Episode 38 | Strengths Finder

Show Notes


[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 38.

[00:02] [music]

[00:11] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or are just thinking about it.  I’m Mike.

[00:19] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:20] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made.  How you doing this week, Rob?’

[00:25] Rob: I’m hoping I don’t get sick because both of my kids have been sick for more than a week.  And my older one, the four year old, has had this ear infection that’s brutal.  He started bleeding out of his ear last night.  And I have to admit, I was just slightly panicked when I saw that.  I haven’t had any ear infections…I’ve probably only had one or two in my life, so I’m not familiar with it.  And I had to jump online and look, like, should I rush him to emergency or this just a usual occurrence?  But you’ve mentioned you’ve had a bunch of ear infections in your life.

[00:56] Mike: Yeah, if I had to put a number on the number of ear infections I’ve had, I would say it is probably easily more than 80-100.

[01:05] Rob: Oh, my gosh!

[01:06] Mike: So, yeah.  Bleeding from the eardrums is really not a big deal.

[01:09] Rob: Oh, man!  Has your hearing been impacted because of it?

[01:13] Mike: You know, I actually had my hearing tested a couple years ago and they said that I do have some hearing loss, but it’s in a very specific range.  And they said that the ranging of hearing loss that I have is very, very common for like going to rock concerts, or being around heavy machinery, or loud noises, or this or that.  They named like eight or 10 different things it could be from, and I’m just like, “Nope, nope, nope.”  And he says, “Well, I don’t know what it could be, but you definitely have hearing loss that is caused by these particular things.”

[01:47] Rob: You’re like, “Well, I sit in the basement with 20 servers humming in the background.”  He’s like, “That was it!  Sell the servers!”  [laughs]

[01:54] Mike: Yep.  It’s too late now, though.  Once you have the hearing loss, there’s nothing you can do about it.

[01:59] Rob: Yep.

[02:00] Mike: But like I said, it’s only this very specific range and I don’t know what I’m missing, so I don’t really care.  [laughs]

[02:06] Rob: Right, right.  Aside from that, what else is new with me this week is I’m actually starting a mastermind group, which is just kind of like an accountability group.  And I  hate to even call it a group because it’s me and one other guy locally here in Fresno.

[02:20] I’ve had the opportunity to join a couple of Skype mastermind groups, and I’ve really debated hard about whether to do that or not.  I think I like being in person more than Skype, so I’ve decided to go this route, even though, obviously, if you go to Skype you can really pick and choose who you want to do the mastermind with worldwide.  But right now  my vote is to do it locally.

[02:44] So anyways, yeah, tonight’s the first meeting and it just…like I said, it’s me and one other guy and we’re going to hang out and talk about our businesses and basically get accountability going, is going to be the big part of it, is to talk to each other about what we’re trying to do and the hurdles we’re facing, and then advise each other on the best approaches to getting around it.

[03:04] And I think once we figure out some kinks and kind of work it out over the next couple months, we’ll probably invite another person or two to get involved.  I don’t really want it to get super big.  I think maybe six would be my top end.  It should be fun.  I’m excited about it.

[03:17] Mike: Yeah, I’ve thought about doing that around…up in the Worcester area near Boston.  But for me it’s more a matter of scheduling, because it’s just so hard to schedule something, because up here, and I don’t know who you’re having a mastermind group with there or how far away you guys are, but up here it seems like to get anywhere it’s probably easily 45 minutes to an hour.  And when you’ve got two kids and sometimes work on the road, it’s just very hard for scheduling.  So for me I don’t know as it would work as well, at least not right now.  I think later this year things are going to change quite a bit, but for the time being it’s not feasible.

[03:53] Rob: Yeah.  I think for you Skype might be a better opportunity, because I agree, your schedule is pretty hectic.  Yeah, here I’m able…I mean Fresno is not huge geographically.  It’s like 30 minutes point to point, end to end.  So it’s pretty easy to just find a spot in the middle that’s about 15 minutes from each of us.  So it’s kind of a slam dunk.  So I’ll probably be providing some updates on that in the coming weeks.

