspective on what, in the end, really matters.
What follows are insights I gleaned from Tom’s talk. Although directed to a room full of strengths coaches, Tom’s reflections stretch far beyond a coaching audience.
The single greatest strength is the ability to uncover a talent in another human being that they had not noticed before. Such revelation can be a game-changer for a person and potentially for the world. Personally, I recall one of my grad school professors writing this comment on an assignment I turned in: “You have the gift of articulation. Use it!” No one had ever remarked about my writing talent before. I went on to publish six bible studies during my career as a pastoral minister. Strengths coaches have a unique opportunity to participate in this life-changing awakening.
Put your own health and well-being first for the sake of doing more for other people. We need to make wise and healthy decisions to be our best for the people who need us today. Ultimately these good decisions are choices for a better future too.
One single best way to build resiliency in children is to connect the choices they make today directly with the short-term result, while also teaching them how these will ultimately be the choices that are best for the future.
Isn’t it crazy that we wait until a person dies to talk about how great they are? Take the time to tell people, especially those close to you, what is good about them and what positive effect they have on you as a person. Learn to spot talent and celebrate it with people. Clifton Strengths offers a language that lends itself to such dialogue.
Be known for not using your cell phone in social settings. Make time and attention the new status symbol. Tom compared the use of cell phones today with what smoking used to be – the cool thing. In truth, cell phones degrade the quality of conversation at a table, even if only one person places theirs in sight. A cell phone on your desk diminishes your cognitive performance by about 10% to 15%, even if you are the only person in the room. Cell phones diminish dialogue and relationships. Like smoking today, which is relegated to the back of a building behind the dumpster, let’s make using our cell phones the uncool and anti-social thing to do. Be known and admired for not using yours. Turn it off; stash it away; learn to ask probing thoughtful questions; keep your mouth closed; listen intently to what people have to say to you.
Life is not about what you get out of it, it’s about what you put into it. Life is about making a lasting contribution that continues to be significant when you’re gone. Life is about…
The development of strengths must be connected with positive outcomes for others – changing the life of a child, a spouse, a friend, a stranger, making a positive difference for others. Do something that will improve the lives of people long after you are gone.
Instead of following your passion, find where you can make your contribution. Our passions are great, but our contribution to the world is greater. Talents won’t come to fruition until they are used as a contribution for others.
You have today to make a difference…