Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Improve your Weaknesses or your Strengths?

copyright Jason Langheine (Creative Commons)

I blew it this past week. I found a letter addressed to my 6-year-old daughter in the back of one of my books. Someone had given it to me a week earlier. Unfortunately, it was an invitation to her good friend’s birthday party. I delivered it two days late.

Deliveries have never been a strength. Generally, my mind is so busy with problems to solve, ideas to implement, people to engage that I easily forget about the sweet handwritten note I am supposed to deliver. I don’t like this about myself. It is a weakness that I have tried to improve for years. Things have changed, somewhat, but I can’t seem to break through to the next level. Or should I even try?

This I do know, it is not OK for me to say one thing—”yes I will deliver that note”—and do another thing—not deliver the note. This was evident as I was apologizing to Izzy for ruining her friends birthday. But, what other options do I have?

Option One: Go back to middle school and learn to pass notes

In middle school, I was never much of a note-passer. Perhaps that is my problem. I need to come up with personal development plan to improve as a delivery man. Something like this:

Problem: I forget to deliver things

Goal: 100% delivery rate

Root Issue: I am too distracted by other things

Step 1: Keep a list of things I need to deliver (perhaps on my phone). When someone asks me to give something to someone else, write it down.

Step 2: Develop a habit of checking the list daily

Step 3: Recruit someone to keep me accountable for my delivery habits.

Perhaps, if I consistently work at these steps, I can improve in this area of weakness. But, is this the best use of my energy? There is another option.

Option Two: Politely refuse to deliver things for people.

I am serious about this. If I wanted deliver messages I would have become a postman. For the past few years, I have tested out this strategy. A colleague recently asked me to get bring her something from my wife. Here is how the conversation went:

“Hey Josh, Taylor has a DVD for me. Can you bring it tomorrow morning to our meeting?”

“Well, I am not sure you want me to do that. I am not a good delivery man.”

She laughed. “Just ask Taylor for it when you get home.”

“No, I’m serious. I will probably forget. When I get home, my kids jump on me. Then it is dinner time. Then bedtime. Then it is pass out time. Most likely I will forget.”

“You can’t remember one DVD?”

“Probably not. You could call me tonight to remind me if you want.”


She forgot to call and I forgot the DVD. It took three days for me to actually get the DVD into my bag and successfully deliver it.

What if I had been more clear at the beginning? “I would love to help, but, honestly, if you want that DVD it will probably be faster for you to get it directly from Taylor.”

Would that be rude? or wrong? Or is that taking an honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses and living appropriately?

If I spend all my time and energy improving my weaknesses, what’s left for being who God made me to be? (you can tweet that if you want)

Something needs to change

Something needs to change in me. But what? Do I improve my weaknesses or do I focus on my strengths?

What do you think? What should I do—option one or two?

I am open for your feedback.

About Josh

  • sanela lindsay

    Hi Josh,

    I thought this was a question in semantics…isn’t improving weaknesses a contradiction? (I suppose, you can lessen or eradicate a weakness :), if you have to.

    My weakness is that I love giving advice, even when not required, so now that you ask:

    1. Going back to high school would really help, I know I would love to improve my memory by several gigabytes (or whatever the measure is).

    2. Maybe you should just try to concentrate on the job on the hand, rather than yourself, even if you make mistakes and not cover everything.Doing that, you will improve yourself, and who knows, one day you may even deliver the DVD. And if you don’t, the person in question will save a couple of hours for something else (perhaps they meet someone crucial for their future life in the DVD time slot- your weakness might even help in the grand design).

    3. I am surprised that I have no more advises, maybe I myself didn’t make a conscious effort to lessen my weakness.

    Good luck!

    • Josh

      Ha, ha. You are right. I don’t want to improve my weaknesses, they are already strong enough. 🙂 I agree that it is important to free ourselves from the need to be perfect. I will never ever (no matter how much I work at it) be as good as my wife at remembering things, like DVDs. I have to accept that about myself. In doing that I free up energy to strengten my strengths. I think that is key.

      Thanks for the advice.

  • Eric would say, “you need a system for that.” His strength is strategic planning. He has a system for everything. And then God brought me into his life. He has no one system that works for me. I like it like that 🙂

    • Josh

      Yes. You would think that as an industrial and systems engineering graduate I would already have a system.

      • When Josh and I were on the same team, we constantly invented systems to shore up our weaknesses (Josh, my wife Emily, and I are cut from similar cloth) but then we would forget to continue to implement those systems. Thankfully, we had this girl named Wendy on the team. She, like Josh was a GT ISYE graduate, but she cared enough about details, finance, and follow through to keep us from drifting into outer space….most or some of the time.

        Too often I would insist on my idea driven ways despite the wise objections of more realistic people on my team. And then on our best days, the dreamers dreamed well and the doers did a great job challenging us to focus and deliver.

        • Josh

          So glad for people like Wendy!

  • Stephanie Cunningham

    I think you have to at least make a conscious effort to still try and deliver things. Imagine if everyone in the world decided to just quit the things they didn’t think they we’re good at…nothing would get done!

    You could still give fair warning of “I’ll probably forget.” So the person(s) depending on you are aware and can help remind you. But, I don’t think you should just quit.

    • Josh

      I like your question, “what if everyone quit doing what they were not good at?” What would happen to the world? Perhaps others would step up in their place.

      I do agree that you have to follow through on what you say you will do. That is bedrock. Perhaps, though, we say we will do too much and that prevents us from doing what we do best. Or, prevents others from doing what they do best.

      For example, had I politely refused to deliver the letter last week, she would have given it to Taylor instead, or perhaps directly to Izzy (both of whom were there). By not saying “no” I may have complicated things.

      Thanks for the input. 😉

  • I saw this on twitter this morning and I’ve been thinking about it off and on. Doesn’t it come down to “what kind of person do I want to be to whom?” being reliable to your family is different than being a good mailman. what kind of dad? what kind of husband? what kind of friend do i want to be? do I want to be someone that people can count on? You may never be as good as your wife at those things but for the relationships that matter, I’m thinking you want to be the best you can be. What that means is what you have to figure out.

    • Josh

      Excellent point. There is definitely a relational component to this. I can communicate love and care for someone by serving as a go-between. Thanks for your input.

  • At the Leadecast conference last year, this is the exact point that Jack Canfield made. (He is the author of Chicken Soup for the Soul books.)

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