[04:15] I’m excited to start 2011.  I mean we’re halfway done with January now, but I’m kind of excited to get it going and really get motivated on a few projects that I’ve just been kind of…I don’t know, I’ve had on the backburner and thought about doing and just having trouble getting motivated for them.  So I’m hoping this is kind of the impetus to get that rolling.

[04:32] Mike: Got it.

[04:33] Rob: How about you?  What’s new?

[04:34] Mike: Mostly just doing research around my AuditShark product that I talked about, I think, about two episodes ago.  So right now I’m still working out some things with the database and trying to figure out how to scale it.  And it’s unfortunate because I think I either tweeted it or had a blog article where I basically said, “Don’t solve problems that you don’t actually have”, and scalability was one of them that I actually put out there.  [laughs]  And the unfortunate part is that I know that scalability will become a problem and it will become a problem very, very quickly if I don’t address it before I launch.

[05:07] So, I don’t know.  I’m just trying to figure out how to address that.  So part of it is figuring out how to do database sharding with SQL Server.  It seems to me like sharding is a lot more research and well-known in the MySQL community because of…I don’t want to say all the major sites, but a lot of the sites out there that are massively scalable like Facebook, and probably Groupon, and a number of these that, you know, they all run on Linux and MySQL, using that as the backend database.  So they’re familiar with these problems and they’ve looked at them and tried to solve them.

[05:42] And, you know, for the most part they’ve done a great job with it.  But that same type of research doesn’t seem like it’s been done on the SQL Server side.  And I’m not saying that the techniques aren’t applicable, but the code is different.  So it’s not like I can just go find some GPL code some place and be able to use that on my server, because I haven’t found it yet.

[06:03] Rob: Yeah, that’s tough.  I agree.  All the stuff I’ve seen on sharding has been with open source tools.  And I think that once you talk about sharding, you have to get so many licenses that I think people shy away from it, right?  Isn’t that when you scale horizontally and you buy a number of different database licenses?

[06:20] Mike: I think it depends on how you do it.  One of the things I’m kinda struggling with is there are things that I’m trying to address where the tools that will help me make the decisions just don’t exist.  And I’m loathed to actually say specifically what it is, because once I build this tool I’m actually going to try and sell it as a product, because I see a genuine need for it out there.  And I’ve seen a lot of people ask, say, “Hey, how do you do this, or where can I find information about this?”  And there’s no tools that I’ve found that give you this information.

[06:56] And it’s pretty straightforward, I just haven’t found it yet.  So I’m actually going to take that tool when I finish building it and try to sell it.  But scalability on the SQL Server side is hard.  And one of the other things I actually looked at is I wonder if it’s feasible to do database sharding through either Azure or through Amazon’s Web Services, you know, their hosting service and just use something, either just SQL Server straight up or be able to use something like SQL Express and be able to just throw tons and tons of servers at it for very, very cheap.

[07:33] Rob: Right.  That’d be the way to go.  Man, this is where the delay of our podcast between the recordings and the publishing is kind of a bummer, because I’d love to call out to our listener base and have anyone send links over if they know how to do this or have a good resource of how to do it.  But gosh, it will probably be six weeks before this thing’s published, so I bet you’ll be past it by then!

[07:51] I guess if you’re out there and you know of some good info on sharding with SQL Server, definitely let us know!

[07:59] [music]

[08:02] Rob: I ran into an article in Fast Company Magazine.  Dan and Chip Heath, they wrote the book “Made to Stick”.  They have a column in Fast Company.  And in the November 2010 column, they talk about the felt need.  And it’s basically building a product that has a need or that has a pain point.

[08:20] And what I really liked about it was they introduced this terminology, and I haven’t heard this before, but they basically talk about whether your product is a vitamin or an aspirin.  And they say that people don’t like to take vitamins because they’re preventative and that people like…they will always pay a lot of money…You know, if there’s only one bottle of aspirin, they will pay a lot of money for it if they have a headache because they’re trying to solve a pain point.

[08:40] And they go through three different examples.  One of them is Netflix and how Netflix started.  And I remember when this happened.  Netflix started as just like a Blockbuster via the Internet, via postage, where you paid like $3 and you got the movie for a week and you had to send it back.

[08:55] They kind of solved the pain point of not driving to Blockbuster, but that wasn’t really a bad pain point.  But when they realized that late fees were the real pain point and they could totally hose people, that people really hated, then they touched on, obviously, the monthly subscription.  And within 30 days of introducing it, they knew they had a winner.  So they solved a pain point starting off, but not the right pain point.

