Your Superpower and Your Kryptonite

August 16th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

What’s your greatest strength? Can you identify it?

I’m not saying your greatest strength is necessarily unique, and it probably won’t put any comic book heroes to shame. But if you can identify any strengths at all, then one of them must be your greatest (or at least a few are tied for first place). So what is it?

Not an easy question. But think of an answer anyway.

How has your greatest strength served you thus far? Do you simply take it for granted, or have you been using it deliberately and consciously? What’s the downside?

Do you find as I do that your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness? Do you find that your best human superpower is also your personal kryptonite?

For example, my greatest strength is probably my ability to learn very quickly and to retain well. I’m a fast learner. I can learn things in a few days that often take other people several months.

But this ability is also my kryptonite. Because I’m rapidly soaking up new information and ideas, my mental understanding is constantly racing far ahead of my external world. I take in knowledge far faster than I can apply it, so I’m always outpacing my surroundings. It would be exceedingly difficult for me to thrive in a corporate environment doing the same type of work year after year. If I wasn’t getting promoted every month or two and assigned bigger and bigger challenges as opposed to repetitive gruntwork, the pace of change would be too slow for me, and I’d feel bored and trapped, like a caged animal.

I had the same problem with my games business. One reason I opted to retire from game development was that it was too slow and restrictive a business model for me. I outgrew the desire to make entertainment products. But because I was so deeply entrenched in that business, I held myself to follow through on many past commitments that I would never have made again if I were starting fresh. I kept making and publishing games, and my new perspective simply oozed out around the edges. For example, I shifted the focus of the business away from arcade shoot-em-ups and towards highly cerebral, largely nonviolent logic puzzle games. I was trying to shift the business to become a better fit for me. I even toyed with the idea of using electronic entertainment as a medium for teaching personal development. But the nature of the business (and the industry as a whole) made the pace of change too slow for me to manage.

I soon realized that by clinging to the current state of my external physical world, I was only putting the brakes on myself. My reality was becoming a very inaccurate reflection of who I was on the inside. This web site is a fair reflection of who I am now, but a year ago there was very little in my external reality that accurately reflected the real me.

I realized that I needed a far more adaptive and flexible career, one that could help compensate for my kryptonite and take better advantage of my strength. This helped me commit to working directly in the field of personal development. Since the very basis of my work now is learning and growth, I have enough flexibility to keep reinventing myself without feeling trapped by an overly rigid business model. Consequently, I’ve been able to release the leash I’ve put around my growth, and in the past year I’ve probably experienced more growth than I have in the previous ten.

Do you see yourself in any of this?

Have you ever felt that your current life situation is preventing you from taking full advantage of your greatest personal strength? Is your career the best fit for your personal superpower? Or does it repeatedly expose you to kryptonite? Can you think of a different career that would allow you to work directly from your strength?

One of the advantages of working from your strength is that it produces a high ROI. You get disproportionately high results for the time and energy you invest.

Once you have a general sense of your personal strength (and if not, take your best guess anyway), brainstorm a list of 10-20 new careers that would take advantage of it. See what new possibilities you can imagine for your future.

What’s your yellow sun?


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