The Lurking Strengths Behind Weaknesses

I still remember the recommendations that I received when I was young focusing on “do not be weak”. What still rings a bell in my head is the advice that “beware”! Be a wolf for if you are not then wolves shall eat you”.

Later in my life, I discovered that my focusing on weaknesses led to my overlooking the “lurking” strength behind the weakness. For example, I can be impatient sometimes. This is a weakness. So, what is the hidden strength behind this weakness? It is that I want results. In urgent situations, this could be my strength.

I concluded that the weakness in a situation could be the strength in a different one.

One of my weakest points is my handwriting. My strength was in accepting the weakness that prompted me to learn how to use efficiently computers to write for me. I concluded my second lesson: weakness in one area is an opportunity to build strength in another area.

Thomas Edison was not a sharp student. In fact, he was labeled the opposite. However, behind his weakness at school, there was a lurking strength- It was his ability to put persistence in what he did no matter how many times he failed.

I concluded my third lesson: if public opinion labels you as weak in an area, it is a vaccination against failure. Your weakness makes you immune to failures.

I am writing this post in English. This is not my mother tongue language. It is a weakness. However, I realized that this weakness hides my strength of having the strength of speaking another language that gives me exposure to materials not available for others. Yes, automatic translation helps, but it cannot translate the “spirit” and music of the language of origin. Just try to translate poetry to another language and you shall feel what I mean.

I concluded my fourth lesson: lost opportunities in a weakness give me new opportunities that others may not have.

Soccer attacker strength is being tall for they can jump higher. Being a short attacker is a big disadvantage. This is the general impressions about soccer attacker. So, where is their strength hiding behind this weakness? Recent studies have answered this question such as in this post.  I quote from it the relevant part;

There are several reasons for the rise of soccer’s little big stars, but the main one is that being close to the ground is a major advantage for midfielders and forwards. Shorter people have a “quicker stepping pattern”.

—as told to me by Stasinos Stavrianeas, a professor of exercise science at Willamette University. Essentially, they are spry: They can change directions much faster than tall folks can, and they have better control over their limbs.

“That’s what makes them more elusive for the defender, and that’s what makes them a better threat,” Stavrianeas said”.

I concluded from the above that creative surprises are a hidden strength in the weakness. A short player has this strength, but not the tall players.

Creative surprises are not limited to soccer players and may extend to other facets of life. Take competition for example among market players (to replace soccer players”. The general impression is that big players can eclipse small players. This apparent weakness again hides the strengths of the weak.

Small companies are less complex and rigid than big companies. Small businesses are more nimble in spotting marketing trends. Like short soccer attackers, they have a “quicker stepping pattern”.

Small businesses may provide better personal service than big ones. Just think about staying in a big hotel versus a small hotel in a small hotel you get to know the staff of the hotel, you get attention that is more personal and much less of the impersonal automatic services. The hotel staff salutes you by your name and you feel more at home.

I concluded that soccer is a great metaphor for creative competition in which the weak may win against the strong. I also learnt that the intangible strengths of the weak are their strength to compete in this world.

Remember always to look for the strength in whatever people see as a weakness in you. If public opinion about you is that, you are impractical then know that you are visionary.

Find the strength in the weakness. I share a story with you that I read and it is a hugely creative one in utilizing a weakness and turn it into a surprising strength.

The story is about the boy who won a judo tournament with just one hand! “For two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. Second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grip your left arm. And you do not have the left arm!” A genius observation by the coach turned the weakness of the one-armed boy into his biggest strength.

If people say, you are weak in one area instead of feeling bad go and find your hidden strength behind this weakness.


Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

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  1. Who could say it better than you< Aldo "but in most cases they are evoked for not very constructive reasons. In fact, when you think about your weaknesses, you do it to criticize yourself, to ridicule yourself or belittle yourself, to endlessly “ruminate” on your negative experiences, almost as if this psychological chewing maneuver could lead to an easier “digestion” of their own flaws"?

    This says a lot and understandably is very correct. Instead of playing down ourselves and be overwhelmed with inferiority complex would not it be better to identify these weaknesses with a view to filling their gaps and/or finding the strength in them?

    Our traits cycle up and down. What is strength today is weakness tomorrow and vice versa. Just reviewing the top companies of Fortune will tell us sadly how many pioneering companies disappeared because of falling prey to the strong traits while ignoring the growing strength in the weak traits of their competitors.

  2. Knowing your weaknesses makes you stronger.
    In general, we talk quite often about a person’s strengths, that is, the things that come best in life, thanks to their talents, their skills and competences, their experiences and inclinations.
    Knowing one’s strengths, moreover, can be very useful for choosing a school address, a vocational training school, a job, etc. suited to your expectations and your temperament.
    Your weaknesses, or limitations, or shortcomings are generally better known, but in most cases they are evoked for not very constructive reasons. In fact, when you think about your weaknesses, you do it to criticize yourself, to ridicule yourself or belittle yourself, to endlessly “ruminate” on your negative experiences, almost as if this psychological chewing maneuver could lead to an easier “digestion” of their own flaws.
    The weaknesses, on the other hand, should be more effectively analyzed with a clear mind, to understand which are the fields in which we may have actual shortcomings. Once these areas of fragility, knowledge and competence (including emotional or relational) have been identified, we should ask ourselves if, and to what extent, we are interested in filling these gaps, and in what way.
    On a social level, the awareness of having weaknesses is not unwelcome and in some cases it is even welcome, as long as you talk about it with self-irony, without showing particular discomfort (but also without too much self-complacency, so as not to appear presumptuous and superficial).
    The reflection on one’s own weaknesses must therefore mainly serve to improve oneself, in order to face new challenges.

  3. Loved this post, Ali. So much in life is about context.

    People are to fast to remember “what got you here is not gonna get you there.” Our strengths in for instance logical and rational thinking can into weaknesses. Having always been lauded for being rational, we have paid less attention to soft skills and other people may not like to be treated with disregard to their feelings.

    When people let us know that “this is your weakness”, what they are really saying is that this wouldn’t work well for them in the field they are working in or life they are living. So perhaps we should not copy their lifestyle but find a different arena where these traits or skills are not only strengths but required.

    • Spot on, Charlotte.I loved what you wrote ” Our strengths in for instance logical and rational thinking can into weaknesses”. This is a very sound thought. Thinking deeper about it I can safely say that many leaders fall in this dip of thinking. We turn what is supposed to be our strength into weakness and perhaps powerless in extreme cases. This thoughts justifies a full post to delve deep in it.

      As the story of the Japanese young boy who lost his arm to be his strength in Judo there are always possibilities for weaknesses to be our strength and sources of winning if we just consider them thoughtfully.

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