[09:17] So anyways, I definitely recommend it to anyone.  Problem is, it’s not online.  You can only get it in the print version.  I was a little bummed by that.  But I like the terminology.  I’ve certainly heard of preventative versus pain point; I’ve kind of heard that discussion.  But I like the vitamin versus aspirin dichotomy.

[09:35] Mike: Yeah, I do really like that as well.  That’s an interesting way to put it, and  I think it’s very fitting.

[09:41] Rob: Yeah, I do too.  I think it’s a terminology hopefully I can start using.  You know, even on the podcast or in my blog or whatever.  I think it describes the problem well, and I think it will actually help me when I’m looking at new products that I want to build to really figure out, like, is the pain point I’m solving really just a vitamin pain point, or is it actually an aspirin type thing?

[10:00] Mike: Well, the only other thing I wanted to say was a special thanks to one of our listeners named James Jenson.  He wrote a fairly extensive email to me about solutions to wrist pain, because I had mentioned a while back that I was having some wrist pain.  And he gave me a number of different techniques that he’s used over the years, because I guess he’s ran into wrist pain as well.

[10:20] And some of them are things that I think go probably far beyond what I am willing to undertake, but I can certainly see how they would be useful.  But there are other things that are definitely applicable and I’m looking forward to trying out.

[10:32] And one thing that he did bring up that was kinda unrelated to that, and it sort of applies to my AuditShark product, is that when you’re programming something there’s different solutions that you can look for, and you can generally find a solution that is good enough by doing just prototyping.  As opposed to spending too much time looking for the perfect solution, look for a solution that’s good enough.  And usually you do that by going through the process of actually building a couple prototypes.

[10:59] And I think that’s what I’m going to do with my SQL Server sharding problem.  I’m going to try to build a couple of prototypes and see if I can do some sharding on Azure and do something with the Amazon Web Services, and then maybe try and do something completely on my own with my own servers.  As you know, I’ve got a half rack of servers that I have sitting there that I can use for various things.

[11:21] So I think I’ll check them out and maybe load them up with data.  I mean here I’ve got enough data that I could probably put a couple of Terabytes in there and see how the databases respond to that sort of a load and go from there.

[11:33] Rob: And how would building a prototype be different than kinda just building a basic version of it that you could move on with?  By nature, a prototype is something you write and then throw away, right?  Is that what you’re thinking?  You’re not just going to write a stripped down version of it that you will then add to?

[11:48] Mike: That’s probably what I’ll end up doing, but I’ll probably gear it more towards trying to figure out exactly how well it would work and what conditions it will work under.  So, you know, the problem with trying to just strategize about these different things and how to use Amazon’s services versus trying to do everything in the cloud using Azure, the real problem with that is you don’t necessarily know what the problem points are going to be.  So you have to build at least a minimally functioning prototype to figure out what sort of hurdles you are going to run into.

[12:22] And if it’s something relatively minor, you can usually either actually do the code for it, you can just kinda throw it away to the side and say, “Yeah, I know exactly how to do that, I just haven’t done it.”  But I’d like to get some measurements out of it to try and figure out what might be the…not necessarily optimal way to go, but where I’m going to spend probably the most time and effort if I’m going to go in that direction.

[12:44] Rob: Right.  And I think the advantage you have, since you own the whole process, is that you’re not going to pull the crap that I see managers pull where they say build a prototype, you build it, and then they’re like, “OK!  Let’s turn this into the product!”  I know everyone’s had that experience if you’ve ever built a prototype.

[13:00] Mike: Nooo! [sarcastically]

[13:02] Rob: I mean it’s so common.  Oh, and it makes you so mad!  Because you’re like, “I didn’t put comments.  I didn’t label the variables.”  And they’re totally unrealistic.  You know, “I didn’t architect this thing.”

[13:11] So, it’s nice.  You being in control of the whole process, you’re not going to do that, right?  You’re either going to write it well upfront knowing that you’ll need it, or if you write a piece of crap you are going to throw it away and, you know, start from scratch.

