Monday, June 2, 2008

Weekend Reading

I am listening to a few good audio books that has challenged some on my previous beliefs. The first audio book is Marcus Buckingham's 'Now, Discover Your Strengths.' I have already listened to his previous books 'First, Break All the Rules' and 'The One Thing You Should Know.' Basically, the main idea that challenges me is that one should cater to one's strengths. Previously, I was more on the Stephen Covey school of thought where one should develop into a well-rounded person. To sharpen the saw and work on improving one's weaknesses. But based on Buckingham's work (based on extensive research and surveys), one should in fact focus on one's strengths.

This made me re-think the past efforts I have exerted to improve myself. For instance, I joined Toastmaster to improve my communication skills. I would think that public speaking was a weakness of mine and that I should exert much effort in this area. Following the Buckingham book, I should not focus much effort on this area and instead focus on my strengths. But I have not yet determined my strengths so I am not sure whether it's a weakness or not. A strength is defined as a recurring activity that one excels in consistently. I think based on that definition, I have been delivering projects successfully for the past few years. Following the framework, my strengths may lie in Relating (Empathy & Harmony), Striving (Adaptability) and Thinking (Analytical and Learner). I have not taken the exam on Strength Finder but I think this would be a rough approximation.

So I guess that learning public speaking maybe a way to improve my communication which is within the Relating quadrant. Joining PMI and getting a PMP certification is another improvement task. Perhaps this lies within the Thinking Quadrant and should be also a strength perhaps in Analytical and Arranger themes. So I guess I can proceed with these activities but re-frame the effort in another context. I think Buckingham and the Gallup research is significant and that I should change my point of view into a strengths-based framework. I guess this would be an ongoing activity because I should really look into myself and determine what is the essence of the work that I really enjoy. Looking at my core enjoyment, I do enjoy working with people, organizing project tasks and getting things done. I think I have some talent in these areas which I should focus on and also to re-discover the joy in doing these tasks.

Another significant work that I am listening to is Ayn Rand 'The Art of Fiction'. Listening to the first CD has opened my eyes to the hard-nose task of writing. I always thought that writing fiction was some sort of mystical event following the tradition of James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway or F.Scott Fitzgerald. Now I hear Ayn Rand criticizing Joyce and Gertrude Stein, for instance, icons of the so-called lost generation. But Ayn Rand's ideas are concrete and consistent, being an established writer herself. It has opened my eyes on the reality of writing away from the mystical sense of divine inspiration which the cult of Hemingway has cultivated all these years and which I was entranced with in my youth. It will be an eye-opening session for me as I have not yet listened to all her CDs.

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