My Strengths

This was my “icebreaker” speech at Fox Valley Toastmasters. Since I don’t have the same time constraints, I’ve put back in a few asides that got cut out of early drafts.

Hello, I am Justin Love. This talk will be about me, and about a book called Now, Discover Your Strengths. The premise of the book is that for maximum success and happiness, we should focus on our strengths rather than trying to remediate our weaknesses. It includes a code for an online survey, that will attempt give you your five biggest strengths that one should focus on. For me, those five strengths were Input, Restorative, Intellection, Ideation, and Analytical.

Input is learning. I am always learning – I don’t read as many books as I might like to, but I have audiobooks, podcasts, internet news feeds, and I am constantly learning new programming languages and technologies. So, it might not be too surprising that when I started to think “You know, I really ought to get out of the house and get a little exercise”, I signed up for a martial arts class. Martial arts is something I’ve always been curious about, and it gives me the opportunity to be constantly learning new forms and techniques. Input is always learning.

Restorative is fixing and improving things. When I see something that was working and now isn’t, I get a little bothered. When I see something and think “I know how to make it better”, there is a note of dissonance in the world. Which might explain how I ended up on my condominium board. You see, the board is supposed to have five members. If it has less than five members, it could be considered a little bit broken. I’ve found, and I believe, that there often is no point in whining about something, when you can just do it yourself. Never mind that I wasn’t even in the state when I was first put on the board, but that is a story in and of itself. Restorative is fixing and improving things.

Intellection is thinking about things. Sitting and noodeling on them – what are the implications? the contingencies? Where doe it lead, and what does it all mean? So, it might not be too surprising that one of my favorite childhood toys were Lego bricks, which can be constantly combined and recombined, trying out theories of form or function, and just taking it apart if things didn’t work out. Unfortunately, sitting and thinking does tend towards sitting alone, so I have to force myself to get out now and then with things like Toastmasters, martial arts, conferences and user groups. Intellection is thinking about things.

Ideation means thinking about big ideas – or small clear concepts that take a bunch of messy stuff and distill it down to something you can easily grasp. It is looking for the best explanation for the most events. This might explain my attraction to things like Now, Discover Your Strengths, which distills a bunch of messy human aptitude down to a couple dozen strengths. Ideation is big ideas and powerful concepts.

Analytical literally means dividing into parts. Looking for the joints of nature where one take two things and set them apart, mostly disregarding their interactions. This is something I use a lot in software. You are probably familiar with software – either it’s not doing something you want, or it is doing something you don’t want, and I’m the kind of person who gets called in to make it behave. Often times I find that I am actually more comfortable dealing with software and computers because you can analyze it – form a theory about what should happen, see what did happen and use that to narrow the cause down and down and down, until you get to a bit – true or false, yes or no – facts and data. People and politics are not always so accommodating. Analytical is dividing things down to facts and data.

Everybody has their particular strengths. The things that they do well and enjoy doing. For me some of those things are constantly learning so that I can fix and improve things, really thinking about big ideas and powerful concepts in order to break things down to real facts and data.

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