[13:22] Mike: I think part of the problem is that I don’t know how to handle a table that is spread across multiple databases.  So, I mean, there’s multiple ways to do database sharding.  Let’s say you’ve got like bug tracking software and your customers, all their data is completely separated from one another.  The easiest way would be just to say put customer 1 on server 1, customer two on server 2, etc.

[13:48] But if you have a single database table that is physically residing on multiple machines and you have to query them all  kind of at the same time, that’s really the problem that I think that I’m running into, because I just have so much data, and putting it all on one table on one machine is going to cause just too many problems.  It’s not scalable.

[14:09] Rob: Right.  That’s where the sharding comes in.

[14:12] Mike: Right.  And I need the speed.  I definitely know that I need the speed.  And there are certain cases where I can do pre-fetching and pre-calculate a lot of different things.  But there’s also going to be other times where all of that data, I need it to be in one place.

[14:26] Rob: Right.  That makes sense.

[14:27] Mike: So those are the things I have to deal with.  But no, I think you’re absolutely right.  I’m still trying to work out in my head exactly how I’m going to go about doing the prototyping, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out sooner rather than later.  And if all else fails, I’ll just start writing code and work it from there.

[14:43] Rob: See what happens, yeah.

[14:44] [music]

[14:47] Rob: So today we’re going to be talking about “Strengths Finder”.   “Strengths Finder” is a book.  It’s actually called “Strengths Finder 2.0”.  And essentially, it was written by some Gallup researchers.  And for those who don’t know, Gallup is a big polling agency, and so they do tons of research and statistical analysis.

[15:06] To kind of summarize why we’re talking about this, there’s this quote from the introduction of the book.  And the quote is:

[15:13] “People have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.”

[15:21] And instead of deficiencies, I like saying weaknesses.  Because when I read this book first, it was probably seven years ago.  It was a big libel for me realizing that I have, I think all of us do, but I have a specific set of strengths that I kind of have known my whole life, but it’s kinda hard to put a finger on them as well.  And I definitely have weaknesses that I have known my whole life.

[15:44] And I think a lot of us are taught or told to improve our weaknesses.  The book talks about how a lot of corporations are set up to do that, a lot of training is set up to do that.  Even throughout school, you know, you are taught to correct your weaknesses.

[15:59] But the bottom line is that correcting your weaknesses will tend to make you an average person.  If you have these strengths that are never developed and you have weaknesses that are developed up to average ability, then you really are just kind of a straight line average across.

[16:14] Whereas if you forget your weaknesses and you just focus on your strengths, and you architecture your career, or your life, or whatever to focus on those strengths and you really develop them, then you can be extraordinary.

[16:25] There’s a bunch of examples given in the book.  They actually talk about Michael Jordan, how someone like me, Rob Walling, could never be Michael Jordan. Even if I had shot exactly as many free throws and done all the same physical stuff growing up that he did, the bottom line is he just had more strengths in those certain areas.  They basically give examples of like you can’t be anyone you want to be, but you can be a lot more of what you already are.

[16:47] Mike: One of the ways that this book kind of translates this idea into your head is to look at the things that you’re good at versus the things that you maybe know about but aren’t necessarily great at.  So let me give you an example.

[17:02] Most of the entrepreneurs who are probably listening to this podcast are fairly competent programmers.  But if you needed something designed for your webpage, maybe you needed a logo or something like that, would you learn how to use Photoshop and try and figure it out, or would you be better server outsourcing that and having somebody else do it?

[17:20] The whole point is that you are relying on their strengths to compensate for your weaknesses, as opposed to trying to build up what you feel are your weaknesses.  And in this case it might be your Photoshop skills.  Why spend the time being better at Photoshop so you can be average at it when, for a very low cost, you could outsource that particular task and have somebody else do it who’s going to, arguably, be much, much better at it?  And then free up your time to do things like, you know, programming, or marketing, or what have you.

[17:50] Rob: So to put a little more structure to it, in “Strengths Finder”, they basically surveyed thousands, and I think maybe even hundreds of thousands of people, and they put together the 34 most common talents that people have.  And talents are essentially innate things that we have that can be developed into strengths.  That’s the terminology.

