An Illuminating Experience with Strength

Not long ago, I met someone who is a chef that comes to a person’s home and cooks meals for the week to their specifications and leaves. We meet initially and she interviewed me for an hour to find out what my goals are, what I liked, what I didn’t like. She showed up with bags of groceries and went to work without very little conversation. She left 3 hours later and I was blown away.

Although we didn’t talk much while she was here, I did stop through the kitchen as she worked and watched as we made polite conversation. I sampled one of the dishes that was prepared and watched her work. It was delicious and effortless, not just for me but for her as well.

Whenever I cook a meal, it’s something I have to psych myself up and then, while preparing the meal I need to fully concentrate. I read the instructions many times during the process. I constantly doubt if I’m doing something right or putting in the correct amount or doing things in the proper order. It is a clumsy process—both physically and mentally. The results are never guaranteed. I never know if it’s going to turn out right or if it was worth the effort and expense. The entire time, I may not be stressed but I’m definitely not relaxed. 

Contrast that to the woman. She could talk to me, listen to headphones while simultaneously prepare multiple dishes. I think there were 10 total. It didn’t drain her of energy—mental or physical. It gave her energy. She made it all look so easy—the way she sliced onions with techniques they must have taught in chef school because I never thought of chopping an onion other than the straightforward way. I watched how she crushed garlic quickly and efficiently with the side of her chef knife blade (my garlic crushing involves way more steps and much more effort).

This is strength in the exact way Dr. Clifton, the creator of StrengthsFinder, meant it. This woman had not taken the StrengthsFinder. I did not know her themes, although now I am curious to find out. None of that matters because everything that we need to know about strength was right there on full display.

A strength is an activity. In this case, cooking. As good as she was, she’d be the first to say there are many other people who can do what she does and even do it better. And, that takes nothing away from this being a strength. The important thing is that all those other people would have different themes from her. Themes contribute to a strength, but they are not a strength. A strength is an activity. Different themes contribute different qualities to a strength. 

Strength is an activity which is done consistently and near perfectly. I could make a dish and have it come out really good. It’s happened…rarely. So, I have produced near perfect performance, but I could not do that on a consistent basis. For this woman, all 10 dishes were near perfect. She has other clients to, so she cooks many different dishes near perfectly.

How do you think I feel about the exchange of value (my money for her cooking)? How do you think she feels about it? Playing to your strengths is good business.

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