[18:07] But basically, they found these 34 most common talents, they developed an assessment tool, which is a test called Strengths Finder, and if you buy this book, which we, [laughs], we don’t make any money off of, but if you go on Amazon and you buys “Strengths Finder 2.0”, it’s $10 in Kindle version, and I think there are used copies in paperback and hardback for around that price.

[18:27] But if you buy the book, then you get this code and you just go online and it takes about 30 minutes, and you take the test and you get this report.  And it’s basically a 20 page PDF document and it gives you back your five strengths.  And I think they’re in order of most prominent to least prominent.  And then it also gives you some very specific actions that you can take to focus on the strengths, and it gives you descriptions of them and stuff.

[18:52] So Mike and I have both taken the test and we’re going to talk through our results.  And I think what’s interesting is I took the test maybe seven years ago, and then I took it again about a month ago, and my results have changed. And it makes sense why they’ve changed, and I’ll talk about that a little later.

[19:08] And then Mike, for the first time, took it about a month ago.  So he hasn’t had as much time to kind of mull it over and either figure out how it works in his work, or change his work, or whatever.  But in the last seven years I’ve totally used this a number of times to kind of shift my career to take me in areas that I’m stronger.

[19:26] Mike: So the five results that I came back with out of the total 34 possible results are Strategic, Focus, Analytical, Competition, and Command.  And I’m going to give you the two sentence description that is directly out of here for each of these.

[19:42] So for Strategic, the description is:  “People who are especially talented in a strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed.  Faced with any give scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.”

[19:52] Rob: So, Mike, to me that sounds very  much like you and what I know about you.  Do you feel like this strength and all five of them are fairly accurate, or do you feel like maybe they missed the mark on a few of them?

[20:04] Mike: It’s funny because I looked through at all of the 34 common talents that they specify. I looked at them all and said, “Yeah, in certain ways that applies to me. In certain other ways it doesn’t.”

[20:17] Of the top five that they called out, strategic is the one that really stands out above and beyond the rest as definitely being dead on. I’m not saying that the other four are not dead on as well, but it seemed to me like these top five definitely hit the mark in terms of describing my personality and the way I work with things and do the things that I do.

[20:38] For focus the description is, “People who are especially talented in the focus theme can take a direction, follow through and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.”

[20:50] Rob: Yeah, that also sounds like you. This is funny. Well, it’s funny because as I’m looking there’s Analytical, Competition and Command. They certainly seem similar. Strategic, Focus and Analytical all, I think, have a similar thread weaving through then. What is the Analytical?

[21:07] Mike: The Analytical is, “People who are especially talented in the analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.”

[21:16] Rob: I see.

[21:17] Mike: I think that a lot of it, it’s very subtle differences between them. If you take a look at these things, they are interrelated and intertwined. So, for example, Strategic means that I can identify alternative ways to proceed, whereas focus means that I can actually follow through with them. It’s not as if I just say, “Oh let’s go in this direction,” and I haphazardly switch back and forth between a couple of different options. I can look at a situation and identify multiple ways to go.

[21:44] Then using the analytical strength, I guess they call it, I can think about what sort of things will impact the situation. I can look ahead and figure out what all the different factors are. Then using focus, I can actually concretely identify a direction to go in and will actually follow through and go that way.

[22:04] Rob: Yeah, that’s cool. What are Competition and Command?

[22:07] Mike: Competition is the idea that you can measure your progress against the performance of others, and you are very good at doing that. It’s funny because I read through these and I can think of some very specific examples from back in my career where I was looking at these sorts of things and I was saying, “Hey this is what we should do.”

[22:24] So, for example, for Competition, when I was working at the startup in Pedestal Software, we were trying to get all of our policy files all squared away so that we could get them certified by this independent organization. All of our competitors in the market, some of them were doing things here and there. But they were doing one policy here, another policy there.

[22:45] I basically organized my team and said, “Let’s bring the hammer down on these guys.” We went through and we worked hard on it for about two months. At the end of those two months, we basically went through and we got every single one of our policies certified by this agency. And they had never had anybody do that before. We were the first. We just destroyed them, and it was fun too. That’s one of the examples that I could come up with for that.

[23:11] Then for Command, people who are especially talented in the command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions. I feel like that is more of a leadership trait.

[23:22] If you look at a situation and you have concrete ideas about what sort of factors come into play and how the different things that are out there would affect the decisions that you’re going to make, you can make some good strategic decisions.

[23:35] Then you can actually take command of the situation and say, “This is what we should do, and this is exactly why we should do it. These are all the different things that you may or may not have thought about, but this is why we should go in this direction.” It just seems like the five things that they came up with really fit me to a T.

[23:49] Rob: So the premise of the book is essentially if you believe that these are right, assuming that they are in fact your strengths, and if you focus on these and you try to take advantage of them and build them and hone them, that you will not only be more successful in what you do – you will achieve more – but you will be just a hell of a lot happier because you’re taking advantage of things that naturally give you life and give you energy.

[24:14] It sounds like you’ve already thought of ways in the past that you’ve used these and that you’ve taken advantage of them, which is cool because it seems like they do in fact fit you.

[24:23] Have you given any thought to something you might need to change in your current work situation? Is there any utility to knowing these things for you? Are you going to do something different or architect your career differently? Or do you feel like you happened upon the right path already and that you’re already utilizing all of these things?

[24:41] Mike: I think that it’s a combination of those things. I think that it’s easier to reflect on the situations that I’ve been in and say, “Yes these really do fit me.” But I think it’s a little bit more difficult to look at these and then say, “How can I use these to my advantage?”

[24:56] Rob: Yeah that makes sense.

[24:59] Mike: For example AuditShark product that I’m launching, some of the competitors that I have are much more in the enterprise space. They are companies with lots of resources, and I’m essentially leveraging the compete strength to not only keep me going but to try and measure my success against their success.

[25:21] I think that will certainly help. How exactly I don’t know. Other than using it as a yardstick for measurement, I can’t see how there is any better measurement than money, to be perfectly honest. Money is basically your scorecard.

[25:35] Rob: I think another way you could take advantage of that is frankly that there are a bunch of us all doing the same thing, all launching products. I know you can’t just put a yardstick down, because it’s apples to oranges. But in the Academy there are a bunch of people launching. You can have friendly competition with them, certainly.

[25:52] I also think if you do wind up being part of a mastermind group, that could really be to a big advantage for you. Because I don’t have competition as one of my strengths, but I have always been competitive by nature and I hate to lose. So talking to other people has always motivated me to do things, to launch products.

[26:08] When I was in a band, there was another guy who wrote good songs. It always motivated me to go out and write a better song. It wasn’t a rivalry. It was actually a friendly competition. So that could be one way to look it.

[26:19] I guess in that case money still is the scorer, is the scorekeeper, because you would be probably comparing revenue and stuff. You’ve got to be careful about how you do that. You don’t want it to come across as, “I’m trying to beat everyone.” But maybe internally that could be a metric.

[26:34] Mike: Yeah I think that’s one of the difficult things is that when you have competition as a strength, you have to really be careful about how you apply that strength. Because you could be seen as coming across as arrogant or overly fanatical about something, and basically people just won’t want to talk to you about that sort of stuff.

[26:53] Rob: Especially people who don’t have competition as their strength, who don’t really want to get involved in it or it doesn’t give them life.

[27:00] Mike: Right. I would probably try to avoid using competition with people in a mastermind group or something like that as motivation just because honestly I’m not competing with them. I’m competing with my business competitors.

[27:13] I just don’t think it would work as well to use that particular strength in a friendly competition. I think that it’s probably better served in a business competition against an anonymous corporate entity.

[27:28] Rob: Right. That makes sense. As I said before, I took the tests seven years apart. Of my five strengths, two of them switched. What’s interesting is that the two that I had back in the day were Harmony and Relater. Those deal with other people. Harmony is bringing groups of people in harmony and trying to focus on areas of agreement. Relater is trying to relate to other people.

[27:52] I lost both of those, or other strengths popped up. I really think the reason is because I don’t really work with other people anymore. I was managing folks back in 2003/2004. So I think it was just much more of a necessity. I thought that was interesting how my job and my role has maybe impacted these results.

[28:11] With that intro, my five strengths are Maximizer, Learner, Achiever, Futuristic and Focus. Apparently my number one strength is Futuristic. That is, “People who have this talent are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.”

[28:31] I don’t know the last time I inspired others with visions of the future, but I certainly definitely look ahead and I do a lot of planning and brainstorming, envisioning about what I want to do this year or what I want to do over the next couple years. So I can certainly see this as a strength of mine.

[28:47] Mike: That seems almost like it’s being optimistic. Am I misreading that?

[28:52] Rob: I don’t think it’s being optimistic, because I don’t think of myself as an optimistic person, actually. I think it’s more like I tend to focus on what the coming months, years or decades could be. Not necessarily that they’ll be good, but that I really want to look ahead and figure out what I’m going to be doing, almost like I live in the future.

[29:13] I think that could be a criticism of some people with this strength. You’re always looking ahead; you’re never in the present. I would say that when I go on vacation you’re supposed to just chill and relax and sit by the beach. Instead what I do is I dream and think. I envision what the next few years could look like, or the next six months. What am I going to do next? Am I going to write another book? Am I going to start anyone podcast? All this stuff of what’s going to happen, I’m very future oriented.

[29:37] Since I’ve only seen this for about a month, I can totally say, “Yes I think it’s true.” But I’m not quite sure what to do with it yet.

[29:44] Mike: I think the one thing that you said that’s key is that you have an idea of what things could be.

[29:49] Rob: Yeah I think this is much less logical than Analytical and Focus. I do have Focus, by the way. I have Futuristic and Focus, and you have Analytical and Focus. I think the futuristic is more of a dreamer or – I hate to say visionary because that makes it sound like I’m really cool or something.

[30:09] Mike: I was actually going to use the word visionary.

[30:11] Rob: I think that’s what it’s saying, is that you can envision new things and you think in the future. It does say you need to be careful and you need to really plan and see things through, and not just envision a bunch of crap. You know the idea people, right? You work with them? They just throw out 20 ideas but never actually do anything.

[30:27] Mike: That’s a lack of focus.

[30:29] Rob: Exactly. That’s where I think focus is a really good complement to this one. What’s interesting is I don’t think I need to change anything with my career to make this one come to fruition because this is what I do now.

[30:40] That’s my job, is to maintain some stuff that I have and then really to think about the future. So I feel like what I do right now already takes advantage of this, and maybe that’s why I’m happy. I am happier right now than I have been in probably my entire 11 year career.

[30:56] Anyway, that’s Futuristic, and then Focus you already read. It’s basically the ability to focus on something and see it through. I certainly can see that. I started my blog in 2005; still doing that. The Academy, writing a book, doing the podcast – these are things that took a lot of time investment and they don’t necessarily pay you back in the first month or years. Yeah, I’ve always had a pretty good ability to see things through.

[31:19] I think that, frankly, Focus is a really good talent for developers, because you’ve got to be able to look down the line a couple of months and see something through to fruition.

[31:29] Maximizer is, I think, an interesting one. It explains why I was so frustrated when I worked. I worked for a government agency managing people. It says, “Maximizers focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.”

[31:46] Specifically, in the older version, it actually said they despise taking crappy things and making them average, bringing them up to reasonable. But they love taking things that are reasonable and making them superb.

[32:01] You can take an employee as an example. I despised, I really, really hated, working with people who didn’t want to be there and who weren’t good and who were wasting everyone’s time. I never wanted to try to convince them to be good. But the people who were already good, I loved working with them. We did really good stuff together. I basically maximized their abilities, and they then fed that back to me.

[32:26] I’ve always enjoyed working with good developers and trying to make each other great, rather than working with below average folks. Frankly, this translates even into I buy a lot of website and software products. I’ve always enjoyed buying things and improving them. I think that’s more of a talent for me than building something from scratch is to see the opportunity, seeing how to maximize something.

[32:51] Mike: It seems like that complements futuristic very well.

[32:55] Rob: Yeah. I hadn’t thought of that before, but definitely.

[32:58] Mike: Yeah because going back to, I think you said it was the old definition, it seemed like you don’t working from the ground level because there is almost nothing there to work with. You’re basically recreating from scratch at that point. Because if it’s a person or a developer or something like that and they just don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t want to be there, then you’ve basically got nothing to work with and you’re trying to invent the wheel essentially.

[33:24] But if there’s something to work with and they’re good at what they do and they want to be there and they want to try, then there’s already a mold that you can work with. And with your futuristic strengths you can see what the future could bring and see how that can eventually turn out.

[33:39] Rob: Yeah that’s right. So my other two are Learner and Achiever. Learner specifically convinced me to really start altering my career path. “A learner is someone who has a great desire to learn and wants to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.”

[34:01] Frankly, about every 12 to 18 months I get bored no matter what I’m doing. No matter how cool it is when I start, no matter how much success or how much money or anything’s involved, I’ve always become disenfranchised with something because I get bored when I stop learning.

[34:16] This one made me realize early on, “Wow I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do a salaried job for longer than a couple of years.” That’s why I moved into consulting, which was really exciting for a while and then I got bored of that because it just got old. I wasn’t really learning that much new stuff.

[34:31] That’s when I started building and buying apps. It totally makes sense to me now after seeing this strength why I own a number of different products, because with one app I would get bored. I haven’t gotten bored. I had DotNet Invoice for a couple years; didn’t have any other apps. It was starting to grate on me that I wasn’t really learning anything new.

[34:50] So now when I have this plethora of apps, I’m always testing out new techniques, whether it’s split testing or just a new ad network or whatever. Like I said a few episodes ago, I bought these AdSense websites just to toy around with them. They’re a good investment as well, but I really just want to learn new things about this new area.

[35:08] So again, I think this could lead someone down a path of just not being productive. Learning for learning’s sake wouldn’t be good. But luckily I have some other anchoring things like that focus that can keep me in check.

[35:22] Mike: I look at the strengths on my list too, and it seems like that might be one of the downfalls. So if you’re looking at Strategic and Analytical, you have the ability to see all these different paths to pursue. But combined with the analytical, you can spot all the different ways to proceed and how different scenarios might influence others.

[35:43] But that almost leads to a situation where you’ve got so many options you’ve got this analysis paralysis going on, where it’s very difficult to make a decision because you’ve created so many options. I’ve definitely run into that before.

[35:56] Rob: Yeah that makes sense. I think that’s one of the values of learning this stuff about yourself. It’s not only what truly is a strength, but it’s how your strengths can combine and potentially be a weakness, which is what you just said.

[36:10] Mike: There was one other one that you had on there. What is achiever?

[36:13] Rob: Yeah, the last one is Achiever, and that is basically, “People with the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and they work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.” That’s me; I’ve always done that. I’ve actually had a harder time stepping back and not working.

[36:30] Over the last six months since my son was born, I have not been working full time. It’s been a real challenge for me to almost keep a sense of self-worth and such when I don’t get something done in a day, when all I do is watch a kid or hang out with my family or something. It’s hard to look back at that day and say, “Wow I really did something worth doing.”

[36:50] I think that’s the achiever theme. Knowing this has been invaluable to me to dealing with it psychologically of, “I understand that this is how I am. I need to deal with it for now and realize that I either have achieved enough in the past year to make it worthwhile or that I will be achieving enough stuff in the future to keep the happiness up.”

[37:08] Mike: Well very cool.

[37:10] Rob: Yeah so hopefully this discussion brings to light. Mike and I didn’t just want to talk about ourselves and talk about all of our traits, but we wanted to give people an idea about why this might be valuable for you to specifically buy the book, take this test and learn a little more about yourself.

[37:26] Because I think it helps not only to focus backwards on what you’ve done in your career and maybe what has made you happy and unhappy and why – because getting to the why is always hard – but also to look ahead and to realize, “Wow maybe the reason I’m unhappy now and the changes I need to make are because of these traits that I have.”

[37:44] Mike: Yeah and I definitely look at these results that I came back with, and it helps me visualize how I should proceed with some of the products that I have and some of the different things that I’m doing to help make it more enjoyable for myself moving forward.

[37:59] [music]

[38:02] Rob: If you have a question or comment, you can call it into our voicemail number at 888-801-9690, or you can email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com.

[38:12] If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for “startups.” You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com.

[38:23] Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons.

[38:28] A full transcript of this podcast is available at our website, startupsfortherestofus.com. See you next time.

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One Response to “Episode 38 | Strengths Finder”

  1. Another strengths measure called the VIA Survey of Character Strengths was developed by Martin Seligman and is available through his website: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/default.aspx